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

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  1,172 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
Completing the trilogy that began with Descartes' Error and continued with The Feeling of What Happens, noted neuroscientist Antonio Damasio now focuses the full force of his research and wisdom on emotions. 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 ...more
Hardcover, 355 pages
Published February 1st 2003 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2003)
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Jon Stout
Nov 29, 2008 Jon Stout rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: idealists and reductive materialists
Shelves: philosophy
Inspired by Descartes' Error, and interested in a neurologist's interest in philosophers, I sought out Looking for Spinoza. It rewarded me in several ways, first by extending my understanding of how emotions as a biological concept are continuous with feelings as a conscious, mental phenomenon, and second by providing a guided, personal investigation into the life of Bento-Baruch-Benedict Spinoza.

Damasio has a lot to say about emotions and the structure of the brain, some of it exhaustingly deta
Melinda Olivas
I found the book “Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain” by Antonio Damasio an interesting look at the relationship between emotions, feelings, and the brain. I enjoyed reading about Damasio’s almost obsession-like fascination with the philosopher Spinoza. Damasio found Spinoza’s beliefs about feelings, passions, and emotions influential and relevant to his work as a neurologist. I also enjoyed that Damasio included a bit of philosophical flavor throughout the whole of this bo ...more
Dragos C Butuzea
Jan 28, 2014 Dragos C Butuzea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
pe lângă alte osho, mosho şi alte cărţi de pseudo-ştiinţă, iniţiere şi de auto-cunoaştere de care vai! pute piaţa de carte, rareori găseşti cărţi de popularizare a ştiinţei aparţinând unor oameni de ştiinţă. oameni de ştiinţă onorabili, cu diplome şi catedre universitare - adevărat, nedeţinători de Adevăruri supreme, ci de mici concluzii de bun-simţ, obţinute pe baza unor cercetări laborioase de ani de zile.

să nu mă credeţi ştiinţofil şi filozofob, însă aşa m-am săturat de autori ageamii, că nu
Dec 27, 2009 Stephen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is, by turns, interesting and frustrating. Damasio knows his stuff when it comes to the details of neuroscience (which is to be expected because this is his field) and the details he supplies are fascinating. However, he overreaches himself when he tries to fit all these separate details into his one-size-fits-all model of how emotions and feelings interact together in a living brain; everything becomes ‘evidence’ for his overarching theory. Just because we have the one word ‘feelings’ ...more
Jan 13, 2010 cole rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If you buy the Enlightenment belief that scientific truth can be obtained and man made better for it, then take my review with a grain of salt. If you are convinced of the fact that using the terms "bad" and "human nature" in the same sentence is pretty acceptable, you won't like this too much.

Damasio's science seems interesting enough and does pose some engaging questions. However, there are far too many condescending logical leaps for me to stomach. The low point came with the rather absurd s
Juan Manuel  Charry Urueña
Jun 25, 2015 Juan Manuel Charry Urueña rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: main
Spinosa, a diferencia de Descartes, consideraba que cuerpo y alma tenían la misma sustancia. Este es el punto de partida de Damasio para explicar las emociones y sentimientos a partir de la neurobiología. Algunas de las cosas que dice el libro: El amor no es otra cosa que un estado placentero, alegría, acompañado por la idea de una causa externa (Spinoza). La mente humana es la idea del cuerpo humano. Tendemos a creer que lo oculto es el origen de lo que se expresa. El sentimiento es lo que real ...more
Nov 10, 2010 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain Antonio Damasio uses neurological and physiological markers to delineate the process of emotions and feelings. Then, he further integrates these scientific findings with social studies. This in and of itself was quite impressive and perhaps demonstrates the fields (e.g., what individuals call the soft sciences and hard sciences) coming together and taking a different integrative perspective of how mental health can be conceptualized.

Randal Samstag
Dec 16, 2012 Randal Samstag rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
For a devastating critique of this book see:

Quoted from the review, by philosopher of mind, Colin McGinn:

"I have two things to say about this theory: it is unoriginal, and it is false. As anyone even remotely familiar with this topic is aware, what Damasio presents here is known as the ''James-Lange'' theory of emotion, after the two psychologists, William James and Carl G. Lange, who thought of it independently in the 1880's. Not once does Damasio refe
Martijn ter Haar
Jul 27, 2015 Martijn ter Haar rated it it was amazing
Een zware bevalling, maar wel wel zeer de moeite. Goed, diepgaand boek over de neurologie van emoties en de daaruit volgende morele en ethische consequenties. Gevoel is een reflectie van de staat van het lichaam, emoties zijn complexen van gevoelens, het rationeel denken er over. De aanvankelijke richting dus lichaam -> geest en niet andersom. Daaruit kan je dit soort pop-pyschologie distilleren, maar dat doet Damasio gelukkig niet. Nauwelijks MRI scans in dit boek, maar veel Spinoza. Die had ...more
Divya Palevski
I liked this book but found some parts weary to read. When Damasio writes about the neurology of the feeling brain , it is easy to assemble the author's love for his subject. However, found his sentence structuring elaborately wounded ( I had to read some sentences twice) and repetitive.
But that being said, his monolistic view of mind/ brain and body and his reverence towards Baruch Spinoza is admirable. I believe in Monolism and the idea of feelings variably related to the homeostasis of the b
Ypatios Varelas
Antonio Damazio is a well respected neuro-scientist and in this book he tries to match his own, I believe well established for most parts, model of emotions and feelings with some of Spinoza's philosophy core concepts. Well, it's a nice try with a not so good result. I believe that the book would be much, much better if properly edited and hope this will happen in a future version.

