The director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles explores how biology, neuroscience, psychology and artificial intelligence have given us the tools to unlock the mysteries of human consciousness.
... a grand synthesis of how sensing, emotion, and rational thinking cooperate to elucidate the biological roots of consciousness. Forty-eight brief and provocative chapters provide much to consider. Is it too much to call this latest book magisterial? ... What ultimately renders Damasio’s arguments persuasive is the way his premises flow from broad, general principles, particularly that of homeostasis, which is the drive within all organisms to maintain a stable internal milieu.
Each of these mini-chapters reads rather like a prose poem—often soaring to lyrical heights, though sometimes weighted down by bits of neuroscientific argot. 'Focused,' though, is not the mot juste for it: Despite its brevity, it can be meandering and repetitious ... Crucial ideas often lie enshrouded in an elegant mist of metaphor. Still, the quality of the author’s mind, the boldness of his aims and the suspense of his argument propelled me through the book ... What’s not to like? Plenty! First, Damasio has adroitly dodged the 'hard problem' ... For Damasio to use the terms 'images' and 'feelings' to refer to these electrochemical events is to make them sound already conscious—which might be called the fallacy of tendentious nomenclature. Second, for Damasio consciousness requires possessing a sense of self, an ability to entertain 'me-ish' thoughts. But most mammals seem to have no such sense of self ...
Third, Damasio’s category of 'feeling' is too capacious ... But if Damasio’s account of consciousness is not an unqualified success, that merely puts him in the company of all the other distinguished scientists and philosophers who have tried to crack this conundrum. And happily, Feeling & Knowing has supplementary virtues that make it well worth reading.
... a short but definitely not superficial investigation of consciousness, widely but wrongly looked on as mysterious ... Damasio writes lucid prose clearly addressed to a popular audience. Even better, the book is concise ... Make no mistake, however; Damasio is a deep thinker familiar with multiple disciplines, and this is as much a work of philosophy as hard science. Readers familiar with college level psychology and neuroscience will discover rewarding insights ... Penetrating observations and speculations for scientifically inclined readers.