Selfless Memories

Erkenntnis:0-22 (2022)
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Many authors claim that being conscious constitutively involves being self-conscious, or conscious of oneself. This claim appears to be threatened by reports of `selfless' episodes, or conscious episodes lacking self-consciousness, recently described in a number of pathological and nonpathological conditions. However, the credibility of these reports has in turn been challenged on the following grounds: remembering and reporting a past conscious episode as an episode that one went through is only possible if one was conscious of oneself while undergoing it. Call this the Memory Challenge. This paper argues that the Memory Challenge fails to undermine the credibility to reports of selfless episodes, because it rests on problematic assumptions about episodic memory. The paper further argues that we should distinguish between several kinds of self-representation that may be involved in the process of episodic remembering, and that once we do so, it is no longer mysterious how one could accurately remember and report a selfless episode as an episode that one went through. Thus, we should take reports of this kind seriously, and view them as credible counter-examples to the claim that consciousness constitutively involves self-consciousness.

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Author Profiles

Albert Newen
Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Raphaël Millière
Columbia University

References found in this work

The Principles of Psychology.William James - 1890 - London, England: Dover Publications.
Elements of Episodic Memory.Endel Tulving - 1983 - Oxford University Press.

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