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Scottish Commonsense About Memory: A Defence of Thomas Reid's Direct Knowledge Account

Hamilton, Andy



Reid rejects the image theory --the representative or indirect realist position--that memory-judgements are inferred from or otherwise justified by a present image or introspectible state. He also rejects the trace theory , which regards memories as essentially traces in the brain. In contrast he argues for a direct knowledge account in which personal memory yields unmediated knowledge of the past. He asserts the reliability of memory, not in currently fashionable terms as a reliable belief-forming process, but more elusively as a principle of Commonsense. There remains a contemporary consensus against Reid's position. I argue that Reid's critique is essentially sound, and that the consensus is mistaken; personal memory judgements are spontaneous and non-inferential in the same way as perceptual judgements. But I question Reid's account of the connection between personal memory and personal identity. My primary concern is rationally reconstructive rather than scholarly, and downplays recent interpretations of Reid's faculty psychology as a precursor of functionalism and other scientific philosophies of mind.


Hamilton, A. (2003). Scottish Commonsense About Memory: A Defence of Thomas Reid's Direct Knowledge Account. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 81(2), 229-245.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2003-06
Deposit Date Mar 25, 2008
Journal Australasian Journal of Philosophy
Print ISSN 0004-8402
Electronic ISSN 1471-6828
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 81
Issue 2
Pages 229-245
Publisher URL