The River of Consciousness

The River of Consciousness

Book - 2017
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"A profoundly fascinating, illuminating major work from the beloved, bestselling thinker and neurologist Oliver Sacks -- completed by him just before his death -- provides readers with a compelling, rare gift from the master. The river of consciousness reflects Oliver Sacks at his wisest and most humane, as he examines some of the human animal's most remarkable faculties: memory, creativity, consciousness, and our present, ongoing evolution. Before his death, Sacks personally collected into this one volume his recent essays and case studies, never before published in book form, which he felt best displayed his passionate engagement with his most compelling and seminal ideas. The book, lucid and accessible as ever, is a mirror of his own consciousness, discovering in his personal and humane interactions with others, unique insight, and fresh meaning. Featuring a preface written two weeks before his death, The river of consciousness reveals the beloved, bestselling author's unique ability to make unexpected connections, his sheer joy in knowledge, and his unceasing, timeless project to understand what it is that makes us human"--
Publisher: New York :, Alfred A. Knopf,, 2017
ISBN: 9780345808998
Characteristics: x, 237 pages ; 22 cm


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Apr 22, 2020

A stream of wondrous education on past scientists and their struggles to understand. Darwin, humble and human

Apr 03, 2020

I first fell in love with the mind of Oliver Sachs when I read "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat". As a psychologist I am always interested in motivations and the intricacies of the human mind. In this last book before his death, Sachs takes on such a variety of subjects that I feel I need to review as I read rather than waiting until the end. "Darwin and the Meaning of Flowers" We are all, I hope, aware of Darwin's work on the origin of species and evolution. I was not aware that he wrote more extensively about botanical adaptations than animal. At 71 it is so lovely to learn something new every day. I have long been aware of the designation of certain plants as "butterfly gardens". I never wondered why certain plants attract these wonderful creatures. Now I know. " While bees are attracted to blue and yellow flowers, they ignore red ones, because they are red-blind. Butterflies, with good red vision, fertilize red flowers but may ignore the blue and violet ones. Flowers pollinated by night-flying moths tend to lack color but to exude their scents at night." Don't you just love it!! What a mind Darwin had to observe, often in his own back yard, the evolutionary behaviors / changes of plants. "Speed" This sections begins with a look at our perception of time. When bored, time drags forever. When occupied no awareness of the passages of time exists. The more interesting discussion concerns speed in human behavior from akinesia ( the absence of movement ) in catatonia or Parkinson's to hyperkinesia in Tourettes Syndrome. For example in the latter when films of a person's face over time were slowed down, hundreds of mini-tic were seen to occur. Sacks also discusses "Awakenings", the book and film which starred Robin Williams and dealt with medication produced changes in movement among patients seemingly frozen due to post encephalitis brain damage..... "The Other Road - Freud as Neurologist" As a psychologist and college teacher of the subject, I have to honestly admit that I was not aware of Freud's extensive work in the field of neurology. By the time he entered the field, phrenology ( the location of brain function via the shape / bumps of one's head was falling into disrepute. There was, however, increasing localization of brain functions to specific parts of the brain. Working with Charcot Freud began to focus on neurological disorders like strokes, seizures, and migraines. In practice he also began to encounter functional disorders like hysterias, obsessive-compulsive disorders, neuroses and psychoses. The difficulty lay in separating the disorders due to physical damage to the nervous system versus damage to the "mind". As his interest shifted from neurology to psychoanalysis, one may contemplate whether Freud moved too far away from physical causation to complete psycho-genesis. I must stop..... What is always delightful about reading Oliver Sachs is his ability to find almost any subject or human behavior fascinating and making it just as interesting for his reader. We have lost a great man. Kristi & Abby Tabby

Nov 14, 2019

"The River of Consciousness" is a thoughtful and wide-ranging collection of ideas about time, memory, and the human-natural world. "Speed" is the standout essay here, but they're all worth considering.

Apr 13, 2019

A good collection about life, time, memory, creativity.

Dec 10, 2018

I pretty much love anything that Oliver Sacks has written. Given the backstory for this book -- that it was the last book he published and that he was working on it as he was dying -- I was predisposed to love this one, too. And I did.

Aug 13, 2018

One of the reviews on its jacket say that he left these essays in "outlines", which suggest the use of a ghostwriter. They're excellent, so if one was used, i hope he/her is let loose on his/her own books!
There's only one less than fine outing- on Freud. They others range to good to stellar. He is, or rather was, a new Lewis Thomas, or Loren Eisley, "the modern Thoreau" (who, sadly is now utterly ignored by all, including, to name the guilty, Vancouver Public Library!).
The standout here is the title essay "River of Consciousness". To the very limited extent words can corral this most slippery of subjects, Sacks does. Just read it already.
By the by- it has a pretty cover- a landscape by Felix Vallotton, an Impression-period painter.

PimaLib_MattL May 27, 2018

In The River of Consciousness, the late Dr. Oliver Sacks, known for Awakenings and The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, wonders if the history of science is much like the evolution of life, dependent on contingency and luck, and punctuated by bursts of activity between long periods of consolidation and stasis. He quotes Stephen Jay Gould in saying if the evolution of life on earth could be replayed, it would be wholly different the second time around. Citing the many accidents and fortunate discoveries in science, Sacks thinks the same thing might happen if you were to rewind the history of science. He says "Ideas, like living creatures, may arise and flourish, going in all directions, or abort and become extinct, in completely unpredictable ways."

Mar 28, 2018

This was a challenging collection of essays, probably out of my depth, but I’ve always been fascinated by the workings of the mind. Sacks brilliantly cruises through the mental lives of plants and worms, earlier scientific discoveries that were “premature” because the world zeitgeist was not ready, and the brain’s problem-solving ability while in a semi-conscious state. But I was most intrigued by his essays that deal with memory – how we continually reconstruct memories through imagination, or how some memories may never have happened or happened to someone else. ”Our only truth is narrative truth, the stories we tell each other and ourselves – the stories we continually re-categorize and refine.” (p.121) Despite all the footnotes and studies quoted, his abundance of anecdotal evidence was the most engaging for me.

Dec 13, 2017

An extraordinary book from an extraordinary mind.
Published posthumously, "The River of Consciousness" is worth reading for the title essay alone. The renowned neuroscientist explores our very perception of life itself, as a mental translation of discrete snapshot images of our surroundings, pearls on a string of perception that lead to a dynamic consciousness of flowing motion around us and a dynamic interaction of memory and perception. Other chapters lucidly reflect on the way our brains work to perceive sounds, construct memories (and re-construct them by personal narrative), work with memory and perception to create new thoughts and pieces of art; he even includes the evolution of human understanding of the perceptions of plants and animals.
Let your own mind be opened by riding the river with Oliver Sacks.

Dec 01, 2017

I loved this book. Sacks presents individual chapters that are streams that flow into a river of his consciousness. In one on memory, he talks about how artists often unintentionally borrow from each other and has a humorous anecdote about a time when Mark Twain did this. In the next chapter on creativity when Sacks explores the question of why some artists achieve greatness and others do not, he discusses the idea of an incubation period that precedes artistic greatness. In this incubation, there is a forgetting when the unconscious continues to work. This of course is when the forgetting of the previous chapter merges ideas that flowed from other creative sources. In the end, he raises the notion of how significant sheer luck is in the history of science and medicine. It is often about being in the right place at the right time, as is much of life.

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