Documentality, emotions, and motivations

why we need a kind of internal memory

Andrea Lavazza

pp. 51-66

Memory, as is well known, makes up a large part of our identity (even though the criterion of this “identity” is controversial). Documents – understood as inscriptions – make up our external memory in a peculiar way: they constitute both a stable anchor and a reference-point for our personal transformations over time. There is, however, also an internal memory, residing in our brain. This is based in part on external documentation; but it is of course not exclusively tied thereto. Rather it evolves dynamically over time, in part reflecting ethical debates which we carry on within ourselves and which is influenced also by emotional factors, for example as we try to erase memories that are unpleasant. If, for example, the internal memory of some offense against our person is erased, then the motivation to testify against those who offended against us no longer exists or is greatly reduced, and this is so even though the documents that record the offense remain. Our motivations here depend on the emotional factor in our memories; once this has been lost, even though the autobiographical, episodic memory still remains, then the value-significance of the event fades from our view, and with it the impulse to act. Emotions are in large part responsible for creating a bond with documents; they make it possible for our internal and external memories to have significance. There must be some degree of emotional resonance in inscriptions relating to events in the past, which arises out of our own experience of these events and from our memory of these experiences, for these inscriptions to have significance in our lives. Documents are thus fundamental. But for ourselves and for our social lives, they must be supplemented by internal memories.

Publication details

DOI: 10.4000/estetica.685

Full citation:

Lavazza, A. (2014). Documentality, emotions, and motivations: why we need a kind of internal memory. Rivista di estetica 57, pp. 51-66.

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