Memory Erasure and the Objection from Truthfulness
Keywords:Autobiographical memory, Memory erasure, Neuroethics, Truth
AbstractThe prospect of selectively erasing undesired memories, whether inducing trauma or “normal” negative affect, has long been explored in fiction. Today, advances in biomedical science increasingly promise to turn it into reality. This article discusses one particular ethical concern about memory erasure, premised on the value of “truthful living”. After explaining memory erasure (alongside other forms of memory editing) and reviewing its current science, I lay out what I call the truthfulness objection. I then consider two main challenges to it: a skeptical take on the accuracy of autobiographical memories (which I critique), and a challenge to the normative force of truthfulness (which I partly endorse). After highlighting what I take to be the grain of truth in the objection, I conclude on a cautiously optimistic note, by highlighting some practical constraints that can be expected to reduce the threat to truthfulness from memory erasure.
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