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Cognitive Dissonance of Memory -- A Philosophy of Mind and Reality

Updated: May 18

philosophy of mind


(2023 Note: Revamped)


Explore the fascinating concept of cognitive dissonance in memory and its effects on our perception of reality with this introductory guide to the philosophy of mind.

I'd wager that, for the vast majority of people, it is clear to them to clearly distinguish between a true memory and a false memory. A true memory is something that actually happened in reality, while a false memory might either be true in imagination (a vision, a dream, and so on) or a complete delusion. When it is true in imagination, you must recognize it as such, no matter how "true" it feels -- recognize as imaginary. When it is a delusion, it deceives you as being true.



After all, memory is an essential function in our lives, to be able to better know who we are, and also to distinguish truth from falsehood, reality from illusion.


It just goes to show how easily our own thoughts and feelings can delude us. Relying on them wholeheartedly would, therefore, be a poor mistake.


Between these cognitively-dissonanced memories, some I can clearly tell that they never happened, even though I "feel" the "concreteness" of their reality. However, some other memories of the kind, I cannot tell you whether they were dreams or things that happened outside my mind.


And thus, such a topic isn't always a black or white situation. It is our job to be able to make them such, if we are interested in the research of the truth, which is also philosophy's aim.


The same goes for hallucinations. The "grayness" of the situation exists in our uncertainty, not in the truth. A good sense of rationality is imperative in such cases. Deem logic as "boring" as much as you desire, but it helps us recognize reality.


Recently, I've been feeling nostalgic for a memory that I clearly know never happened. It is a "memory" because I can remember it as a visual information.


In this quasi-memory, I see myself late at night, playing an extremely old video game console, with a game I've never seen before. I can clearly tell that this memory is false because I know that I never played that console, and for some reason I also wore glasses in this memory, even though I've never needed glasses in my life.



And yet, whenever I remember this vision, whose origin is unclear, I feel very nostalgic, as if I was an adult before the 21st century, even though I was born in the 90s. Someone who was born in my year can never be an adult in the 20th century, it doesn't make sense mathematically. And yet, this memory feels very concrete to me.


I guess that this could pass as a cognitive dissonance, and for those who don't know, it is usually something that happens when something exists and does not make much sense at the same time. Feel free to correct me in case I was wrong in this definition.


My mentor once said, "Things that are irrational do not exist in reality." And yet, one could argue that things such as absurdity and irrationality do exist in real life, as they do in general. One could argue that chaos is illogical, and yet, we could also argue that chaos is a natural feature of this universe; a feature that builds and destroys many things, especially when it comes to planets, such as Earth.


And the fact that order may stem from chaos, only reinforces the existence of chaos. The chaos of this universe, and the chaos within us. The chaos we repress and escape from, in order to survive this reality, and do our jobs, if said jobs depend on our rationality (such as being a philosopher).


Don't get me wrong. I do see myself as a rationalist when it comes to philosophy. I would argue that this whole article was made by rationalism, AKA, by internal contemplations, rather than empiricism, or external research/experimentation. Nonetheless, even as a rationalist, I must admit that some things in this existence are absurd, including some of my own psyche.

As I already know what's in there.


Many things in this universe are left unexplained, including some features of our own mind. I have no idea why I am nostalgic for a false memory. I have no idea why, as a kid, I was somehow "kidnapped" by two girls at night for a social event, even though my mother claims it was too unrealistic to not be a dream.


And yes, it never happened, even though my mind regards it as an actual experience of the past. It was a dream. I couldn't fit through the window I was tempted to go out through, for I always was a massive boy and man in any age. Some of you know this emperically.


Lastly, I don't know why, for some period in my life, I could "tell" my "previous reincarnations". In one "reincarnation" I thought I was a bear who got trapped; in another, I was a comedian who was assassinated while on stage... And so on and on.


In other words, there is something you should take from this: memory is not always reliable, even when we feel it is. Perhaps it is thanks to philosophy that I became less delusional about the past, AKA, whether some of it happened or not.

Being an autist, I don't always remember how I look, and thus I keep a unique facial hair, the Van Dyke beard and moustache, mainly so I could remember how I, myself, look! Perception and recognition isn't something that's universally easy for all.


After thinking so much about the past throughout my life, even before I was introduced to philosophizing, I eventually concluded that my own memory, even though I need it to exist and to survive, is not always helpful, and can even be misleading. Sometimes I even think I've done things, while I didn't, and that I did not do things, while I indeed performed them.


Similarly to my own facial hair, it is still possible to surpass this dependency of memory using concrete things we can see for ourselves, as evidence to whether our memory is of things that were either true or false. Don't get me wrong, I can differ between truth and illusion, but sometimes my self-delusional memory gets in the way and tries to "tempt" me to believe that something happened while it never happened, or the exact opposite.



So even though the value of memory is sacred, as it is imperative for our survival and imperative for the value and recognition of everything that's relevant for us -- it remains far from perfect. Imperfect not only because of our ability to forget. Imperfect because we need filters in order to avoid losing touch with reality.


And it is our responsibility to maintain and/or improve our rationality, so we will never lose touch with reality, which is, of course, the very thing we're all a part of, and need to be a part of, in order to survive.


Feel free to say numerous times how impractical philosophy is. For some of us, it is a means to preserve a clear grasp on the world and on ourselves: To be able to distinguish truth from falsehood.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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