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CANCELLED: March 28th: Philo&Bio: Carl Craver

28 March 2017 @ 14 h 30 min - 15 h 30 min UTC+1

Unfortunately, this event is CANCELLED.


Carl Craver

Professor of Philosophy, Washington University in Saint Louis

What Is a Person? Episodic Memory and Its Role in Responsible Human Agency



How did nature contrive machines that deserve the status of persons? While there is little consensus on this question as a whole, there is considerable agreement among philosophers and scientists that episodic memory, and the forms of thought it makes possbile, figure prominently in the answer. This capacity, we are told, is distinctively human and appears only late in development, marking an important milestone in the emergence of the self, or of the self-conscious human. The construct of episodic memory, originally understood as knowledge of what, where, and when (WWW) an event occurred (Tulving 1983), has expanded in recent years to encompass a distinct form of consciousness (autonoesis; Tulving 2003), the capacity to mentally travel in time (MTT; e.g., Suddendorf and Corbalis 1997), the ability to entertain and evaluate counterfactuals (de Brigard 2016), and the ability to project one’s self in space, time, and mind (Buckner and Carol 2010). As this construct expanded, it came to be seen as something of a “mental opposable thumb,” explaining everything distinctive of persons: our grasp of time (Dalla Barba and la Corte 2014), our ability to weigh future rewards (Boyer 2010), our feelings of pride and regret (Hoerl and MacCormack 2016), our moral decision-making and knowledge mortality (Thagard 2004), and the advance of human civilization (Tulving 2003). Our scientific and popular culture has come to embrace the idea that memories for life’s experiences are central to our status as the distinctive kinds of creatures we are. So I will first reorient our collective attention away from evolutionary considerations about the adaptive function of episodic memory and direct it toward our above. I will then review recent experimental evidence that forces us to reconsider and sharpen these sweeping claims about the significance of episodic thought. This evidence then guides the search for a more narrow and empirically adequate understanding of the contribution episodic memory specifically might make to our status as persons. I will close with some provisional positive thoughts, inspired by Brandom (1998), Tomasello (2009), and Mahr and Csibra (forthcoming) about the distinctive epistemic power of episodic memory and how episodic thought might contribute uniquely to an explanation of how nature has managed to build things like us.

More about Carl Craver here.


Salle de conférences Plateforme Génomique Fonctionnelle
146 rue Léo Saignat
Bordeaux, 33000 France


Thomas Pradeu


28 March 2017
14 h 30 min - 15 h 30 min
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