Descartes' Error

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Descartes Error)
Jump to: navigation, search
Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain
Descartes' Error (Paperback Cover).jpg
The original paperback edition
Author António Damásio
Language English
Published 1994
Pages 312
ISBN 978-0-399-13894-2

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]

Richard Webster wrote that the appearance of Descartes' Error was encouraging for those who see the traditional dichotomy between reason and feeling as artificial and damaging, noting that it contests the division on the basis of both clinical experience and the findings of modern neuroscience. Webster comments that Damasio's argument is relevant to ideas that he develops in his Why Freud Was Wrong (1995).[2]


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.[3] Others object that in using Descartes' name Damasio was knowingly or unknowingly employing a straw man.[4]

Publication data[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Goleman, p. 27
  2. ^ Webster, Richard (2005). Why Freud Was Wrong: Sin, Science and Psychoanalysis. Oxford: The Orwell Press. p. 617. ISBN 0-9515922-5-4. 
  3. ^ See:
  4. ^ 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)