The Lost Mariner - Jimmie lost his ability to form new memories due to Korsakov's Syndrome.
How important are our memories in making us the people we are?
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For the sake of helping you with this, I'll try and provide arguments for both sides, and then you can pick a side that fits best with your own thoughts on the matter. I'll provide some basic arguments for you to build upon.
Memories, we'll presume, refers to the conscious, episodic memories such as events or people. Our experiences shape us - that much is undeniable. We develop patterns of thought, processes to follow in order to react to contexts based on experiences to a large extent. If one is approached by a novel problem and figures out a solution to solve it, one is more likely to use that same thought process to solve the problem again. The same goes for most experiences in life - we react to certain contexts and situations in similar ways that we have handled such situations before. It can be argued that the behaviour and thought processes by which we react to these contexts determines our identity. Personality can also be argued to be heavily influenced by experience as well. As a result, who we are is heavily dependent on our memories.
The example of Benjamin Kyle, the retrograde amnesia case in Florida whose entire history prior to 2004 is a complete mystery, lends weight to this argument. With no major recollections of anything that happened prior to suffering serious brain injuries and no available past history, Benjamin Kyle has merely adopted new information given to him, and formed an identity given what he has. The very name, Benjamin Kyle was assigned to him, and his reactions to the contexts of his situation are likely to be based on the fact that he realizes he has little choice but to accept almost all information as new. Therefore, one could say that he seems to be a good person, and he would likely adopt the thought that he is, indeed, a nice person and adopt the thought processes and behaviours based on that memory.
The same case of Benjamin Kyle might also be used to argue against the statement that memories are vital to identity. Some would suggest that the way Benjamin Kyle reacted to all the novelty around him after his accident may be determined by an inherent personality - that the ways Benjamin reacts to these situations now being thrown at him are merely guided by existing psychological structures inherent to his personality that are free of any influence of episodic memories. Since there is no way of proving this to be or not to be the case, it is an equally valid argument.
Certainly, the physiology of reactions to context and situations within our environment seem to inherently argue that memories alone may not necessarily govern how we react to environments. Subconscious conditioning (e.g. strong classical and operant conditioning) can heavily influence a person's actions without the need for episodic memories that are consciously acting on a person. For example, I may still fear cars because of a bad car accident that I might not actually consciously remember. This fear, let's say, leads to avoidance of cars - and is still a major influence on my decision thought process and action to actively avoid cars, thus governing parts of my identity. Again, this can be independent of episodic, conscious memory. As a result, identity may not be as highly dependent on episodic memory.
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