Remembering trauma in epistemology


Episodic memory
Epistemic justification
Observer memory

How to Cite

Frise, M. (2024). Remembering trauma in epistemology. Philosophy and the Mind Sciences, 5.


This paper explores some surprising effects of psychological trauma on memory and develops the puzzle of observer memory for trauma. Memory for trauma tends to have a third-person perspective, or observer perspective. But it appears observer memory, by having a novel visual point of view, tends to misrepresent the past. And many find it plausible that if a memory type tends to misrepresent, it cannot yield knowledge of, or justification for believing, details of past events. But it is also plausible that, with respect to details of past trauma, observer memory can yield knowledge or justification. I argue for a novel set of views that offers a way out of the puzzle: observer memory does tend to misrepresent, but it still has epistemic power regarding details of the past, although with special limits; but observer memory for trauma has other epistemic powers too, in that it allows for a kind of self-awareness.


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