Can we trust our memories? C. I. Lewiss coherence argument

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In this paper we examine C. I. Lewis’s view on the role of coherence – what
he calls “congruence” – in the justification of beliefs based on memory or testimony. Lewis
has two main theses on the subject. His negative thesis states that coherence of independent
items of evidence has no impact on the probability of a conclusion unless each item has
some credibility of its own. The positive thesis says, roughly speaking, that coherence of
independently obtained items of evidence – such as converging memories or testimonies
– raises the probability of a conclusion to the extent sufficient for epistemic justification,
or, to use Lewis’s expression, “rational and practical reliance”. It turns out that, while
the negative thesis is essentially correct (apart from a slight flaw in Lewis’s account of
independence), a strong positive connection between congruence and probability – a connection
of the kind Lewis ultimately needs in his validation of memory – is contingent on
the Principle of Indifference. In the final section we assess the repercussions of the latter
fact for Lewis’s theory in particular and for coherence justification in general.

Details

Authors
Organisations
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Philosophy

Keywords

  • Lewis coherence congruence
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-41
JournalSynthese
Volume142
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes