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Memories and Experience

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By chelsea93hope
Words 973
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Each memory, experience and event that occurs in a person’s life is essential to help discover the person they have grown to become. Our childhood, in particular, is important to reflect on because that is when we experienced things for the first time and where we learned from our mistakes (Cottingham 2008). It is through narration that we are able to understand how our childhood and our past has affected us and created who we are as a human being. We must recognize the importance of old memories and how well we are able to explain them. It will be examined how the actual occurrence of an event differs from the way it has been told.

With every action we take, there is always a good reason for doing it. According to philosopher Charles Taylor, this is called “an orientation to the good.” He believes that to make sense of our lives and have any identity at all, we must have an orientation to the good (Cottingham 2008). The direction of our lives depends on this good as well as how motivated we are to get to the place relating to this good. What Taylor is trying to say is that without having motivation behind each decision we make, our reason for existence is meaningless. This is an excellent point because it is what makes us all individuals. Although many people may experience the same thing, the way it is interpreted is what makes each person’s identity unique. We are able to create incentives that push us do better in everything we do and make us work hard to achieve our goals; ultimately, setting these goals is what builds onto our character. The idea of incentives is derived from the orientation to the good. By finding a motivation behind each undertaking is what helps us to realize that we have an orientation to the good of the act. This good is incorporated into the understanding of our lives and helps to create who we are as a human being. We can make sense of our lives through the past events we have experienced, which leads us into the idea of narration. Taylor believes that narration plays an important role in forming a human being’s identity. The purpose of a narrative is to relive a moment that has happened in the past. They also help us to understand which memories in our lives have greatly affected us and which ones cease to be important in the forming of our identities. It is only logical narratives that can answer all of the questions as to why we exist at all (Cottingham 2008). I have often been asked the question, “Where can you see yourself in ten years’ time?” The problem with this question is that the answer will never be consistent. A person’s life is constantly experiencing new events that affect the human being that they are slowly becoming. It is difficult to pinpoint a moment in our lives where we can determine who we are. What is meant by this is a person’s identity cannot be defined by a specific time in their lives, but rather as each part of our lives coming together as a whole. The reason we cannot decide on our identity based on a single flash in our lives is because we are always changing. I am not the same person that I was fifteen years ago, but my past memories still play an important role in the person I am today. As we mature, our stories will always remain the same but it is our variations of perspectives that alter the stories each time they are told. In order for these memory fragments to continue on in our lives, we must revise them so they can keep up with the changes our identity is going through.

Although the concept of not being able to know who we are as a person based on a flashpoint in our lives seems logical, I disagree. It makes sense that who I am now as an adult is much different from the child I was many years ago. The things I once valued and the morals I had abided by have changed significantly over the years. My maturity has caused my perspectives of each of my memories to also change. I am able to reflect on these past stories and understand that they have made an impact on my life, but I also believe that what I am experiencing now is what has an even greater effect on me. My present memories are the most vivid and most relatable to the lifestyle I am living now. I also believe that the memories I am creating now will hold more value to the person I will be in the next ten years than the memories I vaguely remember as a child.

A person’s identity is an ongoing process. The way we view things is always changing. The stories of our past will always remain the same, but can slowly fade unless we continue to narrate the timeline of our lives. It is our job to make sense of these past stories, be able to apply them to different situations in our lives and realize that with every move we make, there is some good reasoning behind it. It is important for us to appreciate that everything we have accomplished up until now is relevant to the person we have become and the standards we now live by. As our lives continue on, we will add to the collection of narratives. We can then fully understand that our past, present and future will have had a great effect on the identity we have spent years trying to create.

Works Cited
Cottingham, John, ed. Western Philosophy: An Anthology. Second Edition. Blackwell Publishing, 2008. pg 302-307

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