Matthew T. Phillips

I Don’t Quite Remember

After their ship sank the Australian HMAS Sydney, the crew of the German HSK Kormoran had to abandon their own ship as well. After being captured, the German sailors described the site of the wreckage, but the sailors identified points all over the ocean. Initially some Australians thought the Germans were intentionally misleading them. Recently a pair of psychologists, Kim Kirsner and John Dunn, applied theory based on memory failure. They were able to take the German sailors’ accounts and locate the ships with 2.7 nautical miles of error.

This story suggests the importance of employing a hermeneutic of charity when considering various perspectives in an ethical decision. Errors in communication and memory, which we tend to shape over time in order to construct a narrative that makes sense, are at the heart of our justification of our own actions, but also at the clashes between different perspectives.

Listen at NPR.