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Durham e-Theses
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Aristotle’s On Memory and Recollection:
Concepts, Sources, and Innovations of Aristotle’s
Account of Mnemonic Capacities and Activities

MEDDA, ROBERTO (2009) Aristotle’s On Memory and Recollection:
Concepts, Sources, and Innovations of Aristotle’s
Account of Mnemonic Capacities and Activities.
Masters thesis, Durham University.



My thesis inquires into some of the most relevant problems of Aristotle’s treatise On memory and recollection. The first chapter consists in an analysis of the keywords of the work. This close delimitation has been made necessary by Bloch’s interpretation, which questioned the traditional dichotomy between ‘memory’ and ‘recollection’. The second part aims at reconstructing the historical background of Aristotle’s theory of memory. Certainly Plato’s reflection on the topic is the immediate antecedent and it gave Aristotle some ideas (e.g. the wax block model) he assumed as his physiological model of memory. However, some of these intuitions were already present in previous reflections, both in poetry and in the political debate. What can be recognized from the comparison between those sources is the process of secularization the conception of memory underwent in the classical age: memory was a gift from gods for the epic poets, a technique for Simonides and the Sophists, a personal capacity for Aristotle. The last chapter spells out some original considerations about Aristotle’s On memory and recollection. Firstly, a reassessment of Sorabji’s theory of ‘imagination’ applied to memory is tried in the first section, starting from the recent works of the scholars on the topic; secondly, the role of memory is considered in the formation of the ‘experience’; the last section attempts at interpreting three crucial passages of the treatise (450b11-451a2; 452a19-26; 452b17-24). The originality of Aristotle’s account emerges from the close consideration of the text; this account influenced the reflection about memory for centuries.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Keywords:Aristotle; memory; recollection; Plato; mnemotechnique; ancient philosophy; phantasia; pattern recognition
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Classics and Ancient History, Department of
Thesis Date:2009
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:04 Jan 2010 15:32

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