Descartes' Error

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Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain
Descartes' Error (Paperback Cover).jpg
The original paperback edition
AuthorAntónio Damásio

Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain is a 1994 book by neurologist António Damásio, in part a treatment of the mind/body dualism question. 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.

Wider influence[edit]

Damasio's book was described by one reviewer as a 'work with far-reaching implications for understanding mental life'.[1]


Damasio uses Phineas Gage and other brain-damage cases to argue that rationality stems from emotion, and that emotion stems from bodily senses. However, the book's presentation of Gage's history and symptoms has been criticized as fictionalized.[2] Others object that in using Descartes' name Damasio was knowingly or unknowingly employing a straw man.[3]

Publication data[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Goleman, p. 27
  2. ^ See:
  3. ^ Lagerlund, p. 15

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)