The Reliability of Memory: An Argument from the Armchair

Episteme 18 (2):142-159 (2021)
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Abstract

The “problem of memory” in epistemology is concerned with whether and how we could have knowledge, or at least justification, for trusting our apparent memories. I defend an inductive solution—more precisely, an abductive solution—to the problem. A natural worry is that any such solution would be circular, for it would have to depend on memory. I argue that belief in the reliability of memory can be justified from the armchair, without relying on memory. The justification is, roughly, that my having the sort of experience that my apparent memory should lead me to expect is best explained by the hypothesis that my memories are reliable. My solution is inspired by Harrod’s (1942) inductive solution. Coburn (1960) argued that Harrod’s solution contains a fatal flaw. I show that my solution is not vulnerable to Coburn’s objection, and respond to a number of other, recent and likely objections.

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Ali Hasan
University of Iowa

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