Center for Neurophilosophy and Ethics of Neurosciences
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Dr. Urim Retkoceri

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What does the future hold?

Who knows? I would like to answer some of the questions which came up during my PhD project. I feel like there is a lot left to be said and discovered.

So, I would like to say a bit more about memory in the future. Additionally, it would be great if I could find out more about emotions because having worked on it a little has certainly piqued my interest, and ethics or metaethics because questions in that field are the main reason why I got into philosophy in the first place. A combination of all these sounds quite interesting as well. I have been thinking about the ethics of psychotherapy, or psychological disorders, quite a bit lately, and it would be great if an opportunity came up to work on it a bit. Lastly, I would be more than interested to at least have a look at aesthetics, because I know very little about it so far. And, as I mention often, I'd be happy for any chance to say a bit about the philosophy of religion.

If you are interested in a project about anything you think I might find interesting, or just want to talk about these topics, feel free to contact me.

In the long run, I would actually just like to become a better philosopher. I feel like I am just beginning to actually get it at least a little. If, in the end, I can answer some of the questions I had asked myself many years ago when I first got into philosophy, it will have been a great journey.

PhD project

In the end, I did manage to write a quite interdisciplinary thesis. Yet, I only scratched the surface.

My PhD project first gave a short overview of some of the most important philosophical theories of memory and false memory. Having set the stage, I looked at three different, but related, topics.
I wanted to figure out a definition of false memory, but quickly realized that not all memories are the same. It seemed that what is called procedural memory needs to fullfil different criteria to be genuine than, for example, experiential or episodic memory. So, I tried to figure out what it means for procedural memory to be genuine and what it means for procedural memory to be false.
This lead me to another question, can you remember emotions? I wasn't interested in whether you can remember that you felt happy or sad, but the emotion itself. It turned out that that's a question that's pretty difficult to answer. Still, I gave it a fair shot and developed a broad framework for what is needed to remember emotions. What is largely left unexplored is what it could mean to remember emotions falsely. I think answering that question could be helpful for understanding disorders better which seem to be characterized by the interplay between emotions and memories such as PTSD or GAD. Of the questions I have tried to answer, this seems to be the one where a lot more is left to be said.
Lastly, I wondered if the different treatment options for things like PTSD and GAD might not in some way be implanting false memories. The question arose if that's a bad thing. Or, looked at it differently, if you have a moral responsibility to make sure that your memories are genuine. As it says in my main interests section, I am very interested in ethics and metaethics, which is why that was a question which I really wanted to take a look at. For now, I argued that you do not have a moral responsibility to make sure that what you seem to remember is actually genuine, unless the moral responsibility can be derived from something else. But, I am beginning to think that there might be a way.

As you can see, I have only scratched the surface. There is a lot left to be discovered in the future.

About me

During my undergraduate studies in biology at the LMU Munich I mostly focused on biophysics/bioimaging, human biology and anthropology. Having been interested in philosophy since way back, I shifted gears towards neurophilosophy when I pursued my Master’s degree (also in Biology at the LMU). Apart from philosophy and biology, I am also interested in psychology, education, literary arts and theology.

Main Interests

In my Master’s thesis I worked on the neurobiology and neurophilosophy of selective forgetting (i.e. erasing memories). This got me interested in the philosophy of memory and I decided to take a look at the ‘opposite’ of erasing memories: implanting false memories.
In general, this includes cases where someone tries to make you believe that something happened which (roughly put) did not really happen, or where your memory changes over time so that it does not reflect what you experienced. Currently, I am trying to sort out how to define ‘false memory’, which includes taking a look at the topic from a neuroscientific, psychological and philosophical perspective. Later on I hope to include ethical aspects (e.g. of neuroscientific ways of memory implantation) into the project as well.
Above all, I want to combine insights from all three fields and find ways to apply what you can learn in one field to another, hopefully leading to a truly interdisciplinary thesis.

Apart from my PhD project and neurophilosophy, I am interested in quite a few things. In biology I enjoy organismic biology and anthropology. In psychology I mostly find the fields of social psychology and cognitive psychology intriguing. Finally, in philosophy I have been interested in ethics, metaethics and the philosophy of religion for quite some time now.