Linking the process of rational decision making to emotions, an award-winning scientist who has done extensive research with brain-damaged patients notes the dependence of thought processes on feelings and the body's survival-oriented regulators. 50,000 first printing.
The publication of this book is an event in the making. All over the world scientists, psychologists, and philosophers are waiting to read Antonio Damasio's new theory of the nature of consciousness and the construction of the self. A renowned and revered scientist and clinician, Damasio has spent decades following amnesiacs down hospital corridors, waiting for comatose patients to awaken, and devising ingenious research using PET scans to piece together the great puzzle of consciousness. In his bestselling Descartes' Error, Damasio (...) revealed the critical importance of emotion in the making of reason. Building on this foundation, he now shows how consciousness is created. Consciousness is the feeling of what happens-our mind noticing the body's reaction to the world and responding to that experience. Without our bodies there can be no consciousness, which is at heart a mechanism for survival that engages body, emotion, and mind in the glorious spiral of human life. A hymn to the possibilities of human existence, a magnificent work of ingenious science, a gorgeously written book, The Feeling of What Happens is already being hailed as a classic. (shrink)
Damasio, an eminent neuroscientist explores the science of human emotion and what the great Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza can teach of how and why we feel. Damasio shows how joy and sorrow, those most defining of human feelings, are in fact the cornerstones of our survival and culture.
The psychological and neurobiological processes underlying moral judgement have been the focus of many recent empirical studies1–11. Of central interest is whether emotions play a causal role in moral judgement, and, in parallel, how emotion-related areas of the brain contribute to moral judgement. Here we show that six patients with focal bilateral damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPC), a brain region necessary for the normal generation of emotions and, in particular, social emotions12–14, produce an abnor- mally ‘utilitarian’ pattern of (...) judgements on moral dilemmas that pit compelling considerations of aggregate welfare against highly emotionally aversive behaviours (for example, having to sacrifice one person’s life to save a number of other lives)7,8. In contrast, the VMPC patients’ judgements were normal in other classes of moral dilemmas. These findings indicate that, for a selective set of moral dilemmas, the VMPC is critical for normal judgements of right and wrong. The findings support a necessary role for emotion in the generation of those judgements. (shrink)
Feelings are conscious mental events that represent body states as they undergo homeostatic regulation. Feelings depend on the interoceptive nervous system (INS), a collection of peripheral and central pathways, nuclei and cortical regions which continuously sense chemical and anatomical changes in the organism. How such humoral and neural signals come to generate conscious mental states has been a major scientific question. The answer proposed here invokes (1) several distinctive and poorly known physiological features of the INS; and (2) a unique (...) interaction between the body (the ‘object’ of interoception) and the central nervous system (which generates the 'subject' of interoception). The atypical traits of the INS and the direct interactions between neural and non‐neural physiological compartments of the organism, neither of which is present in exteroceptive systems, plausibly explain the qualitative and subjective aspects of feelings, thus accounting for their conscious nature. (shrink)
Sadness is generally seen as a negative emotion, a response to distressing and adverse situations. In an aesthetic context, however, sadness is often associated with some degree of pleasure, as suggested by the ubiquity and popularity, throughout history, of music, plays, films and paintings with a sad content. Here, we focus on the fact that music regarded as sad is often experienced as pleasurable. Compared to other art forms, music has an exceptional ability to evoke a wide-range of feelings and (...) is especially beguiling when it deals with grief and sorrow. Why is it, then, that while human survival depends on preventing painful experiences, mental pain often turns out to be explicitly sought through music? In this article we consider why and how sad music can become pleasurable. We offer a framework to account for how listening to sad music can lead to positive feelings, contending that this effect hinges on correcting an ongoing homeostatic imbalance. Sadness evoked by music is found pleasurable (1) when it is perceived as non-threatening; (2) when it is aesthetically pleasing; and (3) when it produces psychological benefits such as mood regulation, and empathic feelings, caused, for example, by recollection of and reflection on past events. We also review neuroimaging studies related to music and emotion and focus on those that deal with sadness. Further exploration of the neural mechanisms through which stimuli that usually produce sadness can induce a positive affective state could help the development of effective therapies for disorders such as depression, in which the ability to experience pleasure is attenuated. (shrink)
