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Is it a pronoun, referring to the preceding when someone suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s disease and his memories obliterated or is it just preparatory it?

The following it are all classified as preparatory it in dictionaries.

  • It always seemed as though they would get married
  • It seems that they know what they're doing.
  • It seems like he loves you.

Under this logic, it in the passage can be classified as preparatory it, but I am not confident about it.

Memory plays a leading role as we pose ourselves these questions. Not only does memory underlie our ability to think at all, it defines the content of our experiences and how we preserve them for years to come. Memory makes us who we are. If I were to lose my ability to hear and begin using a cochlear implan, I would no doubt continue to be the same person. If I were to suffer from heart failure and depend upon an artificial heart, I would be no less myself. If I lost an arm in an accident and had it replaced with a bionic limb, I would still be essentially me. To take this argument to its conclusion: as long as my mind and memories remain intact, I will continue to be the same person, no matter which part of my body (other than the brain) is replaced. On the other hand, when someone suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s disease and his memories obliterated, people often say that he “is not himself anymore,” or that it is as if the person “is no longer there,” though his body remains unchanged. Thus we see the importance of memory to arguments about who we are, about what constitutes our being and distinguishes us from other animals, robots, or computers.

The Forgetting Machine: Memory, Perception, and the Jennifer Aniston Neuron

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The clause "when someone suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s disease and his memories [[are???]] obliterated" is adverbial. Therefore, it would be unsual for "it" to refer to that clause. (That kind of reference happens sometimes in English, but it is often frowned upon. Furthermore, I don't think that it would make sense in this sentence.) If your only other option is to call it "preparatory it", then that must be what it is. (I would call it a "dummy pronoun"; terminology can vary widely on this issue.)

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One could say that the specified "it" refers to the entire situation or the surrounding circumstances. Or one could say that it has no specific referent. I would use the term "dummy pronoun" for the latter case, but I suppose that "preparatory it" covers much the same meaning.

In no case would I say that "it" refers back to "when someone suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s disease and his memories obliterated".

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