"Damasio's arguments are ingenious and wide ranging His thoughtful and modest exposition should be taken seriously. Apart from illuminating the function of. Descartes thought. • The human mind is solely a product of the brain. • Past and present states of the body heavily influence the contents and processes. 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.

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Damasio_Antonio_R_Descartes_Error_Emotion_Reason_and_the_Human_Brain .pdf (file size: MB, MIME type: application/pdf). Download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd Notes on Antonio Damasio, Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain (NY: Avon, ). A Book Review by Gustav A. Uhlich. Rene Descartes lived in the first part of the 17th century in Holland. He was the leading mathematician and philosopher of.

Recent work stresses neurodynamics again, the production of temporary coherent firing patterns among spatially and functionally distributed systems. Edelman and Tononi are very good on the need to stress both coherence and difference.

Too much coherence and you get epileptic seizures! Systems are emergent, that is, "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. So we need to rethink Aristotle's "four causes.

Now of course you CAN isolate a neuron, but you can't isolate it and preserve its role in a functional system. The "meaning" of its role only comes from its differential relations with other elements.

The classic example is phonemes. You can "isolate" the phoneme "f," but it only gets its "meaning" its functional utility, its productivity in forming words from the differential relations it has with other phonemes in a particular language. They are "differential" relations because they change in other languages. What's important about neurons is that they can play roles in different functional clusters or resonant cell assemblies, which we can analogize to different "languages" the brain speaks.

That is, he can't make planning decisions. He wastes time on trivia and never gets to the big picture. Damasio notes that Eliot's psychologist recommended psychotherapy, not making the connection between brain damage and personality change.

Descartes Error - Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain Chapter 7.pdf

He notes stigma attached to mental illness. Many of Eliot's cognitive functions remained untouched. So D wonders whether social reasoning is different from abstract reasoning.

D notes Eliot's lack of affect no emotional reaction to disturbing pictures. Eliot retained a conceptual understanding of social convention. He could also generate options, assign consequences, match means to ends, predict consequences, and he was mature on a developmental scale of moral reasoning. Whence the difficulty in real-life performance?

D focuses on the difference btw lab testing and real-life performance. This is very important. Remember Haidt's concern with "ecological validity. Also, each choice changes the conditions for future action. D calls this the "ongoing, open-ended, uncertain evolution of real-life situations" D hypothesizes connection of Eliot's low affect and poor real-life performance.

His low affect made his "decision-making landscape hopelessly flat. Of course, emotion can disrupt reason. That is, too much or too uncontrolled emotion. But so can not enough emotion! Results from other clinical cases point to pre-frontal cortices as key areas. Discussion of anosognosia denial of impaired performance and association with right cerebral cortices somatosensory region.

Discussion of damage to amygdala fear conditioning. Points of intersection of emotion and reason for social and personal domains: ventromedial prefrontal cortices and amygdala. This same collection of systems is also involved in emotion and feeling, and is partly dedicated to processing body signals" 70; emphasis added. Anterior cingulate cortex as source of "energy.

Decisions in uncertain and complex social environment require knowledge and reasoning strategies. The knowledge is about social world AND state of organism. The strategies are future oriented. So, world, self, and future of world and self.

Emotion and feeling roughly, the objective and subjective aspects of changing body are part of mechanism of biological regulation homeostatic controls, drives, instincts. Separate brain regions cooperate in producing images "binding problem". Synchronization of activity is the key. Images about condition of world and condition of body require broad parallel display and higher-order working memory. D's terminology: "organism" as whole, of which "brain" and "body" are parts.

Organism is emergent whole of many systems, organs, cells. Autopoiesis at cell level; organizational closure at organism level. Since all is process, that is, all is changing all the time.

IOW, we have to learn how to think in time. Processes rather than states. Furthermore, what we have in production of body images is differentiation as deriving of instantaneous rate of change of many processes and integration of those "parcellated" images into a unity.

IOW, the resolution of a differential field. Cf Edelman and Tononi.

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Brain and body communicate both ways by both nerves and chemicals. This is very important: "brain receives signals not only from the body, but, in some of its sectors, from parts of itself that receive signals from the body.

