Help me out of this confusion!

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Taka

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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
 

Tdol

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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.

;-)
 

RonBee

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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.

:)
 

Taka

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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"?
 

Taka

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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
 

Tdol

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In the new example, I'd say 'it's' refers directly to 'memory'. ;-)
 

Taka

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tdol said:
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.
 

RonBee

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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.

:)
 

Taka

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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...
 

RonBee

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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.
 

Taka

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

That's right. You don't normally have to work at forgetting. But if you, for example, went through a traumatic event, you would have to work hard at bringing out the latent ability of your memory, which is the art of casting the traumatic event away from your mind. The skill is usually latent. That's why the author advises us to learn how to forget in order to utilize the full potential of our memory.

That's the message, I think.
 

Tdol

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It depends- politicians have to work hard at selective memory. ;-)
 

Taka

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So, do you think now it's possible that the "it"s are both pronouns referring to "memory", tdol?
 

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Taka said:
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

When you have a sentence that is structured "It is a XXXX to be able to yyyy", the "it" refers to the following infinitive. In this case, it is "to be able to yyyy".

It is great to be able to swim = To be able to swim is great.
It is advisable to study before exams = To study before exams is advisable.

This is a delayed subject construction (cleft sentence). "It" stands in for the subject until you find it later in the sentence. :wink:
 

Taka

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MikeNewYork said:
When you have a sentence that is structured "It is a XXXX to be able to yyyy", the "it" refers to the following infinitive. In this case, it is "to be able to yyyy".

It is great to be able to swim = To be able to swim is great.
It is advisable to study before exams = To study before exams is advisable.

This is a delayed subject construction (cleft sentence). "It" stands in for the subject until you find it later in the sentence. :wink:

Yes, I would usually take them in the same way as yours. Then, however, 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". Considering the whole context and what is actually believed in psychology, which I mentioned in the previous messages, don't you think using infinitives as their subjects in this case is weird? I mean, if the "it"s are not pronouns but words referring to the following infinitives, then it follows that memory doesn't naturally have the filtering-function in it, which is quite opposite to what is believed in psychology. That doesn't make any sense, IMO.
 

Taka

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MikeNewYork said:
When you have a sentence that is structured "It is a XXXX to be able to yyyy", the "it" refers to the following infinitive. In this case, it is "to be able to yyyy".

It is great to be able to swim = To be able to swim is great.
It is advisable to study before exams = To study before exams is advisable.

This is a delayed subject construction (cleft sentence). "It" stands in for the subject until you find it later in the sentence. :wink:

Mike, take this one for instance:

The women who organized the first mother's days believed that motherhood was a political force that should be set in motion on behalf of the entire community; it was not merely an expression of a fundamental instinct to lead them devote all their time and attention to their children.

The "it" has "to lead..." behind, but "it" is obviously a pronoun referring to "motherhood".

I think that is a proof of the fact that "It...to..." construction is not necessarily a "cleft".
 

Tdol

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Taka said:
So, do you think now it's possible that the "it"s are both pronouns referring to "memory", tdol?

Given that memeory is the general topic of the sentence there is a kind of link, but I still see the first examples as preparatory. ;-)
 

MikeNewYork

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Taka said:
MikeNewYork said:
When you have a sentence that is structured "It is a XXXX to be able to yyyy", the "it" refers to the following infinitive. In this case, it is "to be able to yyyy".

It is great to be able to swim = To be able to swim is great.
It is advisable to study before exams = To study before exams is advisable.

This is a delayed subject construction (cleft sentence). "It" stands in for the subject until you find it later in the sentence. :wink:

Yes, I would usually take them in the same way as yours. Then, however, 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". Considering the whole context and what is actually believed in psychology, which I mentioned in the previous messages, don't you think using infinitives as their subjects in this case is weird? I mean, if the "it"s are not pronouns but words referring to the following infinitives, then it follows that memory doesn't naturally have the filtering-function in it, which is quite opposite to what is believed in psychology. That doesn't make any sense, IMO.

I don't know about the psychology. The use of infinitives, in general, puts the action in the potential category. It is more abstract than the gerund form. I don't think that this use rules out a natural filtering mecahnaism. It simply comments that the ability to do it is a good thing.
 

MikeNewYork

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Taka said:
MikeNewYork said:
When you have a sentence that is structured "It is a XXXX to be able to yyyy", the "it" refers to the following infinitive. In this case, it is "to be able to yyyy".

It is great to be able to swim = To be able to swim is great.
It is advisable to study before exams = To study before exams is advisable.

This is a delayed subject construction (cleft sentence). "It" stands in for the subject until you find it later in the sentence. :wink:

Mike, take this one for instance:

The women who organized the first mother's days believed that motherhood was a political force that should be set in motion on behalf of the entire community; it was not merely an expression of a fundamental instinct to lead them devote all their time and attention to their children.

The "it" has "to lead..." behind, but "it" is obviously a pronoun referring to "motherhood".

I think that is a proof of the fact that "It...to..." construction is not necessarily a "cleft".

I agree with you here, but it is a different construction. In this case, the infinitive phrase is not a noun, so it can't be the subject. This infinitive phrase is a modifier of "instinct". :wink:
 

Taka

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tdol said:
Given that memeory is the general topic of the sentence there is a kind of link, but I still see the first examples as preparatory.

There is a link from the topic stated in front, but it also seems like preparatory referring to the following infinitive...

Hmm...maybe the "it"s stand somewhere between a "pronoun" and a "preparatory subject" and the borderline is not clear-cut .

Is that what you mean, tdol?
 
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