CogOnt Seminar: C. Craver
December 10 @ 10:00 am - 11:30 am
Carl Craver (Washington University), “Remembering: Epistemic and Empirical”
Part of our ongoing online seminar series. See the full list of talks here.
Register using this link: https://pitt.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_KMNKu4fmQ9Wh5ZjvXJ3qQA
Please note, registration will be for the entire seminar series.
The effort to unify philosophical and scientific theories of remembering is hampered by the fact that “remember” is used in distinct intellectual contexts to describe altogether different sorts of phenomena. These senses of remembering are designed to serve different theoretical and instrumental objectives. They have apparently opposite commitments. Yet I’ll argue these senses of what remembering is are neither in competition nor in tension with one another; there is no intellectual requirement that the forces molding the contours of the concept in one domain must be responsive to the forces molding the contours of the concept in the other. If we give up the idea that these views—one empirical, describing bio-psychological capacities and their mechanisms; the other epistemic, declaring an achievement, a success, in the effort know the past— must either refer to the same thing (as the reductionist would have it) or be in competition with one another (as elminitavists hold), we might begin to sketch an alternative vision for how these two conceptions are related. The cost of failing to mark this intellectual divide is continued equivocation at the nexus of mind and matter.
In fact, the equivocation between the empirical and epistemic is not unique to discussions of remembering but infects a raft of terms at least doubly enlisted in distinct intellectual projects. Believe, explain, know, infer, represent, see, and understand, for example, all have empirical and epistemic senses of the sort described here. Viewed from the standpoint of empirical science and the mechanistic norms of theory development, it seems the intellectual choice we confront in each case is between reducing the epistemic notion to the empirical or, failing such reduction, jettisoning the epistemic construct as pretheoretic folk theory, or philosophy in the worst sense.
Once the difference between these ways of using “remember” is acknowledged, however, it’s clear both that and why epistemic remembering is not even plausibly reductively explained by empirical remembering. The thought that such a reduction is desirable and, correlatively, that the impossibility of reduction is problematic for the epistemic conception, rests on the failure to see that they need not be brought into registration with one another to earn their conceptual keep. These are languages in parallel, and the drive to speak them with one voice only muddles the message about how the mind is situated in the causal structure of things. An adequate language would have to provide the resources for an impossible task: deriving a normatively significant distinction from a reductive base described explicitly so as to fail to mark that very distinction. The problem thus articulated shares key elements with other inference barriers discussed in philosophy, such as the projection of future patterns from the past and, perhaps more aptly, the derivation of what ought to be the case from what is, in fact, the case (Restall and Russell 2010; Pigden 2010).