The Strange, Familiar, and Forgotten: An Anatomy of Consciousness

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For more than a century, neurology and psychology have been dominated by the idea that the brain's Principal activities are unconscious and unknown to us, that consciousness is but a small factor in mental function. Israel Rosenfield's bold new argument in The Strange, Familiar, and Forgotten is that consciousness is in fact the major business of the brain. And he shows for the first time how memories, language, and the thoughts and drives responsible for our everyday sense of life make up the protean and fragile...
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Overview

For more than a century, neurology and psychology have been dominated by the idea that the brain's Principal activities are unconscious and unknown to us, that consciousness is but a small factor in mental function. Israel Rosenfield's bold new argument in The Strange, Familiar, and Forgotten is that consciousness is in fact the major business of the brain. And he shows for the first time how memories, language, and the thoughts and drives responsible for our everyday sense of life make up the protean and fragile structure of consciousness. Reconsidering famous neurological cases--as well as new evidence from cognitive science--Rosenfield outlines an "anatomy of consciousness" which suggests fascinating new ways to think about mental functions, bodily processes, and human knowledge. The intriguing, often bizarre case histories he recounts--from a patient who cannot accept a paralyzed limb as her own except when she sees it in a mirror, to another who can distinguish colors and yet claims that naming them red, blue, or yellow is "false," to a man who recalls nothing that happened to him in the last eighteen years yet says he saw his mistress "last Saturday," to the woman with contrasting multiple personalities whom William James wrote about--all have in common a breakdown of the neurological mechanisms that create consciousness, that determine how each person perceives and makes sense of the world. For while in ordinary life we take the familiar for granted and can readily forget or remember it, brain damage may transform the once familiar into something strange, alien, or false, and make a once-accessible memory completely disappear. Though the doctors who first studied them did not believe it, the now-classic clinical cases show that memories are an integral part of the structure of consciousness. Rejecting the well-known arguments about innate or physically localized centers for memory, language, or other specific mental functions, Rosenfield presents instead

Combining a thorough knowledge of past clinical studies with philosophical sweep, Rosenfield explores consciousness as the "dynamic integration of past, present, and self" that tells us not only who we are but that we are. A revisionist book that compels us to re-examine a phenomenon that has traditionally been overlooked as being but a small part of the brain's function.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Relating startling case studies in neuroscience and psychology, Rosenfield overturns many received ideas about memory, thought and the structure of consciousness. (Apr.)
Library Journal
In a series of remarkable essays, Rosenfield addresses the question of consciousness and the manner in which the brain acquires and processes knowledge. Differing with the classic neurologic theories, he postulates that ``conscious perception is temporal.'' Both the dimensions of time and space are essential to human consciousness and thus our perceptions constantly change--a critical difference from ``artificial intelligence,'' for example. He explains how memory is related to consciousness and how individuals use their body images as a point of reference in processing stimuli. By citing unusual examples of neurologic impairment, he hypothesizes how the normal brain functions. The acquisition of language is another topic he outlines in an original yet convincing manner. His approach is challenging, controversial, and stimulating.-- Carol R. Glatt, VA Medical Ctr. Lib., Philadelphia
School Library Journal
YA-- This well-written and informative monograph utilizes clinical research of disabled individuals to build a very strong case for Rosenfield's opinion that consciousness is the major function of the brain. Students of psychology will appreciate the variety of primary-source information included, as well as the concise discussion of the history of thought and theory on this topic. The book is an interesting resource that will guide more serious students into new areas of thought and reflection. In addition, its substantial catalog of notes is an excellent reference guide. Students of both the natural and the behavioral sciences will be able to glean information and perspective from exposure to this type of work. This very fine work is also a ``must read'' for AP psychology students. Most high-school libraries will want to consider it for purchase.-- Nancy K. Craig, Robert E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679402596
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/21/1992
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 157

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
I Consciousness: The Major Business of the Brain 3
II The Counterfeit Leg and the Bankruptcy of Classical Neurology 36
III In a World Without Time 68
IV Language: Prime Cuts 88
V Multiple Personalities: What's in a Name? 120
Notes 143
Index 151
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