Dec 2, 2009, 5:01:55 AM12/2/09
Okay, I accept that "Memory is Content" is a bit simplistic. One way
of thinking about memory is as a system in its own right, in which
case it HAS content rather than BEING content.
How about this possible reformulation. Memory is a repository of
memories. (The memories represent the content of the memory.) For the
event in question to leave a trace means that one or more memories are
marked in some way by the event.
John's description of memory makes it sound like a kind of filing
system, where we can deposit memories and (sometimes) retrieve them
later. So we can imagine that every event is logged or stamped
somewhere, causing something to be added to the files. Note that the
content of our memory is generally much greater than what is readily
retrievable, and it seems to be the case that people can remember
stuff under hypnosis that they could not consciously retrieve. So
Wittgenstein is proposing a principle (let's assume this) rather than
an empirically verifiable hypothesis (let's test this).
This way of thinking about a memory-of-memories works for a filing-
cabinet metaphor of the mind. However, there are alternative models
and metaphors. For some thinkers, each new memory potentially alters
previous memories and may affect the structure of memory-as-a-whole.
So there is tight coupling between memory and learning.
In contrast to my attempt to talk about the content of memory, John
seems to be saying something different. Memory is a black box - we
cannot speak about the content of the memory, all we can observe is
content-coming-out in response to retrieval requests (questions). We
may be able to make connections between the content-coming-out and
some prior learning-events (which we might possibly describe in terms
So we have two alternative descriptions of memory, both loosely based
on the VPEC-T lens. I prefer to think of these two descriptions as
complementary rather than contradictory. I think the VPEC-T lens
produces different results for John and myself for two reasons.
Firstly, we are drawing the system boundaries differently. And
secondly, we are using different metaphors. What counts as CONTENT
depends on these different perspectives.
This has important implications for VPEC-T practice. What if we can
produce more insight by having different people apply the VPEC-T lens
from different perspectives, rather than assume there is a single
correct way of using it?