Episodic Remembering as an Imaginative Project: I extend the account of imagining to episodic remembering (Goldwasser, under review). I argue that such remembering is paradigmatically a kind of imagining by virtue of being the agent’s actively constructing a representation and selecting its content as a means of performing the learned behavior of navigating her personal past. This account of episodic remembering resolves a tension within accounts of memory as a mental action. On accounts of memory as a mental action, episodic memories are both selectively constructed by the agent and constrained by the past. Yet, being constrained by the past seems to imply that these memories cannot be selectively constructed. And being selectively constructed seems to imply that these memories cannot be constrained by the past. The account of imagining I provide suggests that, in fact, all imagining is constrained. A fortiori, epistemically useful imagining is constrained, including episodic memory. Remembering is of a kind with behaviors like pretense, engagement with fiction, and so on by being an act of representation formation in which the properties and content of the representation are constrained by the end for which its formation serves as a means. For pretense, the end is to represent the goings-on of the game in a way that motivates play. For remembering, the end is to represent events from the personal past in a way that justifies beliefs about that past. On the account of active imagining I offer, selective construction and constraints on content go hand-in-hand. Thus, their going hand-in-hand in the case of episodic remembering is to be expected. Finally, I indirectly corroborate this conclusion by appealing to empirical and philosophical considerations that episodic remembering is skillful (Goldwasser, 2022).
The Competence to Remember Traumas and Trusting Trauma Survivors: Beyond my interest in the agential character of imagining and episodic remembering, I investigate the epistemological significance of traumatic memory. In two recent co-authored articles (Springle, Dreier, and Goldwasser, 2023; Goldwasser and Springle, 2023), my colleagues and I approach traumatic memory from within an empirically informed metaphysics of mind. We defend the epistemological significance of traumatic memory by appealing to Katherine Hawley’s account of trust and trustworthiness and to evidence from the empirical study of memory. We argue against a common misconception that first-hand accounts of traumatic events are not to be trusted. We then argue for an approach to interviewing trauma victims about the relevant event(s) that differs from the approach normally taken towards interviewing non-victims about their non-traumatic memory. Reports of traumatic events should be taken later, retrieval of central events and details should be emphasized over peripheral details, and an open-ended narrative approach to interviewing should be preferred to straightforward questioning.
Normal-Proper Functions in Cancer Biology: Whereas my first project concerns the nature and normativity of certain rational activities, namely, mental actions, a second project concerns the nature and normativity of certain biological processes, namely, normal-proper function. This second program stems from two articles on the ascription of normal-proper function in cancer biology (Goldwasser, 2023a,b). Normal-proper functions are activities that parts of biological systems are, in some minimal sense, supposed to perform. I argue that standard accounts of normal-proper function cannot capture cases in which biologists ascribe a normal-proper function to a part of an organized biological system that they at the same time recognize as pathological. In particular, neither accounts that understand the normality of normal-proper function in terms of statistical typicality nor accounts that understand it in terms of natural selection can make sense of the fact that normal-proper functions are routinely ascribed to parts of cancer by oncologists (Goldwasser 2023a). I then argue that, because of this, we need a novel pragmatist organizational account of normal-proper function. According to this account, which I call the Modeling Account of Normal Function, the concept of normal-proper function is primarily an epistemic tool for biologists. Their ascription captures activities that contribute to the self-maintenance of individual organized biological systems—including organisms as well as cancers—as part of the scientific practice of modeling those systems. So, while the normativity of normal-proper function exists in the first instance at the level of the individual biological system, the sense in which the relevant activity is what the relevant parts of systems of the type are supposed to do is primarily epistemic (Goldwasser 2023b).
Image Description: a photo of Freya, a blue Doberman Pinscher, laying on a grey couch covered by a grey, black, and red patterned blanket as well as a textured blue pillow.
Image Description: a photo of Freya, a blue Doberman Pinscher, laying on a bed and pillow with grey sheets. She is wearing a pink bow and looking at the camera with a disapproving expression.
Image Description: a photo of Freya, a blue Doberman Pinscher, laying on a couch with a black quilted cover and a white textured blanket.
Image Description: a photo of Paul Goldwasser and Freya, a blue Doberman Pinscher. They are both sitting on a black couch. Paul has short white hair and a white beard and is wearing square-rimmed glasses, a stripped blue polo shirt, and jeans.
Image Description: a photo of Freya, a blue Doberman Pinscher, laying on a grey couch covered by a grey, black, and red patterned blanket. Her face is squished between the couch and my leg. She is sleeping soundly.
Image Description: a photo of Freya, a blue Doberman Pinscher, laying on a bed covered with a textured blanket. Her head is resting on a black laptop with a chicken decal on it. She is looking at the camera with her mouth slightly ajar.