Damasio presents some very good points on how the brain processes emotions, how feelings are separate from emotions
Alex Athanassakos
Jun 22, 2016 Alex Athanassakos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a well written book and at times almost lyrical (especially the first chapters on Spinoza). Damasio not only explains well the neuroscience of the brain but also the philosophy of Spinoza. The part about neuroscience comes from Damasio's own work and it has to do with how feelings and emotions, that underlie feelings, regulate our bodies to achieve survival and well-being. He also explains how Spinoza had said as much in the Ethics and how he stood alone against Descartes' mind-body dual ...more
Freddie Berg
Mar 04, 2014 Freddie Berg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent explication of many issues. Initially skipped a few sections on the complexity of neural electricity. Re-read other portions over several years, and still pick it up from time to time. Offered it to several friends. On my all time favorites shelf.
Freddie Berg
Feb 17, 2010 Freddie Berg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Never thought I would understand Spinoza. Never thought I would understand feelings. Never thought I would understand the psychophysiology and chemistry of the brain. Made me even more grateful to doctors and healers of all stripes and plaids.
Aprendi que emoções são diferentes de sentimentos. Embora em algumas partes o autor torne-se um bocado chato, muito técnico e repetitivo achei o tema muito interessante. Nunca pensei que fosse explicar os sentimentos assim!
This book is an ending of a trilogy that includes "Descartes Error" and "Self Comes to Mind." Damasio meant this book to be a 'progress report' on his neurobiological account of feelings and its human significance. However, I am disappointed to say that it does not offer much new; in fact, I prefer, and recommend, "Descartes Error" over this book since it provides a more detailed elucidation on his neurobiological theory of emotion and feeling, which I presume to be the reader's main interest. N ...more
Jan 05, 2010 Andrea rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So far not as good as "Blink" or "Opening Skinner's Box".
Fernando Pereira
Nov 29, 2014 Fernando Pereira rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A parte mais técnica do livro diferencia emoções de sentimentos, aborda as circunstâncias que os despoletam, as reacções que provocam, a sua relação com o nosso organismo, como tudo se processa ao nível do nosso cérebro e quais as funções que desempenham.
Uma outra parte aborda a questão da mente, da sua natureza - biológica ou etérea - e da sua relação com o corpo.
Ao longo de todo o livro o autor oferece-nos um retrato biográfico fascinante de Espinosa e dos seus pensammentos em relação aos tema
Slade Chandler
Jan 30, 2014 Slade Chandler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I applaud Damassio for the use of Spinoza as a backdrop in bringing to light the science of emotion and feeling. In doing so, Spinoza not only served as a catalyst for Damassio’s highly academic approach in showing that emotion is indeed a physical entity with a mechanical process like that of a synapse/axon relationship (excuse the analogy, I am a layman in comparison), but also promoted Spinoza’s work giving it its due respect in the world of the hard sciences. Damassio’s "Looking for Spinoza. ...more
Aug 24, 2010 Jorge rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Comentários à versão portuguesa : "Ao encontro de Espinosa, as emoções sociais e a neurologia do ser".

Achei o livro muito interessante. Embora não estando qualificado para emitir uma opinião técnica, as teses sobre a importância das emoções e dos sentimentos e de como evoluiram e se relacionam no nosso corpo, incluindo obviamente o cérebro, pareceram-me convincentes ainda que eventualmente, como reconhece o próprio autor, um pouco especulativas. Claro que sendo um neurologista, António Damásio d
Jason Edgar
Nov 10, 2010 Jason Edgar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have often tried to conceptualize “what are feelings and emotions.” Often feelings and emotions are presented as the opposite of logic and reason. There is a common belief that logic cannot exist where emotion is present. As a therapist I have seen this theory in action many times, and have used this theory in conceptualizing the root problems of my clients. When a client presents as overly emotional, I try to inject more logical and rational thinking in their lives and on the flipside when a ...more
Feb 01, 2013 Andy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was fascinating.

The sections where Damasio writes about the physical systems of reflex, emotion, and feeling, and about the multi-directional linkages between them, are clear, compelling, and enlightening. I found that the book made me conscious of what was going on in my body, and I found that I was reflecting on how much work the brain and the mind do below the level of consciousness. For a while I felt quite awkward as I brought a lot of normally unconscious things into conscious awarene
Jeff Crompton
Oct 14, 2012 Jeff Crompton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was not quite the book I expected, but I'm glad I read it. Damásio, a neurologist, delved more heavily into neurobiology than I was really interested in reading - I don't really care what part of the brain is the center for a particular emotion - but that part of the book was probably a necessary foundation. The main thrust concerned the difference between emotion and feeling, and how feelings make us human. Particularly interesting to me was the idea that social behaviors - ethics, convent ...more
Frans van Liempt
Heel interessant vond ik de hoofdstukken 2 en 3 over de neurobiologische inzichten in emoties en gevoelens. De gedachten dat emoties een gefaseerd verloop hebben en er een verschil is tussen emoties en gevoelens waren nieuw voor mij. Terwijl deze onderwerpen bij uitstek de specialiteit van Damasio zijn, zijn deze hoofdstukken merkwaardig genoeg het meest stroef geschreven (of vertaald). Hoofdstuk 4 sluit ook aan op de neurobiologie - en op voorwetenschappelijke noties van overleven en zelfbehoud ...more
Aug 07, 2008 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“If we do not exist under oppression or in famine and yet cannot convince ourselves how lucky we are to be alive, perhaps we are not trying hard enough.” -Antonio Damasio in Searching for Spinoza.

“to face the music and dance [anyway]” Damasio’s conception of the human condition and what to do about it.

I enjoyed this book even though it was somewhat dry. I think Damasio's purpose is admirable. He is trying to reconcile current findings in neuroscience with philosophy. In this case, the philosophy
Janet Eshenroder
The author thoughtfully and thoroughly presented some interesting concepts. Written (I assume) for lay readers as well as professionals, it is by no means a fast and easy read (it helps to have a solid background in science).

"The contents of feelings are the configurations of body state represented in somatosensing maps. But now we can add that the transient patterns of body state do change rapidly during the unfolding of an occasion of feeling. Moreover, both the positive/negative valence of f
Jun 13, 2012 Karate1kid rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am not sure I liked the philosophical part so sometimes I simply skipped those passages. But the neurobiological discussion of emotions and feelings was eye opening - both the part supported by evidence and the more speculative theories.

The discussion was clear enough even for someone like me (no acquaintance with biology outside the very basics, though I've read popular science books about evolution). I believe that the evolutionary point of view contributed a lot to demistifying and simplify
Damasio is a neurologist who has revolutionized our understanding of the interconnections of emotion and reason, mind and body. He continues this work in his latest book exploring the underpinnings of emotional experience and what purpose the conscious experience of emotion may serve. His clinical examples of brain injured patients continue to serve as enlightening examples of how severing the links of felt emotions change more about us than we might otherwise think. Damasio also explores the li ...more
Peter Mantius
Damasio tries to link cutting edge research on brain function to the 17th century philosopher who thought religion would be better off shedding its doctrines based on the supernatural. The technical sections about the brain are a bit tough to follow, but the Spinoza background and connections are fascinating.

Damasio is at his best when he is doing work just beyond his science. He expertly implicates neurology into the most profound aspects of life, and in the first half of the book, Damasio is on track to match his masterpiece, "Descartes' Error,' but then he goes awry. If he is at his best just beyond the realm of science, he is at his worst when he goes too far in his philosophy. For the second half of the book Damasio goes into his own particular philosophy based on his work in neurology, but his ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • How Brains Think: Evolving Intelligence, Then And Now
  • The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life
  • Sweet Dreams: Philosophical Obstacles to a Science of Consciousness
  • Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness
  • Why We Believe What We Believe: Uncovering Our Biological Need for Meaning, Spirituality, and Truth
  • Spinoza: A Life
  • Zen and the Brain
  • The Executive Brain: Frontal Lobes and the Civilized Mind
  • Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter
  • The Illusion of Conscious Will
  • Second Nature: Brain Science and Human Knowledge
  • The Ethical Brain: The Science of Our Moral Dilemmas
  • The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience
  • Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality
  • The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World
  • The Private Life of the Brain: Emotions, Consciousness, and the Secret Life of the Self
  • Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul
  • The "God" Part of the Brain: A Scientific Interpretation of Human Spirituality and God
Damásio studied medicine at the University of Lisbon Medical School in Portugal, where he also did his medical residency rotation and completed his doctorate. Later, he moved to the United States as a research fellow at the Aphasia Research Center in Boston. His work there on behavioral neurology was done under the supervision of Norman Geschwind.

As a researcher, Dr. Damásio's main interest is the
More about António R. Damásio...

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“Leaving out appraisal also would render the biological description of the phenomena of emotion vulnerable to the caricature that emotions without an appraisal phase are meaningless events. It would be more difficult to see how beautiful and amazingly intelligent emotions can be, and how powerfully they can solve problems for us.” 14 likes
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