Eliminating episodic memory?

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (forthcoming)
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In Tulving’s initial characterization, episodic memory was one of multiple memory systems. It was postulated, in pursuit of explanatory depth, as displaying proprietary operations, representations, and substrates such as to explain a range of cognitive, behavioural, and experiential phenomena. Yet the subsequent development of this research program has, paradoxically, introduced surprising doubts about the nature, and indeed existence, of episodic memory. On dominant versions of the ‘common system’ view, on which a single simulation system underlies both remembering and imagining, there are no processes unique to memory to support robust generalizations with inductive potential. Eliminativism about episodic memory seems to follow from the claim that it has no dedicated neurocognitive system of its own. After identifying this under-noticed threat, we push back against modern eliminativists by surveying recent evidence that still indicates specialized mechanisms, computations, and representations that are distinctly mnemic in character. We argue that contemporary realists about episodic memory can retain lessons of the common system approach while resisting the further move to eliminativism.

Author Profiles

Nikola Andonovski
Université Grenoble Alpes.
John Sutton
Macquarie University
Christopher Jude McCarroll
National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University


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