Review of Philosophy and Psychology

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 89–104 | Cite as

Memory, Knowledge and Epistemic Competence



Sosa (2007) claims that a necessary condition on knowledge is manifesting an epistemic competence. To manifest an epistemic competence, a belief must satisfy two conditions: (1) it must derive from the exercise of a reliable belief-forming disposition in appropriate conditions for its exercise and (2) that exercise of the disposition in those conditions would not issue a false belief in a close possible world. Drawing on recent psychological research, I show that memories that are issued by episodic memory retrieval fail to satisfy either of these conditions. This presents Sosa, and other proponents of similar conditions (e.g. some safety theorists and process reliabilists), with a dilemma: (1) deny that episodic memories count as knowledge or (2) give up the conditions as necessary conditions on knowledge. I explore the implications of this dilemma for our understanding of knowledge, memory and the relationship between them.



I owe thanks to Ernie Sosa, Alvin Goldman and two anonymous reviewers for this journal for their helpful comments and suggestions. I am also grateful to Katy Meadows for a series of invaluable discussions.


  1. Addis, D.R., A.T. Wong, and D.L. Schacter. 2007. Remembering the past and imagining the future: Common and distinct neural substrates during event construction and elaboration. Neuropsychologia 45: 1363–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Addis, D.R., D.C. Sacchetti, B.A. Ally, A.E. Budson, and D.L. Schacter. 2009. Episodic simulation of future events is impaired in mild Alzheimer’s disease. Neuropsychologia 47: 2660–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ben Shalom, D. 2003. Memory in autism: review and synthesis. Cortex 39(4–5): 1129–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bonjour, L., and E. Sosa. 2003. Epistemic justification: Internalism vs. externalism, foundations vs. virtues. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  5. Braun, K.A., R. Ellis, and E.F. Loftus. 2002. Make my memory: How advertising can change our memories of the past. Psychology and Marketing 19: 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Buckner, R.L., and D.C. Carroll. 2006. Self-projection and the brain. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11(2): 49–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Conee, E., and R. Feldman. 1998. The generality problem for reliabilism. Philosophical Studies 89: 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Eich, E., J.L. Reeves, B. Jaeger, and S.B. Graff-Radford. 1985. Memory for pain: Relation between past and present pain intensity. Pain 23: 375–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gettier, E. 1963. Is justified true belief knowledge? Analysis 23: 121–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Goethals, G.R., and R.F. Reckman. 1973. The perception of consistency in attitudes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 9: 491–501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Goldman, A.I. 1979. What is justified belief? In Justification and knowledge: New studies in epistemology, ed. G. Pappas, 1–23. Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing.Google Scholar
  12. Goldman, A.I. 2006. Simulating minds: The philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience of mindreading. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Goldman, A.I., and Shanton, K. 2010. The case for simulation theory. In Handbook of Theory of Mind eds. A. Leslie & T. German.Google Scholar
  14. Levine, L.J. 1997. Reconstructing memory for emotions. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 126(2): 165–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Loftus, E.F. 1974. Reconstructing memory: The incredible eyewitness. Psychology Today 8(7): 116–9.Google Scholar
  16. Loftus, E.F. 2002. Memory faults and fixes. Issues in Science and Technology 18(4): 41–50.Google Scholar
  17. Loftus, E.F., and J.C. Palmer. 1974. Reconstruction of automobile destruction: An example of the interaction between language and memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 13: 585–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Mazzoni, G.A.L., E.F. Loftus, and I. Kirsch. 2001. Changing beliefs about implausible autobiographical events: A little plausibility goes a long way. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Applied 7: 51–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Schacter, D.L., and E. Tulving. 1994. What are the memory systems of 1994? In Memory Systems 1994, ed. D.L. Schacter and E. Tulving, 1–38. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  20. Shanton, K. and A.I. Goldman. 2010. Simulation theory. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science 1(4): 527–38.Google Scholar
  21. Sosa, E. 1991. Knowledge in perspective: Selected essays in epistemology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Sosa, E. 2003. Privileged access. In Consciousness: New philosophical perspectives, ed. Q. Smith and A. Jokic, 273–94. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Sosa, E. 2007. A virtue epistemology: Apt belief and reflective knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Tulving, E. 2002. Episodic memory: From mind to brain. Annual Review of Psychology 53: 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Weinberg, J., S. Nichols, and S. Stich. 2001. Normativity and epistemic intuitions. Philosophical Topics 29: 429–60.Google Scholar
  26. Williamson, T. 2000. Knowledge and its limits. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

Personalised recommendations