Imagine a person who can't remember anything. Idon't think this is possible in reality but let's assume he misses the part of remembring that can be temporally related to other experiences. He will still be able to see forms, though a piece of sound would be imperceptible. Every experience of sound needs a previous experience. Sound is a temporal experience. Images are non-temporal but the temporal connection between images is lost. There has to be some memory involved though to built up a coherent picture. But even this can be disgarded. A blind person can sometimes be able to say in what direction an object goes. When even forms an direction of motion is left out from seeing (on top of a theoretical framework interpreting it and also the memory of previous "images").

So all of experience wòuld be an unstructured perception of colors,sound, pain, itch, smells, and taste. It's questionable if even space exists in this case (I think the sensation of pain seems to come from everywhere). A person would be totally disoriented (disproving Einsteins pure perceptions from which creations are made). But what about the "now"? Isn't this the only thing that is really experienced? A never ending now (untill the guy dies)?

3 Answers 3


A perception only is integrated through the association with previous memories (with the exception of some very elementary perceptions of the fetus). A person without any type of memory would not be able to experience anything.


An intriguing question !

Let's assume an information-theory point-of-view.

  • You can regard Memory as the persistence of a signal (roughly speaking);
  • You can regard Time as nothing but change over information/signal (roughly speaking);

In the case of an absolute absence of Memory, one would be unable to compare two values of a signal, hence they would have no notion of Time (unless we extend Time beyond the concept of change-of-information).


Memory as "persistence of a signal" is a somewhat circular definition, but I could not think of any better in trying to capture its nature and functioning. With any other definition you'd need to invoke some looping/actualization of the the past in the present, but that would make Memory dependent on Time - a fair dependence to assume if you will, but it'll require a different analysis.


The concept of time is based on the ideas of past, present and future being different, but logically related. If the observer has no concept of past then the idea of time could only consist of present and future, but whether such a person could comprehend the idea of future is conjectural. We remember the past, experience the present, and can guess at the future. An observer with no memory could presumably still guess at the future, albeit with less experience to go on.

  • A person without memory will not be able to think about the future at all. As soon as he thinks he experiences time. Thinking is not posdible without memory. You cant even think of otdinnary objectd as yiu need memory to know their forms or whatever aspect. Commented Jun 27, 2021 at 12:20
  • I think that’s conjectural, obviously thinking as we know it appears to rely on memory but that doesn’t in itself prove that thought is generally impossible without memory. For example, massively parallel processing can operate without memory in the conventional sense.
    – Frog
    Commented Jun 27, 2021 at 19:29
  • Massive parallel processing needs things to process. For example, seeing a shape means the shape being processed. Thinķing about a check board has a neural cirrelate that is similar to the board. But first the board has to be made familiar to the neural network to be able to think about it. The board is implemented in the neural network by varying synaptic connection strengths (the ability to transmit or inhibit). This means that parallel processing without memory is very hard. Maybe very local parallel processing can be done but certainly no higher level processing. Commented Jun 27, 2021 at 19:46

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