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Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain. ebook


Looking for Spinoza rediscovers a thinker whose work prefigures modern neuroscience, not only in his emphasis on emotions and feelings, but in his refusal to separate mind and body.

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He shows how joy and sorrow are cornerstones of our survival. As he investigates the cerebral mechanisms behind emotions and feelings, Damasio argues that the internal regulatory processes not only preserve life within ourselves, but they create, motivate, and even shape our greatest cultural accomplishments. If Descartes declared a split between mind and body, Spinoza not only unified the two but intuitively understood the role of emotions in human survival and culture

In the seventeenth century, the philosopher Spinoza examined the role emotion played in human survival and culture. Yet, the neurobiological roots of joy and sorrow remained a mystery.

In the seventeenth century, the philosopher Spinoza examined the role emotion played in human survival and culture. Today, we spend countless resources doctoring our feelings with alcohol, prescription drugs, health clubs, therapy, vacation retreats, and other sorts of consumption; yet the inner workings of our minds-what feelings are, how they work, and what they mean-are still largely an unexplored frontier.

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Электронная книга "Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain", Antonio Damasio. Эту книгу можно прочитать в Google Play Книгах на компьютере, а также на устройствах Android и iOS. Выделяйте текст, добавляйте закладки и делайте заметки, скачав книгу "Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain" для чтения в офлайн-режиме.

Sorrow and joy: the ground bass of our feeling lives. Tragedy and comedy: the two fundamental outlooks upon the human condition

Sorrow and joy: the ground bass of our feeling lives. Tragedy and comedy: the two fundamental outlooks upon the human condition.

Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain. Diversity, as we learn, is an age old issue that humans and animals subconsciously act on. With the ever changing developments in modern society, withdrawal or aggression towards others becomes obsolete. Looking for Spinoza not only covers diversity, but how humans react and feel based on the philosophies and theories of Bauch Spinoza.

Antonio Damasio has written a book that is not only the definitive biography of Baruch / Benedict Spinoza but is also an important discussion of how Spinoza, utilizing mostly his own mind, elucidated the beginnings of biology, neurology, democratic forms of government and ideal forms of society. I understand why the Jewish-Orthodox community was forced to expel him-what he was writing was heresy to Christian Europe-but believe that Judaism would have been enriched by enthusiastically embracing his ideas.

How did Antonio Damasio, who came from a Portuguese Catholic background know so much about Bento/Baruch/Benedict Spinoza? Well, the Portuguese Inquisition brutally forced all of its Jews to convert to Catholicism, and perhaps his ancestors were among those Jews. Perhaps in writing this book Dr. Damasio, who is now at USC, is letting us in on a bit of his own underlying thought processes.
Sadaron above the Gods
Damasio's books offer deep insight into our emotions and feelings and defines them in a unique way by tracing their evolution in the body and the brain. He also takes a fascinating side trip into Spinoza's philosophy which got me reading "The Ethics," to my eternal benefit. A foundational book on understanding the mind.
Much like the Astronomer on the cover of Damasio's book, I often feel that learning about neurobiology is like studying in the dark with only the flickering of a single candle to guide me; the philosophy intrigues me and piques my interest, but somewhere along the line, the intimidation of the neurological lingo darkens the room until I can barely make out what I am reading. Damasio was inspired by the philosophical musings of Spinoza, whom he believed had a conceptualization of human feelings and emotions that was predictive of current neurobiological theories regarding human experiences of feelings and emotions. Damasio then utilizes other pioneers in the sciences such as Charles Darwin and begins to make his case for an evolutionary base for the development of emotions as well as the differentiation between emotions and feelings. Damasio begins to shift our understanding of emotions following feelings, to "feelings [as] mostly shadows of the external manner of emotions" (p.29).

This transition in historical thinking has some interesting clinical applications. By considering feeling as a result of emotions experienced in response to environmental stimuli we can break down client's experience into two categories; what is happening to them and what they experience as a result of this. Similar ideas are put forth in Cognitive Behavioral Therapies (CBT) that attempt to separate and understand how thoughts can lead to emotions. Newer waves of CBT such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy advance this idea further by acknowledging that we can be observers of our own experience and choose the level at which we will either attend to or feel the stimulus we receive. Damasio's differentiation of emotion and feeling can be applied in a similar way to a client who has been the victim of trauma, or suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This client may have a natural emotional reaction of fear to certain environments or stimulus that are similar to the one where the trauma was initiated. The client may have learned from their prior trauma that following their natural fear response they are overcome with shame or guilt. Working with this client you can begin to separate their shame from their fear response and bring awareness to them that their feelings are a result of an external emotional reaction and not the result of internal unchangeable characteristics. This distancing of the emotion and the feeling can be helpful as the client and therapist work to learn and develop a new feeling to utilize in response to same emotional reaction (fear). This is beneficial for the client as they may realistically be unable to avoid the stimulus causing their fear response.

