On Seeming to Remember

In Kourken Michaelian, Dorothea Debus & Denis Perrin (eds.), New Directions in the Philosophy of Memory. Routledge. pp. 329-345 (2018)
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Philosophers and psychologists often distinguish episodic or personal memory from propositional or semantic memory. A vexed issue concerns the role, if any, of memory “impressions” or “seemings” within the latter. According to an important family of approaches, seemings play a fundamental epistemological role vis-à-vis propositional memory judgments: it is one’s memory seeming that Caesar was murdered, say, that justifies one’s judgment that he was murdered. Yet, it has been convincingly argued that these approaches lead to insurmountable problems and that memory seemings are not wellsuited to play this justifying role. As a result, many contemporary accounts of propositional memory dispense with these seemings altogether. Is the idea that memory seemings play a key role in propositional memory really the result of bad theorizing? My aim is to shed light on this issue, which I will approach as follows. In Section 1, I contrast episodic memory with propositional memory so as to clarify the nature of the latter. According to the account I put forward, episodic memory consists in the preservation of acquaintance with objects and events, whereas propositional memory consists in the preservation of thought contents. In Section 2, I turn my attention to the contrast between propositional memory contents and propositional memory as an attitude. I argue that they play different roles. Memory contents satisfy a past awareness constraint and a causal constraint; the attitude of remembering explains why we are inclined to endorse these contents. This distinction leads me to explore the attitude of remembering, and I argue, in Section 3, that the most appealing account of this attitude is in terms of feelings of familiarity. In Section 4, I turn my attention to the epistemology of propositional memory and revisit the claim that propositional memory judgments are justifi ed by memory seemings. In so doing, I contend that the attitude of remembering plays an exclusively explanatory role and does not contribute to the epistemology of propositional memory judgments. I conclude by drawing a more general lesson regarding the respective roles of attitudes and contents.

Author's Profile

Fabrice Teroni
University of Geneva


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