Tallis is reasonably current with the exploding body of literature on the matter of the unconscious, and though his...



Of Sigmund Freud, ghosts in the machine, and voices in the head: a capable overview of the hidden landscapes of the mind and how they came to be known.

Freud, writes English psychiatrist Tallis, believed that his “discovery” of the unconscious was as significant as Copernicus’s discovery of the heliocentric universe and Darwin’s formulation of the laws of evolution. He believed, too, that the characteristics that supposedly distinguish humans from lower animals, such as the possession of rationality and free will, were mere illusions—a view that drew considerable fire from the religiously inclined. Freud’s ideas are commonplace today, Tallis notes, but for much of the 20th century, scientists were not especially interested in the unconscious, having found, among other things, that “advances in drug treatments threatened to make psychoanalysis redundant” and that behavioristic theories of what makes humans tick were more satisfactory than such Viennese notions as transference and cathexis. In any event, Tallis adds, Freud did not discover the unconscious, whose existence the ancient Greek philosophers suspected and the mighty Leibniz took time out from inventing the calculus to ponder. Recent developments in the cognitive sciences, however, have restored the unconscious to an important place in theories of the mind. Now, Tallis observes, the dominant metaphor for the “automatic, unconscious processes operating in the brain” is borrowed from the world of computer processing, with the workings of the brain likened to the functioning of complex software. Today, he adds, the argument is not so much whether the unconscious exists as how it came to be and exactly how it works, with contending schools providing theories on such matters as the adaptive role of daydreams or the efficacy of hypnopedia, questions better suited to the lab than the couch.

Tallis is reasonably current with the exploding body of literature on the matter of the unconscious, and though his narrative is dry as a bone, he offers a competent survey that will be of interest to analysts and analysands alike.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-55970-643-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2002

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...


Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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