Semanticization Challenges the Episodic–Semantic Distinction

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (forthcoming)
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Episodic and semantic memory are often taken to be fundamentally different mental systems, and contemporary philosophers often pursue research questions about episodic memory, in particular, in isolation from semantic memory. This paper challenges that assumption, and puts pressure on philosophical approaches to memory that break off episodic memory as its own standalone topic. I present and systematize psychological and neuroscientific theories of semanticization, the thesis that memory content tends to drift from episodic to semantic in structure over time and exposure to an environment. Semanticization, I argue, is a long-term interconnection between episodic and semantic systems that requires approaching both the content and function of these two memory systems as a whole. Thus we have a reason to reject projects by Michael Martin, which aims to carve out a uniquely episodic memory content, and Kourken Michaelian, which pairs episodic memory to its own unique function. Instead, seeing declarative memory as a single system with two facets or even a continuum of features allows for deeper insight into both content and function.

Author's Profile

Sara Aronowitz
University of Toronto, St. George Campus


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