Moral judgments, whether delivered in ordinary experience or in the courtroom, depend on our ability to infer intentions. We forgive unintentional or accidental harms and condemn failed attempts to harm. Prior work demonstrates that patients with damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex deliver abnormal judgments in response to moral dilemmas and that these patients are especially impaired in triggering emotional responses to inferred or abstract events, as opposed to real or actual outcomes. We therefore predicted that VMPC patients would deliver (...) abnormal moral judgments of harmful intentions in the absence of harmful outcomes, as in failed attempts to harm. This prediction was confirmed in the current study: VMPC patients judged attempted harms, including attempted murder, as more morally permissible relative to controls. These results highlight the critical role of the VMPC in processing harmful intent for moral judgment. (shrink)
From one of the world's leading neuroscientists--a succinct, illuminating, wholly engaging investigation of the phenomenon of consciousness. In recent decades, many philosophers and cognitive scientists have declared the question of consciousness unsolvable, but Antonio Damasio is convinced that recent findings in neurobiology, psychology, and AI have given us the necessary tools to solve its mystery. Now, he not only elucidates its myriad aspects, but presents his analysis and insights in a way that is faithful to our own intuitive sense of (...) the experience of consciousness. In the 45 brief chapters of the book, he helps us understand the relation between consciousness and mind; why being conscious is not the same as either being awake or sensing; the essential role of feeling; and the biological brain and development of consciousness. He synthesizes the recent findings of various sciences with the outlook of philosophy, and, most significantly, presents his original research which has transformed our understanding of the brain and human behavior. Here is an indispensable guide to understanding consciousness, the fundamental human capacity for informing--and transforming--our experience of the world around us and our perception of our place in it. (shrink)
Scientists are rapidly mapping the chemical and physical pathways that constitute biological systems, making the complexity of processes such as inheritance, development, evolution, and even the origin of life increasingly tractable. Through genetics and neuroscience, biological understanding is now being extended deeply into the human sciences and has begun to transform our understanding of behavior, mind, culture, and values. The idea of a science-driven unity of knowledge has reemerged in several forms in both reductionist and nonreductionist frameworks. This volume examines (...) some of the extraordinary empirical discoveries that have caused a revival of this idea and presents theories from thinkers in a variety of disciplines, including E. O. Wilson, Eric Kandel, and Elaine Scarry. (shrink)
In this article we present a conjecture regarding the biology of subjectivity and feeling, based on biophysical and phenomenological considerations. We propose that feeling, as a subjective phenomenon, would come to life as a process of resistance to variance hypothesized to occur during the unfolding of cognition and behaviours in the wakeful and emoting individual. After showing how the notion of affect, when considered from a biological standpoint, suggests an underlying process of resistance to variance, we discuss how vigilance, emotional (...) arousal and attentional behaviours reflect a dynamics of controlled over-excitation related to cognitive integration and control. This can be described as a form of resistance to variance. We discuss how such a dynamics objectively creates an internal state of tension and affectedness in the system that could be associated with subjective states. Such a dynamics is shaped by the system's need to cope with its own inertia, to engage in intentional behaviours, attend, preserve coherence, grapple with divergent cognitive, emotional and motivational tendencies, and delayed auto-perturbations of the brain-body system. More generally, it is related to the need to respect the hierarchy of the various influences which affect its internal dynamics and organization. (shrink)
Vroeger leek de keus simpel, meent neuroloog Antonio Damasio: je liet je meevoeren in de maalstroom van het modernisme of trok je terug in een klassiek Arcadië. Maar nu kunnen we ons niet langer aan de maalstroom onttrekken. De digitale revolutie biedt ons allerlei gemakken en voordelen, maar heeft ook mogelijk desastreuze gevolgen voor onze moraliteit. In plaats van ons in een Arcadië terug te trekken, moeten we ons daartegen teweer stellen.
Recent investigations have explored how large-scale systems in the brain operate in the processes of retrieving knowledge for words and concepts. Much of the crucial evidence derives from lesion studies, because word retrieval and concept retrieval can be clearly dissociated in brain-damaged individuals. We discuss these findings from the perspective of our neurobiological framework, which is cited in Pulvermüller's target article.