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The Feeling Of What Happens


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Neurophysiology expert, Professor Antonio Damasio, shows how consciousness develops out of mental and physical feeling in this poetic and illuminating book.

About the Author

ANTONIO DAMASIO is a University Professor, David Dornsife Professor of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Neurology, and director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California. Damasio's other books include Descartes' Error; Self Comes to Mind; and Looking for Spinoza. He has received the Honda Prize, the Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research, and, shared with his wife Hanna, the Pessoa, Signoret, and Cozzarelli prizes. Damasio is a fellow of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, and the European Academy of Sciences and Arts. He lives in Los Angeles.


In his widely acclaimed Descartes's Error, Damasio (neurology, Univ. of Iowa Medical Ctr.) argued that emotion and feelings are integral to human rationality. Here he explores the relationship between these two states and consciousness. Consciousness allows feelings to be known and emotion to "permeate the thought process." Indeed, "consciousness begins as the feeling of what happens when we see or hear or touch." Vital to this process is the construction of a sense of self. "How," he asks, "is the sense of self in the act of knowing implanted in the mind?" Damasio proposes that consciousness, like emotion, is a device to promote the stability and survival of an organism. Basing his hypotheses on observations of neurological patients and on normal processes of consciousness, the author speculates on the biological underpinnings of consciousness. This is not a book to be read quickly; the biological mechanisms described are often complicated and complex. But Damasio's spirited writing style and scientific rigor will make a conscientious reading well worthwhile. Highly recommended for academic and large public libraries.Ă„Laurie Bartolini, MacMurray Coll. Lib., Springfield, IL Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Tackling a great complex of questions that poets, artists and philosophers have contemplated for generations, Damasio (Descartes' Error) examines current neurological knowledge of human consciousness. Significantly, in key passages he evokes T.S. Eliot, Shakespeare and William James. In Eliot's words, consciousness is "music heard so deeply/ That it is not heard at all." It, like Hamlet, begins with the question "Who's there?" And Damasio holds that there is, as James thought, a "stream of" consciousness that utilizes every part of the brain. Consciousness, argues Damasio, is linked to emotion, to our feelings for the images we perceive. There are in fact several kinds of consciousness, he says: the proto-self, which exists in the mind's constant monitoring of the body's state, of which we are unaware; a core consciousness that perceives the world 500 milliseconds after the fact; and the extended consciousness of memory, reason and language. Different from wakefulness and attention, consciousness can exist without language, reason or memory: for example, an amnesiac has consciousness. But when core consciousness fails, all else fails with it. More important for Damasio's argument, emotion and consciousness tend to be present or absent together. At the height of consciousness, above reason and creativity, Damasio places conscience, a word that preceded conciousness by many centuries. The author's plain language and careful redefinition of key points make this difficult subject accessible for the general reader. In a book that cuts through the old nature vs. nurture argument as well as conventional ideas of identity and possibly even of soul, it's clear, though he may not say so, that Damasio is still on the side of the angels. Agent, Michael Carlisle; 9-city author tour. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

"The life-changing read of the year... The book is crammed with tiny gems of information with which to reassess how you look at the world and think about yourself" -- Katie Mitchell Guardian "A tour de force...a monumental book...a gem of a work" -- Anthony Clare Sunday Times "Compelling...a story told with clarity and pace, unencumbered by unnecessary technical jargon and illustrated with insightful clinical anecdotes" The Times "A fascinating and suggestive book" Literary Review "Both Descartes' Error and The Feeling of What Happens are essential reading. They are groundbreaking classics of psychology and neuroscience. These are the books to buy, keep and ponder upon. Do so, and you will be ahead of the ruck by at least a decade" Journal Of The Royal Society of Medicine

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