1 In the section entitled "Parkinsonian Space and Time" and several other passages embedded in Awakenings' text and footnotes, Oliver Sacks sketches observations by himself and his patients that strongly suggest that spatial and temporal perceptions and awareness are relative, in much deeper, 'Berkeleyan' ways than one might otherwise have expected.
By 'Berkeleyan', I mean that we may all have 'internal' ideational -- 'intuitive' and 'conceptual' -- worlds, that must be reconciled with those of others in complex and interactive ways. These reconciliations and adjustments might seem relatively 'easy' and 'automatic' to most of us, essentially because individual variations seem relatively slight.
( For a very rough analogy, consider the physicists' observation that different observers' 'proper times' and notions of 'simultaneity' cannot be staightforwardly identified if they -- the observers -- travel at different velocities in different directions; we do not notice this, because the differences in our velocities are negligible compared to the speed of light ).
Might some of these observation and case-studies -- of Miron V.'s 'normal' motion that took six hours, for example, and Frances D.'s micrographia that seemed 'normal' to her at the time -- also suggest that 'normality' is in some sense a 'social ( and physiological ) construct', negotiated ( and renegotiated ) rather than 'given', and more fragile under stress than we 'normally' tend to expect
Might there also be further branchings and dichotomies within awareness, 'normal' or not, between what is 'felt' and what is intellectually 'understood', as in the case of Rose R., who 'knew' that forty-three years had passed, but could not 'feel' it? Or perhaps of Jimmie, the lost mariner, who could 'learn' that he was suffering from Korsakoff's syndrome, but not 'remember' it?
Is there a clear-cut distinction, finally, between what is 'felt' and what is 'known', in such senses, as some philosophers ( among them Immanuel Kant ) seemed to think? Or do the two flow together and merge with memory in illimitably complex and interactive ways?
2 Do some of the cases in Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat ( among the latter, for example, those of the 'lost mariner' and 'witty, ticcy Ray' ) raise serious questions about the nature of 'identity' itself?
Might we, for example, perhaps have many sub- or partial 'identities' -- more limited Leibnizian 'monads', perhaps -- that are integrated in 'real' time and in provisional ways, that are -- potentially at least -- more fragile and vulnerable than we might think?
Might the 'integrators' of these partial identities themselves be partial, contingent, and in ( temporal ) flux, a bit like what physicists call a "phase portrait", only vastly more complex and ramified, with no 'final' integration to be expected?
And in any case, might the fragility of such integration(s) in a single lifetime suggest that certain traditional metaphysical notions -- that there 'exists' somewhere in me a single Berkeleyan 'spirit' for example, or a unitary Cartesian 'I' -- are little more than convenient illusions, or perhaps compendia loquendi ( convenient abbreviations ), as Leibniz might have put it -- oversimplified conceptual placeholders for things we cannot really express?
Might, in short, 'I' be -- to myself -- an 'abstraction' as elusive as any I can project or conceive ( compare Wittgenstein's mildly notorious and enigmatic remark that "[i]ch bin die Grenze meiner Welt" -- I am the limit of my world" ).
3 Might one trace some interesting conjectural relations between 'interactive' and pluralistic conceptions of 'the mind', of the sort sketched above, and one of the views of 'the soul' considered (and rejected ) in one of Plato's dialogues ( the Phaedo ): that 'the soul' is an attunement of the body, an enormously complex harmonisation, as it were, of many interrelated 'rhythmic patterns' and 'melodic lines', conscious and unconscious ( "You are the music / While the music lasts-- lines Sacks quotes from T. S. Eliot )?
What conjectures might one draw from such analogies? might there be any relations between such hypothese and the apparent role of music, which mercifully seems to have re-'integrated' and restored teh capcities of many of Sacks' post-encephalitic and other Parkinsonian patients, nd helped them initiate and carry through everday actions in 'normal' ways?
4 Do any aspects of the (admittedly very vague ) pluralism about 'identity' sketched in 2 suggest a corresponding plurality and elusiveness of moral identity, and correlatively ( perhaps ) of moral responsibility as well?
If there is no single unitary notion of person identity, or ability, or knowledge, in other words, might there also be no single unitary 'will' that 'we' carry through life? In its place might there be perhaps many 'wills' -- relative levels of dispositional 'willing', that might be conscious as well as unconscious, and responsive ( only ) within certain determinate ranges, some more task-specific than others?
If both 'identity' and 'will' are deply elusive -- but metaphysically and morally essential -- notions, in other words, what consequences might this have for our notions of moral responsibility? Blame? Punishment? Empathy? Forgiveness?
( Consider, for example, the moral and creative agonies of Leonard L. Without loss of sympathy and respect, one might contrast them with the somewhat different, but equally intense struggles and partial victories of Hester Y., whose physical sympoms, Sacks thought, were almost "infinite", but whose "upper storey" remained strikingly -- paradoxically? -- "intact". )
Might this 'elusiveness' be related, in some way, to Kant's acknowledgments, at the end of the Groundwork and elsewhere, that the 'purely good will' and its 'freedom', in which we deeply believe, are ultimately "incomprerhensible" ("unbegreiflich" ) to us?
Might this also contirbute in direct and indirect ways to the depth of Kant's 'ascription-problem(s)': the finding of 'appropriate' masxims for application of various forms of 'universalisation' presecribed by the categorical iperatie? Might there be 'inner' as well as 'outer' forms of ascription-problems that we may, in principle, have to confront? Is this part of what p3eoople have in mind, perhaps, when they repeat the Kantian dictum that ""'Ought' implies 'can'"?
Finally, do any of these questions have potential reelevance for Sacks' musings, in the "Perspectives"-section(s) and elsewhere, on teh nature of 'tribulation' and 'accomdation', and his endoresement of (what might with some wariness be called ) 'holist' views of medical treatment and practice?