Is Episodic Memory a Natural Kind?

Essays in Philosophy 19 (2):178-195 (2018)
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Abstract

In a recent paper, Cheng and Werning (2016) argue that the class of episodic memories constitutes a natural kind. Endorsing the homeostatic property cluster view of natural kinds, they suggest that episodic memories can be characterized by a cluster of properties unified by an underlying neural mechanism for coding sequences of events. Here, I argue that Cheng & Werning’s proposal faces some significant, and potentially insurmountable, difficulties. Two are described as most prominent. First, the proposal fails to satisfy an important normative constraint on natural kind theorizing, not providing the requisite theoretical resources for arbitration between rival taxonomies of memory. Second, the proposal is in a direct tension with a foundational principle of the HPC view: the rejection of essentialism. This has far-reaching consequences, threatening to undermine the coherence of the proposal.

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Nikola Andonovski
Université Grenoble Alpes.

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