Descartes' Error

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Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain
The original paperback edition
AuthorAntónio Damásio

Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain is a 1994 book by neuroscientist António Damásio describing the physiology of rational thought and decision, and how the faculties could have evolved through Darwinian natural selection.[1] Damásio refers to René Descartes' separation of the mind from the body (the mind/body dualism) as an error because reasoning requires the guidance of emotions and feelings conveyed from the body.[2][3] Written for the layperson, Damásio uses the dramatic 1848 railroad accident case of Phineas Gage as a reference for incorporating data from multiple modern clinical cases, enumerating damaging cognitive effects when feelings and reasoning become anatomically decoupled.[3] The book provides an analysis of diverse clinical data contrasting a wide range of emotional changes following frontal lobe damage[4] as well as lower (medulla) and anterior areas of the brain such as the anterior cingulate. Among his experimental evidence and testable hypotheses, Damásio presents the "somatic marker hypothesis", a proposed mechanism by which emotions guide (or bias) behavior and decision-making, and positing that rationality requires emotional input. He argues that René Descartes' "error" was the dualist separation of mind and body, rationality and emotion.

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Further reading[edit]

J. Birtchnell, The Two of Me: The Rational Outer Me and The Emotional Inner Me (London 2003)

J. Panksepp, Affective Neuroscience (OUP 1998)