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|Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain|
Original paperback edition cover
The embodied mind: somatic markers'Damasio argues in his well-known book that it is wrong to think that only minds think. The body and our emotions have a key role in the way we think and in rational decision-making'. Since, in his words, 'the body...contributes a content that is part and parcel of the workings of the normal mind', it follows that 'the mind is embodied, in the full sense of the term, not just embrained'.
Damasio's theory stresses 'the crucial role of feeling in navigating the endless stream of life's personal decisions....The intuitive signals that guide us in these moments come in the form of limbic-driven surges from the viscera that Damasio calls "somatic markers" - literally, gut feelings'. Listening to your gut reactions, 'the somatic marker...may lead you to reject, immediately, the negative course of action and thus...allows you to choose from among fewer alternatives '.
The concept of selfIn Descartes' Error, Damasio also explored the way 'the neural basis of the self' as I see it, resides with the continuous activation of at least two sets of representations. One set concerns representations of key events in an individual's autobiography....The second set of representations underlying the neural self consists of the primordial representations of the individual's body'.
From these two sets, Damasio would later develop his concept of the hierarchy of consciousness, including the protoself, core consciousness, and extended consciousness - Stern's verbal self.
Wider influenceDamasio's book is widely acknowledged to be a 'work with far-reaching implications for understanding mental life'. Partly in consequence, there is 'at present introduced by literature such as Damasio's Descartes' Error...a trend to include (or rather rehabilitate) the body and its movement into the research of the social and behavioral sciences'.
In literature too 'it is Damasio who seems to be the key inspiration behind the dismantling of the emotion/reason dichotomy'.
CriticismDamasio uses Phineas Gage and other brain-damage cases to argue that rationality stems from emotion, and that emotion stems from bodily senses. However, the book's presentation of Gage's history and symptoms has been criticized as fictionalized. Others object that in using Descartes' name Damasio was knowingly or unknowingly employing a straw man; and that in fact 'the post-Cartesian medical tradition was well aware of the role of emotions in thinking'.
- Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, Putnam Publishing, 1994, hardcover: ISBN 0-399-13894-3
- Henrik Lagerlund ed., Forming the Mind (2010) p. 15
- Antonio R. Damasio, Descartes' Error (London 1996) p. 226 and p. 118
- Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence (London 1996) p. 53
- Damasio, p. 173
- Damasio, p. 238-9
- Goleman, p. 27
- Stephanie L. Brooke, Creative Arts Therapy Manual (2006) p. 110
- Dominic Head, Ian McEwan <2007) p. 133
- Macmillan, M. (2000). An Odd Kind of Fame: Stories of Phineas Gage. MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-13363-6. pp.118-9, 331-2.
- Macmillan, M. (2008). "Phineas Gage – Unravelling the myth The Psychologist (British Psychological Society), 21(9): 828–831, 830-1".
- Lagerlund, p. 15
Further readingJ. Birtchnell, The Two of Me: The Rational Outer Me and The Emotional Inner Me (London 2003)
J. Panksepp, Affective Neuroscience (OUP 1998)