Much of my research involves philosophy of cognitive science, mind, and related areas, including topics such as memory, delusions, and the self. Below are some of my current research projects.

 

 

On Unifying Declarative Memory

The distinction between episodic and semantic declarative memory systems, as introduced by Tulving (1972, updated in 1984, 1991), was a revolutionary approach to human memory. While the distinction is now widely endorsed in the study of memory, there’s still much debate about how what constitutes each system’s domain, how it is used, how it functions, and how it results in a phenomenal experience. Through surveying clinical studies, insights from conditions affecting memory, and counterexamples, this paper advances a functionalist account of declarative memory: that the episodic and semantic distinction is suspect and should be abandoned in favor of the view that only generalized declarative memory exists, and that recall, content, phenomenal experience may contain and use episodic and semantic properties.

Toward a Three-factor Approach to Monothematic Delusion

The two-factor approach proposed by Coltheart and colleagues is a novel attempt to understand the causes of delusion.  The approach involves asking two questions: (1) “what brought the delusional idea to mind in the first place?” and (2) “why is this idea accepted as true and adopted as a belief when it is typically bizarre, and when so much evidence against its plausibility is available to the patient?” (Coltheart et al. 2011b).  In what follows, I’ll agree that these are the right questions to ask.  However, I’ll disagree that the answer to the second question is as simple as Coltheart and his colleagues have supposed.  In particular I will argue that the adoption of delusional thoughts as beliefs involves two separate processes: not just the evaluation of beliefs, but also the patient’s subsequent metacognitive judgment of that evaluation. This three-factor approach leads to a clearer understanding of the genesis and maintenance of delusional thoughts, and of the beliefs and actions based on them.

Systems of Memory and the Self

A pluralistic account of the Self typically suggests the existence of several simultaneously available mental states; that is, the Self, used as a plurality, “are the experiences and mental states we have and that’s it: no additional substances, and no bundles” (Benovsky 2014). I will show, however, that there are not only several modes of the Self that are indeed normatively bundled, namely a neurological Self and a narrative Self, but that in addition these modes correlate to two specific systems of memory: semantic and episodic, respectively. I then go on to discuss evidence of these correlations informed by amnesia and other clinical case studies. The upshot of this proposal is a better understanding of the relationship between the Self and memory.