Essays in Philosophy 19 (2):178-195 (2018)

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Abstract
In a recent paper, Cheng and Werning (2016) argue that the class of episodic memories constitutes a natural kind. Endorsing the homeostatic property cluster view of natural kinds, they suggest that episodic memories can be characterized by a cluster of properties unified by an underlying neural mechanism for coding sequences of events. Here, I argue that Cheng & Werning’s proposal faces some significant, and potentially insurmountable, difficulties. Two are described as most prominent. First, the proposal fails to satisfy an important normative constraint on natural kind theorizing, not providing the requisite theoretical resources for arbitration between rival taxonomies of memory. Second, the proposal is in a direct tension with a foundational principle of the HPC view: the rejection of essentialism. This has far-reaching consequences, threatening to undermine the coherence of the proposal.
Keywords episodic memory  natural kind  homeostatic property cluster  taxonomy  memory trace  causal theory of memory  sequences
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DOI 10.7710/1526-0569.1609
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