Remembering past experiences: episodic memory, semantic memory and the epistemic asymmetry

In Kourken Michaelian, Dorothea Debus & Denis Perrin (eds.), New Directions in the Philosophy of Memory. Routledge. pp. 313-328 (2018)
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There seems to be a distinctive way in which we can remember events we have experienced ourselves, which differs from the capacity to retain information about events that we can also have when we have not experienced those events ourselves but just learned about them in some other way. Psychologists and increasingly also philosophers have tried to capture this difference in terms of the idea of two different types of memory: episodic memory and semantic memory. Yet, the demarcation between episodic memory and semantic memory remains a contested topic in both disciplines, to the point of there being researchers in each of them who question the usefulness of the distinction between the two concepts. In this paper, I outline a new characterization of the difference between episodic memory and semantic memory, which connects that difference to what is sometimes called the ‘epistemic asymmetry’ between the past and the future, or the ‘epistemic arrow’ of time. My proposal will be that episodic memory and semantic memory exemplify the epistemic asymmetry in two different ways, and for somewhat different reasons, and that the way in which episodic memory exemplifies the epistemic asymmetry is manifest to the remembering subject in a way in which this is not the case for semantic memory.



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Christoph Hoerl
University of Warwick

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Remembering: Epistemic and Empirical.Carl F. Craver - 2020 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 11 (2):261-281.

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