An image comes back to me; and I say in my heart: that’s really him, that’s really her. I recognize him, I recognize her. This recognition can take different forms. It takes place already in the course of perception: a being was presented once; it went away; it came back. Appearing, disappearing, reappearing. In this case the recognition adjusts—fits—the reappearing to the appearing across the disappearing. This small happiness of perception has provided the occasion for many classical descriptions. One thinks of Plato discussing the disappointments of mistaken and the opportunities of successful recognition in the Theaetetus and the Philebus. One thinks of the vicissitudes of recognition, of the anagnorisis, in Greek tragedy: Oedipus recognizes in his own person the evil initiator of the misfortunes besetting the city. [But] perhaps we have placed a foot in the wrong imprint or grabbed the wrong ring dove in the coop. Perhaps we were the victims of a false recognition, as when from afar we take a tree to be a person we know. And yet, who, by casting suspicions from outside, could shake the certainty attached to the pleasure of the sort of recognition we know in ours hearts to be indubitable? Who could claim never to have trusted memory’s finds in this way? Do not outstanding events like this, the founding events of a solitary existence or of one shared with others, reveal this prime trust? And do we not continue to measure our mistakes and our disappointments against the signals coming from an unshakeable recognition?

Paul Ricoeur, Memory, History, Forgetting