It’s perhaps initially surprising that memory – something common to virtually all human beings, regardless of culture, religion, language, or personal background – should only have recently been added to the TOK syllabus. The OED defines it as…




1. the faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information: I’ve a great memory for faces, the brain regions responsible for memory, the mind regarded as a store of things remembered: he searched his memory frantically for an answer; 2. something remembered from the past: one of my earliest memories is of sitting on his knee, the mind can bury all memory of traumatic abuse, the remembering or commemoration of a dead person: clubs devoted to the memory of Sherlock Holmes, the length of time over which a person or event continues to be remembered: the worst slump in recent memory; 3. the part of a computer in which data or program instructions can be stored for retrieval, a computer’s capacity for storing information: the module provides 16Mb of memory

However, when one thinks about it a little more, we’re not on quite such solid ground. First, memory isn’t a ‘primary’ way of knowing. Instead, we use the other ways of knowing to provide us with our intial knowledge, and only afterwards employ memory to modify and enhance that knowledge. Second, memory is notoriously unreliable: how one person remembers something will be radically different to how another person recalls it, meaning that it must be treated with care if one is to build up objective knowledge about a thing.
Knowledge questions that come up with memory include: to what extent do we shape memory with our own personal paradigms? Which way of knowing provides us with the most reliable memory? To what extent should memory be trusted when one studies history (ie primary sources)?

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