Thus the brain synthesizes how the world is changing sensory input, which is only a modulation on ongoing processes , about the body's being affected by the world's changing proprioception or "somatic mapping," again, a modulation of ongoing processes , about the brain's endogenous dynamics modulation of ongoing internal neurological traffic or "meta-representations" , and about how the body would be affected were it to perform a certain action and hence be affected in turn by the world off-line imaging, that is, modulation of ongoing stream of "somatic markers"!

But more about all that later as D develops his theory. Integration of the distributed signals to form a unified "scene" via synchronization of neural activity. It's all about timing of firing patterns. Technically, phase synchronization is popular theory nowadays.

A phenomenologist would object to the following line, saying D is confusing levels: "you are perceiving, and thereby forming images of varied sensory modalities.

The images so formed are called perceptual images" But we perceive things, not images. Neural activity is undoubtedly the necessary condition of perception, but the enactive school would say that perception comes from "practical mastery" of relations of movement and sensation. Pre-reflective self-awareness as phenomenological issue.

Zahavi has done a lot of work here. D will present notion of "core self" as "perpetually recreated neurobiological state" Developed in The Feeling of What Happens. Image storage and recall. Memory as capacity to recall that is, interpretively reconstruct , that is, as capacity to re-activate firing patterns in sensory cortices.

This capacity is controlled by "dispositional representations," that is, "potential patterns of neuron activity" or "a dormant firing potentiality" These dispositions are in other parts of the brain from the sensory cortices. Potentiality is a hugely important philosophical term.

Following Deleuze, I would say the ontological status of such potentiality is "virtual. As always, it's all about differential relations between firing patterns in the memory dispositions and in the sensory cortices. D connects "knowledge" with dispositional representations. Innate knowledge is early and reliably developing dispositional representations in hypothalamus, brain stem, and limbic system. The infant has to know how to breathe, regulate its temperature, suckle, etc.

Acquired knowledge consists of dispositional representations in higher-order cortices and in subcortical nuclei.

Thought is formed of images. Inattended to sensations can be recorded revealed in priming experiments. Neural development is NOT precisely programmed by genes. Our nature is to be open to nurture. However, most people do reliably develop species-typical structures and functions of lower brain areas.

AND these lower brain systems constantly interact with higher brain systems. That is, our plans of action, formed in higher brain, are always "evaluated and shaped by a fundamental set of preferences of the organism that consider survival paramount" These "preferences" are stored in the lower brain and are signaled to the upper brain by the emotional valuation system "this is good" or "this is bad".

A big question in all this has always been flourishing vs survival.

Obviously survival is necessary condition, but knowing this, some social structures work to threaten survival to enforce hierarchy. This can channel surpluses to a few at the expense of many. So we have to think relation of biological and cultural evolution and thematize group selection of social structures. Much more on this as the course progresses. Note on psychoneuroimmunology at D goes off the rails at ff, partly because he ignores social being of humans and our primate ancestry. It's not that we need "suprainstinctual survival strategies that have developed in society, are transmitted by culture, and require, for their application, consciousness, reasoned deliberation, and willpower" to keep us from "feeding frenzy, sexual assault, and murder.

What you see are social regulatory systems that become part of our bio-affective regulatory systems: our nature is to let nurture become second nature. You dont need "consciousness, reasoned deliberation, and willpower" to be an adequate social actor. You need to have a properly attuned affective structure, so that the very thought of "feeding frenzy, sexual assault, and murder" makes you so sick you couldn't possibly perform those actions.


D continues with the following: "the control of animal inclination by thought, reason, and the will was what made us human, according to Descartes' Passions of the Soul. I agree with his formulation, except that where he specified a control achieved by a nonphysical agent I envision a biological operation structured within the human organism and not one bit less complex, admirable, or sublime" He tries to finesse this position on , but the whole schema of culture on top of or "added to" nature or reason on top of emotions or humanity on top of animality needs to be criticized and replaced, not refined.

Chapter 7: Emotions and Feelings "Nature appears to have built the apparatus of rationality not just on top of the apparatus of biological regulation, but also from it and with it" ; emphasis in original. But that's exactly why the previous chapter's formulations were unsatisfactory. Emotion and feeling are the "bridge btw rational and nonrational processes, between cortical and subcortical structures.


