Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain. Antonio Damasio. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain Book Cover Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain
Antonio Damasio
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
February 1, 2003

Joy, sorrow, jealousy, and awe – these and other feelings are the stuff of our daily lives. Thought to be too private for science to explain and not essential for understanding cognition, they have largely been ignored. But not by Spinoza, and not by Antonio Damasio. Here, in a humane work of science, Damasio draws on his innovative research and on his experience with neurological patients to examine how feelings and the emotions that underlie them support the human spirit’s greatest creations.

Antonio Damasio, widely recognized as one of the world’s leading neuroscientists, has long been investigating the neurobiological foundations of human life. In Descartes’ Error he explored the importance of emotion in rational behavior, and in The Feeling of What Happens he used feelings to explain the basis of the self. Damasio’s new book focuses on what feelings are and reveals the biology of our survival mechanisms. It rediscovers a thinker whose work prefigures modern neuroscience, not only in his emphasis on emotions and feelings, but also in his refusal to separate mind and body. Together, the scientist and the philosopher help us understand what we are made of and what we are here for. Based on laboratory investigations but mindful of society and culture, Looking for Spinoza offers unexpected grounds for optimism about the human condition and is a masterwork of science and writing.

Antonio Damasio is the Van Allen Distinguished Professor and head of the department of neurology at the University of Iowa Medical Center and is an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. The recipient of numerous awards, Damasio is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. After reading Damasio’s first book, Descartes’ Error, Jonas Salk wrote, “You will never again look at yourself or at another without considering what goes on behind the eyes that so meet.” Damasio’s second book, The Feeling of What Happens, was selected as one of the year’s ten best by the New York Times Book Review editors. Both books are translated in more than twenty languages and are taught in universities worldwide.