Damasio blends his ideas of philosophy and neurobiology in a manner that is accessible to more advanced readers who have a basic understanding of neurobiological and philosophical concepts. Damasio's conversational style of writing was a refreshing break from more dense texts, although the more relaxed writing style did not make the more philosophical and advanced ideas easier to grasp. Given the strong philosophical bent of Damasio's writings, discussion on the concept of consciousness itself was mysteriously absent. Although this is currently may be out of the reach of current neuroscience, it would have been nice to cut off some of the more rambling chapters to include one dedicated the direction of future research beyond the current cutting edge. Overall, this book was a welcome break from the monotonous other cognition texts and a breath of fresh air for those looking to expand their integration of philosophy and science. After reading this book, I may not be reading as clearly as the astronomer on the cover in the daylight, but perhaps I have managed to light a few more candles.
Knights from Bernin
Damasio, a neuroscientist, attempts to demonstrate how brain and body work in concert to produce the concept of the mind. He cites the 17th century philosopher and early proponent of the role feelings (affect) plays in human behavior, Baruch Spinoza as the key figure in the repudiation of Descarte's mind-body dualism. Demasio's text is largely scientific but philosophical as well. Often times, he prefaces his theories with a warning stating that his ideas are not based on rigorous scientific scrutiny. Ultimately, Demasio attempts to biologically distinguish between emotions and feelings (pleasure and pain) as well as describe their innate evolutionary functionality to man. This is no small task considering the seemingly intangible nature of feelings and the general belief in science that feelings are impossible to examine empirically. Demasio's concepts, while rooted in neuroscience and philosophy, are quite helpful to mental health professionals trying to make sense of their patient's feelings and how they contribute to maladaptive behaviors. I am writing this review from this perspective.

Demasio, with a great illustration from Shakespeare, contends that emotions are observable actions or movements rooted in our physiology while feelings are the private meaning we ascribe to this phenomenon. Emotions automatically occur in our brains and bodies in response to environmental stimuli. Emotions prelude the feelings that arise privately in our mind. Often emotions serve the evolutionary purpose of promoting our survival and maintaining homeostasis (balance). Homeostasis is based on a system of autonomic functions, pain and pleasure behaviors, drives and motivations, emotions and ultimately feelings. Demasio does a nice job of discussing the neurology behind emotions citing the amygdala, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and the cingulate as emotional triggering sites.

Emotions are our physiological responses to the environment. Our feelings are our responses to emotions in order to create mental images. Our feelings provide us information in order to best manage our lives. Again, this serves a self-perserving purpose. What we do with the information our feelings provide is up to us. I took this section to mean that some people are better than others at recognizing and utilizing their feelings, in the short-term these people endure less suffering and mental illness. In the long term, these people are better adapted in the evolutionary sense. I think these insights are very relevant to mental health.

For example, the constant tension and hypervigilence a patient with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder experiences is their body's natural use of emotions gone awry. The patient with PTSD is in a constant state of unbalance due to a pervasive fear of harm stemming from an unprocessed trauma. The subsequent feeling is some variant of sorrow. As Demasio points out, a change or problem in the environment prompts self-perserving behavior in the organism.

In the case of depression, or the "common cold" of clinical psychology, one may lack the ability to adapt to intense feelings of sorrow stemming from the physiological changes (emotions) their body produces in response to environmental stimuli. The depressed individual fails to adapt to the environment in order to regain homeostatic balance. More and more negative feelings emerge as adaptation is continuously avoided. I think this is why so many depressed patients lack energy and feel overwhelmed by life. One or two triggering events that are not adapted to can lead to landslide of negative life circumstances that seem unbearable.

I also believe that some people pay far too much attention to their feelings. In the case of certain personality disorders (histrionic and borderline), the feelings themselves are given far greater value than the cognitive appraisals they elicit. Ultimately, an inability to cope with and utilize feelings in functional manner is implicated in suffering. Spinoza, seemingly the world's first Cognitive Behaviorist, encouraged people to overcome intense negative feelings by eliciting stronger positive feelings through their cognitions. Although, this is a crude way of conceptualizing cognitive-behavioral therapy, I do think mentally overcoming negative feelings serves as the basis of CBT. While I don't necessarily think this is revolutionary, I do think it is interesting considering how far back Spinoza lived. The clinical utility of this book resides primarily in what Damasio does with his knowledge of Spinoza's philosophy.

I really enjoyed learning the science behind feelings and how Damasio assigns them an evolutionary function. I think that many people who are suffering with depression, substance abuse and anxiety have difficulty making sense of and learning how to utilize their emotions. Feelings are transient states indicating that something is going right or wrong in our environment. They elicit action on our part to either maintain or change the environment. The failure to act on feelings is at the heart of many psychological issues. Our role as mental health professionals is to help clients learn how to recognize, label and adaptively act on their feelings.

I feel compelled to also mention Damasio's final chapter where he seemingly attempts to offer a solution for those struggling to find meaning in the tragic human condition. What do those who do not turn to religion or earthly possessions turn to find meaning? Damasio contends that finding the "spirit" is the key to finding meaning. Spirit does not refer to any type of religious entity but rather a drive towards knowledge and immersion in some sort of discipline be it art, science, or badminton (it can be anything really). This drive ideally goes on to somehow positively impact the lives of others. I tend to mostly agree with Damasio. I think religion offers an easy explanation to a complex question that many fear to even ask. For those who seek more than a mere pacifier, they must turn to some activity or cause that is engrossing and subjectively meaningful. I think this is the source of so many people's internal struggles, the meaning they find in life is based not on what they believe in their heart of hearts but what others tell them is meaningful or worse yet what they think they should find meaningful. These are essentially false selves living false lives. While meaning can be influenced by the environment, a person's chief task in life if to engage in the struggle to determine their own meaning. The outcome is not as important as the process. I know, there may be no salvation in this prescription, but then again what if there were no such thing as salvation?
Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain. ebook
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William Heinemann; Very good condition in dust jacket. 355pp. ISBN 04 edition (2003)
370 pages
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