Neuroscience, self-understanding, and narrative truth

Mary Jean Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Recent evidence from theneurosd.ences and cognitive sciences provides some support for a narrative theory of self-understanding. However, it also suggests that narrative self-understanding is unlikely to be accurate, and challenges its claims to truth. This article examines a range of this emphical evidence, explaining how it supports a narrative theory of self-understanding while raising questions of these narrative's accuracy and veridicality. I argue that this evidence does not provide sufficient reason to dismiss the possibility of truth in narrative self-understanding. Challenges to the possibility of attaining true, accurate self-knowledge through a self-narrative have previously been made on the basis of the epistemological features of narrative. I show how the empirical evidence is consistent with the epistemological concerns, and provide three ways to defend the notion of narrative truth. I also aim to show that neuroethical discussions of self-understanding would benefit from further engagement with the philosophical literature on narrative truth.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-74
Number of pages12
JournalAJOB Neuroscience
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • memory
  • neuroethics
  • persons
  • self
  • truth

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