Intellectual Memory and Consciousness in Descartes’s Philosophy of Mind
Abstract. Although Descartes’s ideas regarding consciousness and memory have been studied extensively, few attempts have been made to address their systemic relations. In order to redress this deficiency, I argue in favor of three interrelated theses. The first is that intellectual memory has a crucial role to play in Descartes’s concept of consciousness, especially when it comes to explaining higher forms of consciousness. Second, the connection between memory and consciousness has been obscured by the fact that intellectual memory, taken as a subject in its own right, was relatively neglected in Descartes’s philosophy: By and large, his views on the matter remained within the limits of late scholastic Scotism. Third, what makes the question of intellectual memory so fascinating in Descartes is not some ground-breaking insight into its nature; rather, it is his gradual recognition of the role that intellectual memory plays in the constitution of higher forms of consciousness.With these arguments, and relying on Descartes’s 1648 correspondence with Antoine Arnauld, where he progressed beyond the substance-based approach to the self, I try to show that he deserves to be credited with a more prominent status in the history of the self and personhood than has previously been the case.
Keywords: Descartes, intellectual memory, consciousness, late scholastics, Duns Scotus, self, Arnauld