Funes the Memorious

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Chapter 5 endnote 5, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

Without concepts, you’d experience a world of ever-fluctuating noise. Everything you ever encountered would be unlike everything else. You’d be experientially blind, like when you first saw the blobby picture in chapter 2, but permanently so. You’d be incapable of learning. [...] Jorge Luis Borges’s story “Funes the Memorious” dramatizes this condition.

The short story “Funes the Memorious,” by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, is a fictional account of Ireneo Funes, who is 19 years old and suffers a serious head injury. As a result, Funes remembers every moment of his life in complete detail, but categorizes nothing. Every perception is new and unique. “Funes remembered not only every leaf of every tree in every patch of forest, but every time he had perceived or imagined that leaf.”[1] He could not perceive objects as constants: “it irritated him that the ‘dog’ of three-fourteen in the afternoon, seen in profile, should be indicated by the same noun as the dog of three-fifteen, seen frontally.”[1] Let alone that different dogs can be of different sizes and shapes. In truth, if people remembered every single sensation in a day, it would take them longer to recount that one day than it would to live it.


Notes on the Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Hurley, Andrew. 1999. Jorge Luis Borges: Collected Fictions, p. 136. New York: Penguin.