, Volume 142, Issue 1, pp 21–41 | Cite as

Can We Trust Our Memories? C. I. Lewis's Coherence Argument

  • E. J. Olsson
  • T. Shogenji


In this paper we examine C. I. Lewis's view on the roleof coherence – what he calls ''congruence'' – in thejustification of beliefs based on memory ortestimony. Lewis has two main theses on the subject. His negativethesis states that coherence of independent items ofevidence has no impact on the probability of a conclusionunless each item has some credibility of its own. Thepositive thesis says, roughly speaking, that coherenceof independently obtained items of evidence – such asconverging memories or testimonies – raises the probabilityof a conclusion to the extent sufficient for epistemicjustification, or, to use Lewis's expression, ''rationaland practical reliance''.It turns out that, while thenegative thesis is essentially correct (apart from aslight flaw in Lewis's account of independence), astrong positive connection between congruence andprobability – a connection of the kind Lewis ultimatelyneeds in his validation of memory – is contingent on thePrinciple of Indifference. In the final section we assess therepercussions of the latter fact for Lewis's theory in particularand for coherence justification in general.


Final Section Positive Connection Independent Item Practical Reliance Coherence Argument 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. J. Olsson
    • 1
  • T. Shogenji
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyRhode Island College RIProvidenceUSA

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