Returning the Ticket – Mental Time Travel Reconsidered


Mental Time Travel (MTT) is, roughly, an individual’s capacity to project herself into the past or future by remembering or imagining first-personal experiences respectively. MTT is further presumed to have a distinct, concrete though dispersed neural correlate, and hence describes a neuro-cognitive phenomenon. Opening with a brief sketch of the development and current state of the art, the essay pursues three central aims: Firstly, it constitutes a plea for more conceptual rigour on the cognitive side of the fence, so as to ensure that meaningful lessons can be drawn from neurological enquiry about it. Secondly, a partial conceptual qualification of the necessary requirements of MTT as traditionally conceived is proposed, as they seem vague, uninformative and arbitrary. Finally, a revision of MTT is attempted, which aspires to include a variety of mental states so far not associated with MTT. MTT, as it is currently defined and investigated, I will argue, stands too heavily in the genealogical debt of research into episodic memory, and suffers from an astonishing neglect of considerations pertaining to imagination.

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