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017 Antonio Damasio: The Strange Order of Things

Damasio explains how feelings and emotions are the foundation of human culture and the driving force behind our decision-making processes.

Antonio Damasio: The Strange Order of Things


In this book, neuroscientist and philosopher Antonio Damasio explores the role of feelings and emotions in shaping human culture and behavior. He argues that feelings are not a byproduct of consciousness, but rather the foundation of it. Our emotions, which arise from our biological needs, are the driving force behind our decision-making processes and our social behavior. Drawing on the latest scientific research, Damasio offers insights into the nature of human consciousness and the importance of emotions in shaping our lives and societies.


Title: The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures

Author: Antonio Damasio

Publishing Year: 2018

Publisher: Pantheon Books

Length in hours: 9 hours

5 main ideas

  1. Feelings and emotions are the foundation of human consciousness, not a byproduct of it.
  2. The biological purpose of emotions is to guide us toward actions that promote our survival and well-being.
  3. Emotions play a crucial role in social behavior and the development of culture.
  4. Our emotions and social behavior are shaped by our evolutionary history and our cultural upbringing.
  5. Understanding the nature of emotions and consciousness is essential for addressing social and ethical challenges facing humanity.
Antonio Damasio: The Strange Order of Things

5 funny quotes

  1. "If I were to look forward 20 years to the future of neurobiology, the brain would no longer be so strange."
  2. "Studying consciousness does not come without some cost to one's own consciousness."
  3. "We are not just brains in vats or data processors in the sky. We are creatures of flesh and blood, we are part of the natural world."
  4. "Studying feelings is the art of making molehills out of mountains."
  5. "The brain is a machine, and it's not surprising that it can be tricked."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "The organism constructs the pattern, and that pattern becomes the biological substrate of the culture."
  2. "Feelings are the unacknowledged legislators of human affairs."
  3. "The human mind is largely an embodied mind."
  4. "It is possible to train one's affective responses and make them more efficient."
  5. "The self is not a thing but a process."

5 dilemmas

  1. How can we balance the benefits of rational decision-making with the importance of emotions and feelings in our lives?
  2. How can we study consciousness and emotions without altering them in the process?
  3. What are the ethical implications of using brain imaging techniques to manipulate emotions and decision-making?
  4. How can we use our understanding of the brain and emotions to improve mental health treatments?
  5. How can we integrate our understanding of the embodied mind into education and decision-making processes?

5 examples

  1. "Phineas Gage, the railroad worker who survived a traumatic brain injury that completely changed his personality."
  2. "The studies of Antonio Damasio himself, where he examines the cases of patients with damage to the prefrontal cortex."
  3. "The studies of Lisa Barrett, who used brain imaging techniques to show how emotions influence the way we think."
  4. "The studies of Daniel Kahneman, who showed that our decisions are often based on intuitive and emotional responses rather than rational analysis."
  5. "The studies of Joshua Greene, who used brain imaging techniques to examine the neural basis of moral decision-making."

Referenced books

  1. "The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene" by Richard Dawkins - Referenced to discuss the interplay between genes, the environment, and the emergence of complex behaviors.
  2. "Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life" by Daniel C. Dennett - Quoted to explore the implications of evolution and natural selection on human nature and behavior.
  3. "Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions" by Jaak Panksepp - Discussed in relation to the neurobiology of emotions and the study of affective neuroscience.
  4. "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature" by Steven Pinker - Referenced to delve into the concept of human nature and its influence on emotions and behavior.
  5. "The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness" by Antonio Damasio - Cited as a complementary work that delves deeper into the relationship between emotions and consciousness.

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"The self is not a thing but a process."

Antonio Damasio: The Strange Order of Things
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