I am currently a PhD student at the Institute of Philosophy and Semiotics, University of Tartu, working in the field of theoretical philosophy – more specifically, analytic philosophy of mind and philosophy of psychology. The general project I aim to contribute to involves pushing toward a naturalistic conception of the mind. Consequently, my primary interests are the status and future of folk psychology, the nature of representation/intentionality and other related matters. I also find myself increasingly thinking about the epistemological implications of a psychologically informed view of the mind.
My doctoral research tackles these issues by focusing on a particular mental faculty – memory. On the one hand, our notion of remembering is subject to a host of strong philosophical intuitions – regarding, for instance, its connections to persistence, truth, knowledge, other mental faculties and so forth. On the other hand, the picture that emerges from contemporary psychology and neuroscience of memory appears to subvert many of these intuitive principles. I aim to find a philosophically tenable way of negotiating between these two opposing perspectives.
My soon-to-be-finished dissertation is structured into six main chapters. After a general introduction, the second chapter takes up the issue whether and to what extent our commonsense mentalistic vocabulary is malleable in the first place. I consider and argue against four kinds of arguments for the autonomy of folk psychology. In the third chapter, I lay out the central tensions between the traditional and a scientifically informed view of memory. The fourth chapter is dedicated to memory traces – neural entities that persist from the original experience to recall, thus underpinning our memories. While the indispensability of this posit might initially be taken to confirm some of the intuitive tenets about memory, I detect an ambiguity in the notion of ‘trace’ and show that this is not the case. The fifth chapter centers on epistemological issues. If we reject the factivity of memory and accept that memory can generate (rather than merely preserve) both beliefs and justification, are we led to pernicious skepticism? I aim to show that there are ways around this worry. Finally, the sixth chapter considers whether the preceding discussion supports memory eliminativism – that is to say: would we be better off without the concept of ‘memory’? While the traditional and so-called scientific eliminativist arguments are found to be lacking, the prospect of a limited pragmatic elimination is shown to remain viable.