Review of Philosophy and Psychology

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 333–350 | Cite as

‘Mental Time Travel’: Remembering the Past, Imagining the Future, and the Particularity of Events

  • Dorothea DebusEmail author


The present paper offers a philosophical discussion of phenomena which in the empirical literature have recently been subsumed under the concept of ‘mental time travel’. More precisely, the paper considers differences and similarities between two cases of ‘mental time travel’, recollective memories (‘R-memories’) of past events on the one hand, and sensory imaginations (‘S-imaginations’) of future events on the other. It develops and defends the claim that, because a subject who R-remembers a past event is experientially aware of a past particular event, while a subject who S-imagines a future event could not possibly be experientially aware of a future particular event, R-memories of past events and S-imaginations of future events are ultimately mental occurrences of two different kinds.


Future Event Main Argument Past Event Sensory Imagination Present Objection 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Addis, D.R., A.T. Wong, and D.L. Schacter. 2007. Remembering the past and imagining the future: Common and distinct neural substrates during event construction and elaboration. Neuropsychologia 45: 1363–1377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Block, N. 1980. Troubles with functionalism. In Readings in philosophy of psychology Vol. 1, ed. N. Block, 268–305. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Byrne, A. 2010. Recollection, perception, imagination. Philosophical Studies 148: 15–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Corballis, M.C. 2013a. Mental time travel: A case for evolutionary continuity. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 17: 5–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Corballis, M.C. 2013b. The wandering rat: Response to Suddendorf. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 17: 152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Davidson, D. 1980a. Events as particulars. In Essays on actions and events, 181–187. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  7. Davidson, D. 1980b. Mental events. In Essays on actions and events, 207–227. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  8. Debus, D. 2008. Experiencing the past: A relational account of recollective memory. Dialectica 62: 405–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Debus, D. forthcoming. Memory, imagination and narrative. In Memory and imagination, ed. F. Dorsch and F. McPherson. OUP.Google Scholar
  10. Klein, S.B., and J. Loftus. 2002. Memory and temporal experience: The effects of episodic memory loss on an amnesic patient’s ability to remember the past and imagine the future. Social Cognition 20: 353–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Martin, M.G.F. 2002. The transparency of experience. Mind and Language 17: 376–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Matthen, M. 2010. Is memory preservation? Philosophical Studies 148: 3–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Perner, J., D. Kloo, and M. Rohwer. 2010. Retro- and prospection for mental time travel: Emergence of episodic remembering and mental rotation in 5- to 8-year old children. Consciousness and Cognition 19: 802–815.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Schacter, D.L., D.R. Addis, and R.L. Buckner. 2007. Remembering the past to imagine the future: The prospective brain. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 8: 657–661.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Schacter, D.L., D.R. Addis, and R.L. Buckner. 2008. Episodic simulation of future events: Concepts, data, and applications. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1124: 39–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Shoemaker, S. 1975. Functionalism and qualia. Philosophical Studies 27: 292–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Shoemaker, S. 2007. A case for Qualia. In Contemporary debates in philosophy of mind, ed. B.P. McLaughlin and J. Cohen, 319–332. Malden: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  18. Simons, P. 2003. Events. In The Oxford handbook of metaphysics, ed. M.J. Loux and D.W. Zimmerman, 357–385. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Suddendorf, T. 2013. Mental time travel: Continuities and discontinuities. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 17: 151–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Suddendorf, T., and M.C. Corballis. 1997. Mental time travel and the evolution of the human mind. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs 123: 133–167.Google Scholar
  21. Suddendorf, T., and M.C. Corballis. 2007. The evolution of foresight: What is mental time travel, and is it unique to humans? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30: 299–351 (with Open Peer Commentary).Google Scholar
  22. Szpunar, K.K. 2010. Episodic future thought: An emerging concept. Perspectives on Psychological Science 5: 142–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Tulving, E. 1993. What is episodic memory? Current Directions in Psychological Science 2: 67–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Viard, A., G. Chetelat, K. Lebreton, B. Desgranges, et al. 2011. Mental time travel into the past and the future in healthy aged adults: An fMRI study. Brain and Cognition 75: 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Williams, M.G., N.C. Ellis, C. Tyres, H. Healy, et al. 1996. The specificity of autobiographical memory and imageability of the future. Memory and Cognition 24: 116–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of YorkYorkUK

Personalised recommendations