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Confabulation and narrative

ERI 149
Wednesday 9 May 2018 (13:00-14:00)

Philosophy Work in Progress Seminar Series 2017/18

The Philosophy department's work in progress seminar is an opportunity for the members of staff at Birmingham to present the material they are working on to each other and to the department's postgraduate students.
The seminar meets roughly on fortnightly Wednesdays from 13:00 to 14.00 in the ERI. All welcome!


Confabulation, where a person gives a report not based in evidence, but without any intention to deceive, presents in a number of psychiatric conditions. Confabulatory reports were once thought to indicate neurological dysfunction, and, in unintentionally communicating false information, to serve no purpose. But numerous studies show that confabulation is also widespread in the non-clinical population. In this talk I demonstrate that attention to the thematic elements of confabulations in both the clinical and non-clinical populations reveals that these reports exhibit a high level of narrative cohesion and center features which bear notable personal significance to the relevant individuals. I explore the possibility that confabulation is the output of a more general narrative faculty that itself has a number of beneficial functions, both psychologically – and epistemically – speaking. If so, then interventions designed to promote epistemic functioning by limiting the false narratives arrived at in confabulation must proceed cautiously. Should these interventions operate by impairing our narrative faculty, then proceeding will incur epistemic costs, as well as epistemic benefits, which need to be factored into the analysis of whether such interventions are, epistemically speaking, worthwhile.

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