On ‘traces’, ‘engrams’ and memory models

  • Jeff Coulter


Human beings are linked to their past, to their own autobiographies as living arrays and weavings of events, occasions, persons, things, by virtue of their capacities for memory. Our access to history is in some part made possible by our recollecting events and states of affairs and accounts of events and states of affairs. Memory functions are, and will be, topics for scientific study as well as topics for philosophical and practical analysis.


Synonym Substitution Mental Image Memory Model Abstract Sentence Trace Theory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Stanley Munsat, The Concept of Memory (New York: Random House, 1967).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Norman Malcolm, Memory and Mind (Ithaca, New York and London: Cornell University Press, 1977).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ibid., p. 224.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Les Holborow, ‘The “Prejudice” in Favor of Psychophysical Parallelism’ in Godfrey Vesey (ed.), Understanding Wittgenstein: The Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures, vol. 7(1972–73) (London: Macmillan, 1974) p. 202.Google Scholar
  5. See also Roger Squires, ‘Memory Unchained’, Philosophical Review, vol. 78, April 1969.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    J.F.M. Hunter, ‘Wittgenstein and Materialism’, Mind, vol. 86, no. 344, October 1977, p. 528.Google Scholar
  7. 6.
  8. 7.
    Ibid., p. 529. Hunter concludes by proposing that ‘whatever exactly we might one day explain neurologically it would not be remembering. Something’s not being hearsay or inference, or the speaker’s being a witness, do not call for a neurological explanation, if they call for any at all.’ (p. 531). He characterises this as a ‘mild’ suggestion. (Ibid.). A much fuller elaboration of the ‘facts’ about memory which we might attempt to explain neurophysiologically is necessary to support this claim, which might of course be true.Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    W.F. Brewer, ‘The Problem of Meaning and Higher Mental Processes’ in W.B. Weimer and D.S. Palermo (eds), Cognition and the Symbolic Processes (New York: LEA/John Wiley, 1974) p. 284. His references are to I. Begg and A. Paivio, ‘Concreteness and Imagery in Sentence Meaning’, Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, vol. 8, 1969, and to W.F. Brewer, ‘Memory for ldeas: Synonym Substitutions’, unpublished MSS, University of Illinois, 1974. I have added italics to the quotation in the text.Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    Ralph W. Gerard, ‘What is Memory?’ in Psychobiology (San Francisco: Scientific American: W.H. Freeman, 1967) p. 126.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    See Norman E. Spear, The Processing of Memories: Forgetting and Retention (New York: LEA/John Wiley, 1978), p. 333, et seq.Google Scholar
  12. See also D.A. Booth, ‘Protein Synthesis and Memory’ in J.A. Deutsch (ed.), The Physiological Basis of Memory (New York: Academic Press: 1973) pp. 27–58. But how could one ‘decode’ from a protein chain into a narrative account or image of a past event?Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    A.J.P. Kenny, Will, Freedom and Power (Oxford: Blackwell, 1976) p. 10.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    G.P. Baker and P.M. S. Hacker, Wittgenstein: Understanding and Meaning, vol. 1, (Oxford: University of Chicago Press/Blackwell, 1980).Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Ibid., p. 611. Their entire discussion of ‘Understanding and Ability’ (pp. 595–620) is immensely clarifying.Google Scholar
  16. 19.
    K. S. Lashley, ‘In Search of the Engram’, Symposia of the Society for Experimental Biology, vol. 4 (Washington D.C.: 1950) pp. 454–582.Google Scholar
  17. 21.
    E.R. John, Mechanisms of Memory (New York: Academic Press, 1967).Google Scholar
  18. 24.
    J.R. Anderson and G.H. Bower, Human Associative Memory (Washington, D.C.: Hemisphere, 1974).Google Scholar
  19. 25.
    D. Krech, ‘Discussion’ in J.L. McGough (ed.), Advances in Behavioral Biology, vol. 4: The Chemistry of Mood, Motivation and Memory (New York: Plenum Press, 1972).Google Scholar
  20. 26.
    Ibid., p. 223. (Quoted in Spear, Memories, p. 10).Google Scholar
  21. 30.
    See, e.g., H.A. Bursen, Dismantling the Memory Machine: A Philosophical Investigation of Machine Theories of Memory (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1978);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Spear, Memories, passim, and Derek Richter (ed.), Aspects of Learning and Memory (New York: Basic Books, 1966).Google Scholar
  23. 31.
    For a fuller discussion of these experiments (by Penfield and others), see Leonard A. Stevens, Explorers of the Brain (New York: Knopf, 1971).Google Scholar
  24. 33.
    Elliot S. Valenstein, Brain Control: A Critical Examination of Brain Stimulation and Psychosurgery (New York: John Wiley, 1973).Google Scholar
  25. 34.
    J. Coulter, The Social Construction of Mind (London: Macmillan, 1978).Google Scholar
  26. 35.
    Perhaps in a broader sense than in Wittgenstein’s (original) uses of the expression. See J.F.M. Hunter, ‘“Forms of Life” in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations’ in E.D. Klemke (ed.), Essays on Wittgenstein (Urbana: University of Illinois, 1971).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Jeff Coulter 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeff Coulter
    • 1
  1. 1.Graduate School of Arts and SciencesBoston UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations