The Strange Order of Things by Antonio Damasio review – why feelings are the unstoppable force

Nietzsche would have given four cheers for this intricately argued , which is at once scientifically rigorous and humanely accommodating, and, so far as this reviewer can judge, revolutionary. Antonio Damasio, a professor of neuroscience, psychology and philosophy, sets to investigate “why and emote, feel, use feelings to construct our selves … and brains interact with the body to support such functions”. We are not floating seraphim, he reminds us, but bodies that think – and all the better for . From Plato onwards, western philosophy favoured mind over “mere” body, so that by the time we get to Descartes, the human become hardly more than a brain stuck atop a stick, like a child’s hobbyhorse. This is the conception of humanness that Damasio wishes to dismantle. For him, as for Nietzsche, the body feels is every bit as significant as the mind thinks, and further, both functions are inextricably intertwined. Indeed, from the very start, among the earliest primitive life forms, affect – “the world of emotions and feelings” – was the force that drove unstoppably towards the flowering of human consciousness and the creation of cultures, Damasio insists. The […]

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