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  1. #1
    Taka is offline Senior Member
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    Default Help me out of this confusion!

    The sentences:

    Memory is one of the greatest of our faculties. The ability to retain information and experience is of vital importance. But it is a more subtle art to be able to cast out of the mind --or at least from a commanding place in it--failures, events, unhappy things that should be forgotten. It is a great skill to be able to be selective and say: "I will hold this in cherished memory. The other I will cast from me." To be efficient, to be happy, to have full control of your powers, and to go ahead successfully, you must learn how to forget.

    What are "it"s in there? Are they pronouns referring to "memory"? Or are they so-called "preparatory subjects" referring to the following infinitives (i.e, to be able to cast out of the mind/ to be able to be selective and say)?

    To me, they are both pronouns referring to "memory" because I think the author is talking about another function of memory which enables us to delete something we want to forget from our mind. But my text (written by a Japanese) says they are both preparatory subjects (like "It's easy to read the book=To read the book is easy)...

    I would like to have your comments, teachers.

    Taka

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default

    I think they are preparatory:
    It is a great skill to be able to be selective and say=
    Being able to be selective and say .... is a great skill.


  3. #3
    RonBee's Avatar
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    What Tdol said. :wink:

    The first it refers to a more subtle art. Specifically, it refers to the ability to selectively forget. That's not the same as memory.

    The second it refers to a great skill, and it is about the same thing as the first it.

    :)

  4. #4
    Taka is offline Senior Member
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    Default

    I've found another one talking about the casting-art of memory:

    A good sense of memory is based on the notion that memory is a filter; it's not to preserve everything. Without memory survival is difficult, much as without filtering of information. Memory is an art of bringing together acts of remembering with acts of forgetting. To remember is to select. If we remembered everything we did in the past, we would not have sense of memory.

    http://www.marinos.com.gr/dali/BeSelective.htm

    Don't you still think that the"it"s are both pronouns for "memory"?

  5. #5
    Taka is offline Senior Member
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    Still another one, FYI:

    According to experts, our memory is selective and we remember things that we want to remember. They say memory is also personal, so we remember things that we are interested in.

    http://meinah.tripod.com/FFT/mind.html

  6. #6
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    In the new example, I'd say 'it's' refers directly to 'memory'.

  7. #7
    Taka is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    In the new example, I'd say 'it's' refers directly to 'memory'. ;-)
    Only in the new example that I've given? Still "it"s in the first example are preparatory?

    If they are both preparatory, then the sentences should be equivalent to " To be able to cast out of the mind...is a more subtle art" "To able to be selective and say...is a great skill". But don't you think using infinitives as their subjects in this case is weird? In fact, you replaced them with gerunds. If they are simply preparatory, such replacement, I think, is unnecessary.

  8. #8
    RonBee's Avatar
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    As Tdol noted, it's in the new example refers to memory. As for the previous examples, that usage is not really all that unusual. However, as you suggested, they could be rewritten, possibly gaining some clarity. Some improvement is possible, I suppose.

    :)

  9. #9
    Taka is offline Senior Member
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    OK, I tell you what.

    I put two more examples because I wanted to let you know that psychologically, or philosophically, it's a well-known fact that memory is an art that casts what we want to forget out of our mind; memory naturally has a filtering-function in it. For your information, here is another statement:

    The art of forgetting is the inner aspect of the art of remembering.

    http://www.oldandsold.com/articles06/memory-38.shtml

    If the "it"s are not pronouns as you say, then it follows that memory doesn't naturally have the filtering-function in it, which is quite opposite to what is believed in psychology, or philosophy.

    That's why I cannot cross out the possibility that they are both pronouns...

  10. #10
    RonBee's Avatar
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    I don't normally have to work at forgetting. It's remembering that is a chore. :)

    The "it"s are pronouns. They each stand for something else.

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