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Antonio R. Damasio

Looking for Spinoza Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain

What is an emotion, a feeling? Antonio Damasio shows how joy and sorrow are cornerstones of our survival and of our well-being. He argues that the internal processes behind emotions and feelings not only preserve life within us but also motivate us and help us to produce our greatest creations — art, of course, as well as moral behaviour, the legal system and social organisation.
If Descartes declared a split between mind and body, Spinoza, writing at roughly the same time, not only unified the two but also understood the role of emotions in human survival and culture.
Hence the journey undertaken by a pioneering modern scientist to rediscover the visionary author of the Ethica. For, in Damasio's view, it is Spinoza who prefigured what should be our modern neuroscience of emotion, feeling and social behaviour. And it is Spinoza who provided the concepts and perspectives necessary for us to progress in our knowledge of ourselves.


“A brilliant intellectual exercise, but also a meditation on the quest for happiness and a better life. A unique attempt to examine the most recent neurobiological knowledge about emotions and feelings within a philosophical framework.”
Jean-Pierre Changeux

Antonio Damasio is the Van Allen Professor and head of the department of neurology at the University of Iowa and is an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. He is the author of Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (French translation: Editions Odile Jacob, 1995; paperback edition, 2001) and The Feeling of What Happens: Body, Emotion, and the Making of Consciousness (French translation: Editions Odile Jacob, 1999; paperback, 2002).