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Committing the Future to MemoryHistory, Experience, Trauma$
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Sarah Clift

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780823254200

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823254200.001.0001

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Memory in Theory

Memory in Theory

The Childhood Memories of John Locke (Persons, Parrots)

(p.41) Chapter Two Memory in Theory
Committing the Future to Memory

Sarah Clift

Fordham University Press

This chapter takes up the issue of personal identity in the work that essentially founded it as a philosophical issue debated to this day, namely, that of John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding. The chapter explores Locke’s own claim that personal identity is grounded in the memory of experience, but it also complicates that claim by showing how close attention to this and other of his texts compels us to infer that the constitution and continuity of identity and personhood depend no less on the mediation of language and of other persons, or more specifically, on narration and interlocution. The chapter tracks Locke’s interest in infancy and early childhood, arguing that these phases of life are a preoccupation for Locke largely because they are periods that cannot be appropriated on the basis of one’s own memory and so must be attested to by others. Inasmuch as Locke’s aim is to relegate this childhood amnesia to an early phase of human development, this chapter attends to the ways in which its themes of testimony and verification continually resurface throughout The Essay, most notably in its considerations of language.

Keywords:   John Locke, Personal identity, Childhood, Testimony, Amnesia

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