Philosophy and memory traces: Descartes to connectionism

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


Philosophy and memory traces defends two theories of autobiographical memory. One is a bewildering historical view of memories as dynamic patterns in fleeting animal spirits, nervous fluids which rummage through the pores of brain and body. The other is new connectionism, in which memories are 'stored' only superpositionally, and reconstructed rather than reproduced. Both models, argues John Sutton, depart from static archival metaphors by employing distributed representation, which brings interference and confusion between memory traces. Both raise urgent issues about control of the personal past, and about relations between self and body. Sutton demonstrates the role of bizarre body fluids in moral physiology, as philosophers from Descartes and Locke to Coleridge struggled to control their own innards and impose cognitive discipline on 'the phantasmal chaos of association'. Going on to defend connectionism against Fodor and against critics of passive mental representations, he shows how problems of the self are implicated in cognitive science.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCambridge, UK ; New York
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages372
ISBN (Print)0521591945
Publication statusPublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Memory (Philosophy)--History
  • Autobiographical memory
  • Connectionism


Dive into the research topics of 'Philosophy and memory traces: Descartes to connectionism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this