My take on things: we have to see emotions as embodied appraisals Jesse Prinz. Thus we see cortical processes as shaped by but also modulating primary circuits. Primary emotions. This releases chemicals and sends signals to cortex dual processing : priming reactions and heightening arousal, i. This can be mechanism of trauma. LeDoux, The Emotional Brain. Secondary emotions arise when we form "systematic connections between categories of objects and situations, on the one hand, and primary emotions, on the other" D's summary statement: "[secondary] emotion is the combination of a mental evaluative process, simple or complex, with dispositional responses to that process, mostly toward the body proper, resulting in an emotional body state, but also toward the brain itself neurotransmitter nuclei in the brain stem , resulting in additional metal changes" It relies on superimposed mappings in the somatosenory cortex of modulation of body condition signals "dynamic newly instantiated 'online' representation of what is happening in the body now" [] and modulation of those representations by chemical means AND an image of the thing the way in which the world's constant changing has changed that elicited the emotion The "self" has to play a role too: "a feeling about a particular object is based on the subjectivity of the perception of the object, the perception of the body state it engenders, and the perception of modified style and efficiency of the thought process as all of the above happens" D posits a third group of feelings, besides basic and secondary emotions: "background feelings.

This is awkward: better to say it's the feeling of the normal range of body changes.

On the issue of "body image," see Shaun Gallagher, The Body in the Mind Oxford, , and the distinction of body image and body schema a set of capacities for coordinated movement. See also Richard Shusterman, Body Consciousness Oxford, , for positive practices of refining awareness of our "everyday" body.

And Beauvoir and Iris Marion Young for feminist reading of the assumption of an empowered masculinized body in these analyses. Next is one of D's most interesting points: the "as if" body loop: "emulators" in Rich Grush's terminology. Efferent copy from intentions is sent to sensory cortices, which read off what the body would feel like if it performed a certain action.

D insists again on importance of "self": feelings are NOT just readouts of current body state Body must have a means to "represent the causal link between the person or event and the body state" See here Massumi and his resurrection of James's radical empiricism: the felt reality of relations.

But not all decisions, i. Greene will emphasize this latter distinction in discussing two types of moral judgment. Under the circumstances, I approached Kirkeben's text with curiosity and enthusiasm, eager to learn about some important issue that I would have overlooked, and that would tell me that Descartes was right, after all, that he did not separate irrevocably the mind from the body, as nearly all of us, practicing neuroscientists or philosophers, have thought.

But on the very rst page of the text, my hopes for something new vanished, and by the time I reached the end of the article, they had not returned. He drew a sharp distinction between the immaterial soul and a material body''. Well, that is Descartes' error, of course!

To admit this much and not consider this the critical issue is a bit like the story of the nice couples who were having tea and chatting and never paused to acknowledge the fact that a large elephant had joined them at the table. Dualism, as expressed by Descartes, is a large and breathtaking idea, and it is with that idea in particular that I have a serious problem.

As I see it, he wishes to accomplish two goals. The rst, is to call attention to what Descartes did right, in spite of his error. The second, is to excuse him for committing the error. The two goals are in partial conict and, incidentally, neither demonstrates that I made an error instead.

Let us begin by considering Kirkeben's case for Descartes. It is true that Descartes was innovative for his time, as a scientist and as a thinker. He suspected that brain activity was critical for generating behavior, and even thought that the brain and the body proper were likely to interact. Were Descartes to have had the technical means to do so, he might have wished to investigate how the brain contributed to the mind.

But it is by no means clear that his program would have led him to believe what I do regarding brain and mind, because his framework was hardly ideal: Descartes would have wanted body and mind to work together to form an automaton without a conscious mind.

An illustration of his views can be gleaned from his proposal for visual perception, Address correspondence to: Antonio R. Fax: 1 E-mail: antonio-damasio uiowa. It is entirely legitimate to say that, for Descartes, the knowable mind occurs mysteriously and by stealth, and is, for all intents and purposes, disembodied.

But that is not a small problem; that is the problem.D continues with the following: "the control of animal inclination by thought, reason, and the will was what made us human, according to Descartes' Passions of the Soul. Thus the mind is embodied and embedded as well as embrained The self is a pattern, a repeated reconstruction, not a thing. As a result, he was unable to make sensible choices. His low affect made his "decision-making landscape hopelessly flat.

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