1995-04-05: Descartes’ Error

Descartes’ Error

Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (1994)

by Antonio R. Damasio (1944-)

This is a book by a neurologist, seeking to explain something about the nature of human mentality. His basic point is that human mentality is based not only on the brain, but on the body in which the brain is immersed. He identifies emotion as a key constituent of mentality, equally as important as rationality.

I read the book hoping to find a systematic approach to human emotion. Damasio doesn’t have one. Indeed the only emotions that received extensive treatment were those tied closely to hormones and bodily sensations: fear and lust.

I found nothing I particularly wished to disagree with. In fact I hardly cared about any of his points, except to see the necessity for a greater part of the populace to recognize the real nature of human mentality.

The greatest effect on me was to confirm my belief that we need a mid-level theory of the brain, between neurology and psychology. This is a field whose realm and stance need to be better defined before more progress can be made in understanding human nature.

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