William James and Théodule-Armand Ribot on forgetting

Forgetting.–In the practical use of our intellect, forgetting is as important a function as remembering. ‘Total recall’ (see p. 261) we saw to be comparatively rare in association. If we remembered everything, we should on most occasions be as ill off as if we remembered nothing. It would take as long for us to recall a space of time as it took the original time to elapse, and we should never get ahead with our thinking. All recollected times undergo, accordingly, what M. [Théodule-Armand] Ribot calls foreshortening; and this foreshortening is due to the omission of an enormous number of the facts which filled them. “We thus reach the paradoxical result,” says M. Ribot, “that one condition of remembering is that we should forget. Without totally forgetting a prodigious number of states of consciousness, and momentarily forgetting a large number, we could not remember at all. Oblivion, except in certain cases, is thus no malady of memory, but a condition of its health and its life.”
William James in Text-book of Psychology, Chapter XVIII – “Memory”, (London: Macmillan and Co., 1892), p. 300.

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"Forgetting.-In the practical use of our intellect"
William James Théodule-Armand Ribot Posted on behalf of and on Saturday, June 19th, 2010 under Quotations.


  1. Yo, G.

    You’ve been tumblr’ed… 🙂


    I’ve done my part and reblogged to continue the notion motion.

  2. That’s Amira! She is brilliant and nice. Follow her at @amishare and her various sites.

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