The River of Consciousness

The River of Consciousness

Book - 2017
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"Two weeks before his death, Oliver Sacks outlined the contents of The River of Consciousness, the last book he would oversee. The best-selling author of On the Move, Musicophilia, and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Sacks is known for his illuminating case histories about people living with neurological conditions at the far borderlands of human experience. But his grasp of science was not restricted to neuroscience or medicine; he was fascinated by the issues, ideas, and questions of all the sciences. That wide-ranging expertise and passion informs the perspective of this book, in which he interrogates the nature not only of human experience but of all life. In The River of Consciousness, Dr. Sacks takes on evolution, botany, chemistry, medicine, neuroscience, and the arts, and calls upon his great scientific and creative heroes--above all, Darwin, Freud, and William James. For Sacks, these thinkers were constant companions from an early age; the questions they explored--the meaning of evolution, the roots of creativity, and the nature of consciousness--lie at the heart of science and of this book. The River of Consciousness demonstrates Sacks's unparalleled ability to make unexpected connections, his sheer joy in knowledge, and his unceasing, timeless endeavor to understand what makes us human."--Dust jacket flap.
Published: New York :, Alfred A. Knopf,, [2017]
ISBN: 9780385352567
0385352565
Branch Call Number: 612.8233 SAC
Characteristics: x, 237 pages ;,22 cm

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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."

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sgcf
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.

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tjdickey
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 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.

m
MaryElizabeth17
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.

JCLAmyF Nov 14, 2017

I love Oliver Sacks and this book is no exception. His blend of personality and love of science makes this a very engaging read!

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