I didn't care to tell Nurse Sulu that she was bisected and half of her was missing. And then suddenly with a most enormous and wonderful relief, I realized I was having one of my migraines. I had completely lost my visual field to the left, and with this as would sometimes happen, the sense that there was (or ever had been, or could be) any world on the left.Some neurological patients seem to have exactly the experience Sacks describes, only permanently. Sacks' report, I think, provides some reason to be willing to take the alien reports of neurological patients at face value. Maybe not all of the time, but much of the time.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Notebook: What is it like to be a neurological patient?
Right now, I'm reading Oliver Sacks' bestselling book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, which details various cases Sacks' has dealt with as a neurologist. The titular patient was utterly unable to take in visual images as whole objects, leaving him to guess at the identity of objects based on individual features, and sometimes getting it wrong. In many ways, he's representative of the patients Sacks deals with. However, while that first patient was aware of his troubles, many patients are unable to comprehend what is going on with them. For someone intensely interested in consciousness like me, it would be very interesting to know what kind of conscious experiences those people are having. But it's hard to know what to make of their uncomprehending statements. However, in the process of reading Ned Block et. al.'s anthology on consciousness, I came across this quote from another one of Sacks' books. Sacks here is reporting his own experience: