Phenomenology of Memory
We didn’t need Proust to teach us that memories can be remarkably vivid and emotion-laden, even distant memories. All of us experience those Proustian moments when we are pierced by the dagger of memory—pleasantly or unpleasantly. This is when “it all comes back as if it were yesterday”: there is that uncanny sensation of reliving the past, of re-experiencing what is long gone. Sensory imagery is gloriously vivid and old emotions re-emerge as if from nowhere. The act of remembering has an unmistakable phenomenology that can be as intense as perception. But what does that tell us about the nature of memory itself? What does it tell us about the form in which memories are stored?
I suggest it shows that memories themselves have a phenomenology. Clearly the original experience had a phenomenology, and clearly the act of remembering that experience has one too—so how could the intermediate stage of stored memory lack a phenomenology? Logically speaking, it could lack a phenomenology, being merely an insentient brain state: but surely the best explanation of the Proust effect is precisely that the persisting memory itself has a phenomenology. The remembering has the phenomenology it has because the underlying memory does—the very phenomenology that is revealed in the act of remembering. The taste of the Madeleine persisted in the memory of tasting it and so did its emotional associations; there wasn’t some kind of gap in the psychological stream from past to present, as if the memory trace had no mental aspect. Phenomenology did not yield to mere physicality over the time interval: the phenomenology bubbled away quietly waiting for its moment in the sun. The reason the act of remembering has the vividness it has is that the preceding memory harbored the very phenomenology that emerges in the remembering. For why should it be thus vivid if the memory itself lacked all phenomenology? Memories such as this are laid down in impressionable children, saturated by charged affect, and they retain the phenomenology of the moment: they don’t lose their pungency just by disappearing from conscious awareness, as if that pungency could be deleted by the mere fact of not being consciously thought about. Indeed, they may exercise a powerful influence on their possessor from their position of unconsciousness (nostalgia, regret, alienation). They do so in virtue of the phenomenology that is intrinsic to their nature as experiential remnants. What else could explain it? 
If this is right, we can dissociate phenomenology from consciousness. The memory of the Madeleine was not conscious, unlike the original taste and its subsequent recollection, but the phenomenology was continuous—it did not cease when consciousness did. The recollection merely reflects the phenomenology inherent in the memory. The phenomenology was psychologically real during the period of memory storage—just as the intentionality of the memory was psychologically real during that interval. It is not that the intentionality ceased with the initial conscious experience and then magically reappeared at the moment of recollection; it persisted in the interim, encoded in the memory. The memory was about something (the taste of a Madeleine): similarly, the memory retained the subjective “feel” characteristic of both the original experience and its subsequent recollection. This is not the miraculous resurrection of a long-dead item of phenomenology, but merely the reemergence of what had been smoldering all along. Why does the remembrance feel as it does after all this time? It’s because the feeling had never left the memory; it had merely temporarily disappeared from consciousness. Surely that is the natural and plausible thing to say about what happened—not that the remembrance somehow traveled back in time to the moment the Madeleine was tasted, and not that a mere insentient brain state persisted over the interval. The phenomenology was compressed into the memory, considered as a psychological unit–ready to spring forth when the right stimulus came along. It rejoined consciousness after being separated from it for a time, unchanged in its inherent nature. This is why the conscious recollection has the phenomenological character that it has—because it is the expression of a pre-existing phenomenological substrate. The Proustian kind of case makes this vivid by reminding us of extreme examples of phenomenological persistence.
By thus separating phenomenology from consciousness we bifurcate the mind-body problem: now we have the problem of phenomenology as well as the problem of consciousness. The former problem can apply to unconscious mental states. In principle we could solve the phenomenology problem without solving the consciousness problem (and maybe vice versa). At any rate, we are dealing with two problems not one. Both are hard: both pose deep problems of theoretical unification. We are dealing with a double mystery.
 We could put it this way: memory is not a zombie—memory is a part of the mind. But what could this amount to if not the phenomenology that characterizes mental imagery and emotion? It is experiential memory, after all.