Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

An Intuitive Experiment: Learning About Memory From Proust

Pradeep A. Dhillon.

I intend to show that Proust’s exploration of memory lines up quite nicely with connectionist approaches to the mind, some neurophysiological research, philosophical theories, and discussions of intelligent discrete state machines. Marcel’s memories, he tells us, come in gusts. That is, while the trigger might be singularly identifiable, the memory it draws is expansive in that the memory itself triggers other memories around it forming a sort of memory cluster. A sensory stimulus, whether from the external world, or from within memory itself, would stand in direct relation to a memory episode. It would seem that much of Proust’s phenomenology of a memory episode can be recast into neuroscientific, philosophical, or computational-theoretic terms.
The response from any one of the theories invoked could run roughly along the lines of suggesting that memories can themselves act as triggers for further memories. Science enriches our appreciation of the literary genius of Proust. Proust, in turn, reminds us of the richness of memory and suggests areas for systematic research.


Pradeep A. Dhillon
Associate Professor
Philosophy of Education Policy Studies
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Pradeep A. Dhillon, is an Associate Professor in Educational Policy Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She received her doctoral degree from Stanford University. Her research lies in the areas of philosophy of language, and philosophical aesthetics with a focus on education. She is the author of two books and several journal articles. Currently she is working on a manuscript on global aesthetics.

  • Memory
  • Literature
  • Neurophysiology
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Cognitive Science

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)