Memory- A ToK Essay

663 Words3 Pages
Memory
‘Memory – like liberty – is a fragile thing’ – Elizabeth Loftus. What does this statement suggest about memory as a way of knowing in the pursuit of ethical knowledge?
Loftus suggests that memory, like liberty (i.e. freedom), is something that can easily be manipulated due to its delicate nature. The title assumes that we can recall on past events in order to draw reasonable conclusions surrounding ethical issues. In order to understand the question raised in the title more easily it could be rephrased as follows; ‘Is memory a reliable way of knowing when drawing conclusions based on ethical matters?’. There are weaknesses when looking at only one way of knowing because it prevents us from having a comprehensive understanding of
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An example of this would be the ‘Lost In The Mall’ study; subjects were given narratives of events from their childhood, provided by family members. But, one of these narratives was a fictional story of how they got lost in a mall as a child. Because they were told repeatedly in a very convincing manner that these events really did happen, 25% of participants were able to ‘remember’ the false event, i.e. they believed a delusion. This proves just how easily memories can be influenced and changed, and so makes me believe that using memory alone as a way of knowing is an inadequate method in which to judge ethical issues.
This title led me to develop me own knowledge question:
‘Is memory an accurate way of knowing when looking at events of the past?’
The ‘Survival School Interrogation’ study explains clearly why I believe that memory is an inadequate way of knowing when looking at past events. US soldiers were subjected to abusive interrogation techniques and afterwards were asked to identify their interrogator. However, they were asked misleading questions about their interrogator’s appearance (e.g. ‘He was the man with the beard, wasn’t he?’) and so over 50% of the soldiers falsely identified the interrogator (false identification). This is because the soldiers felt subjected to normative conformity. They wanted to fit in with what was being suggested to them by their peers and so, perhaps knowingly,
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