Russell's Two Theories of Memory

Iva Apostolova


In this paper I examine Russell’s account of memory in both the acquaintance and the neutral monist periods, more specifically, the years from 1910 until 1927, with emphasis on The Problems of Philosophy, Theory of Knowledge, and The Analysis of Mind. I argue that memory is central for understanding how knowledge works, which is the main reason it remained in the focus of Russell’s analysis even after the gradual shift to neutral monism. I propose that memory played a not insignificant role in that shift. While this paper aims to show that Russell’s theory of memory in the acquaintance period faced serious difficulties—mainly related to the commitment to direct realism—I argue that there is a consistent similarity and continuity between the theory of memory in the acquaintance period and that in the neutral monist period. Russell considered a similar type of memory to be paradigmatic and epistemically primary in both periods—a consideration, dictated, no doubt, by his commitment to the principles of Occam’s razor and psychological plausibility.

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Iva Apostolova
Dominican University College