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This month we talk some philosophy of mind with Joëlle Proust, Professor of Philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure and member of the Jean Nicod Institute. Click here to listen to our conversation.

You’re on your way to the supermarket to pick up the ingredients for a delicious vegetable stew. Upon arriving, you discover that you mistakenly left the shopping list on your dresser. Oh, no! You haven’t got time to go all the way back home, pick up the list, and return to the grocery store. Should you try to think back and recall the entire list, or should you just forget about the whole thing and get take-out? In order to make this decision, one of the things you’ll have do is determine whether you’ll be able to remember the whole thing. Whether you give up or try to mentally reconstruct the list will depend on how you evaluate your ability to remember things. That’s metacognition, in a nutshell: it’s what happens any time we evaluate our ability to perform some sort of mental task.

Joëlle Proust wants to ask: in order to be able to do that, do we need to have the concept of memory? It seems rather plausible to think that we do. But recent experiments on animal cognition seems to suggest that even if you don’t have any concepts at all (let alone a concept of memory), you can still evaluate your mind’s abilities.

Join us as our guest takes us on a tour through this surprising line of research!

Matt Teichman