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Daniel C. Dennett
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Don Smith
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Simon Laub
Bobby Matherne

Antonio Damasio

Descartes' Error

We tend to distinguish between reason and emotion. Even those who think reason should be a slave to the passions imply that they are different ways of thinking. Antonio Damasio doesn't agree. In Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain he argues that emotion is in fact a central part of rational thought.

Damasio starts by looking at those such as Phineas Gage who suffered a terrible accident in 1848 which destroyed part of his brain. His reasoning seemed to survive, it was his emotional response which was affected, but he became unable to continue at his job or his previous life. Damasio also considers anosognosics, typically stroke patients who are paralysed in part of their body but deny the fact. The evidence is plainly there, but their feeling, influenced by the damage to their brain. overrides it. The book goes on to look at the way the connections in the brain work, explaining, for instance why a 'put on' smile is subtly different from a real smile. As well as arguing for the importance of emotion, Damasio also stresses that not everything is happening in the brain. When we experience an emotion the brain sends signals to different parts of the body, and the signals it gets in return become part of the emotion we feel.

So who should read this book. I'm not really convinced of its suitability for a general readership. It's not that Damasio uses technical language, its just that his style isn't particularly easy to read. If, though, you are interested in the emotions and the nature of thought then you will find it a valuable read.

Amazon.com info
Paperback 336 pages  
ISBN: 014303622X
Salesrank: 21254
Weight:0.5 lbs
Published: 2005 Penguin Books
Amazon price $14.40
Marketplace:New from $7.98:Used from $2.83
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Amazon.co.uk info
Paperback 352 pages  
ISBN: 0099501643
Salesrank: 204191
Weight:0.62 lbs
Published: 2006 Vintage
Amazon price £10.99
Marketplace:New from £5.38:Used from £4.40
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Amazon.ca info
Paperback 336 pages  
ISBN: 014303622X
Salesrank: 45806
Weight:0.5 lbs
Published: 2005 Penguin Books
Amazon price CDN$ 17.10
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 16.55:Used from CDN$ 24.68
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Product Description
Since Descartes famously proclaimed, "I think, therefore I am," science has often overlooked emotions as the source of a person’s true being. Even modern neuroscience has tended, until recently, to concentrate on the cognitive aspects of brain function, disregarding emotions. This attitude began to change with the publication of Descartes’ Error in 1995. Antonio Damasio—"one of the world’s leading neurologists" (The New York Times)—challenged traditional ideas about the connection between emotions and rationality. In this wondrously engaging book, Damasio takes the reader on a journey of scientific discovery through a series of case studies, demonstrating what many of us have long suspected: emotions are not a luxury, they are essential to rational thinking and to normal social behavior.