Completing the trilogy that began with Descartes' Error and continued with The Feeling of What Happens, noted neuroscientist Antonio Damasio now focuses the full force of his research and wisdom on emotions. He shows how joy and sorrow are cornerstones of our survival. As he investigates the cerebral mechanisms behind emotions and feelings, Damasio argues that the internal regulatory processes not only preserve life within ourselves, but they create, motivate, and even shape our greatest cultural accomplishments.
If Descartes declared a split between mind and body, Spinoza not only unified the two but intuitively understood the role of emotions in human survival and culture. So it is Spinoza who accompanies Damasio as he journeys back to the seventeenth century in search of a philosopher who, in Damasio's view, prefigured modern neuroscience.
In Looking for Spinoza Damasio brings us closer to understanding the delicate interaction between affect, consciousness, and memory--the processes that both keep us alive and make life worth living.
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As he seeks to unlock the secrets of such things as joy and sorrow, Antonio Damasio pursues a unifying theory in Looking for Spinoza. Why Spinoza? The philosopher, whom Damasio calls a "protobiologist," firmly linked mind and body, paving the way for modern ideas of neurophysiology. Damasio examines this linkage, which ran counter to all scientific and religious thinking of Spinoza's day, and lays out the reasoning and evidence behind its truth. As he has in his previous books on the subject (Descartes' Error and The Feeling of What Happens), Damasio is careful to use clear examples from life to explain the often dry and difficult science of the brain. When he wants readers to understand, for instance, brain stem control of emotions, he offers an Oliver Sacks-style case study of a man whose stroke left him unable to keep from bursting into tears or laughter at inappropriate times.
Damasio also defines his terms, which is crucial, as he means something very specific when he says feeling ("always hidden, like all mental images") instead of emotion ("actions or movements... visible to others as they occur in the face, in the voice, in specific behaviors"). Using an impressive array of biological and psychological research, Damasio makes a compelling case for his idea of the feeling brain as crucial for survival and sense of self. But this isn't just a book about brain science. It's a record of an intellectual journey, a diary of Damasio's musings about history, philosophy, and Spinoza's life, all wrapped up in a simply astonishing explanation of a subject most of us don't give a thought to--the feelings that we live by. --Therese LittletonFrom the Back Cover:
Advance praise for Looking for Spinoza:
"This is the boldest, the most satisfying, and the most personal of Antonio Damasio's books, presenting dazzling insights into the nature of emotion and feeling."
-- Oliver Sacks, author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Uncle
"This is an enticingly original work that offers page after page of startling insights about the workings of the mind. It creates in its entirety that rarest of effects: the quality of revelation."
--William Styron, author of Sophie's Choice and Darkness Visible
"Damasio, one of the leading thinkers about the function of the human brain, has done it again! He has written a remarkable book about the biological underpinnings of feelings and their ramifications for human behavior. We could not ask for a better guide to take us through this domain."
--Eric R. Kandel, Nobel Laureate, Columbia University
"In Looking for Spinoza, Damasio, one of the world's foremost neurologists, addresses some of the most difficult questions concerning brain and mind, in the context of a deep and wide grasp of art, music and, philosophy. This book is a huge and most impressive accomplishment."
--David Hubel, Nobel Laureate, Harvard University
"A brilliant intellectual exercise but also a meditation, on how to reach happiness and a better life. A rare and almost unique attempt to examine the most recent neurobiological knowledge about emotions and feelings in the framework of Spinoza's thinking."
-- Jean-Pierre Changeux, Collège de France and Institut Pasteur
"A brilliant and fortifying book. Looking for Spinoza offers us more than a riveting narrative of intellectual affiliation, and more than a scientifically refined regard for what it means to be human; it offers a new frontier for genuinely informed hope.
--Peter Sacks, Harvard University
"An extraordinary book-beautifully written and deeply, incisively, creating connections across time and space."
--Peter Brook, Theater and Film Director
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