On most readings, Plotinus’ account of memory is a “Two-Worlds” account. Plotinus, that is, would distinguish between “memory” proper (μνήμη) on the one hand, conceived of as the storing and retrieving of past perceptual information, and of past events and experiences, and, on the other hand, “recollection” (ἀνάμνησις) of Forms, conceived of as a rational process of information retrieval unrelated to time, and, therefore, to the past. The ascription of this “Two-Worlds” account of memory to Plotinus is based on 1) the view that memory for Plotinus must include a reference to the past, and 2) his innatism about Forms, according to which our soul never acquired knowledge of Forms at some point in the past but, rather, eternally possesses it. I want to suggest that, for Plotinus, not all kinds of memory include a reference to the past. More precisely, I want to suggest that he recognizes a kind of memory which is at least in some respects like what is called today “semantic” memory. This is the sort of memory pertaining to our general knowledge of the world, and it lacks any reference to the time, circumstances, or emotions associated with its acquisition. I will argue that Plotinus builds on this kind of memory a unitary account of both memory of perceptible things and memory of Forms which, rather than being modeled on his “Two-Worlds” metaphysics, is designed to bridge the epistemic gap that metaphysics creates.
The Seminar will take place via Microsoft Teams. By clicking this link you will be redirected to a page in which you will be prompted to sign in with your Oxford SSO.
Workshop in Ancient Philosophy Convenors: Ursula Coope, Simon Shogry and Luca Castagnoli