"Here, in a humane work of science, Damasio draws on his innovative research and on his experience with neurological patients to examine how feelings and the emotions that underlie them support the human spirit's greatest creations." "Damasio's new book focuses on what feelings are and reveals the biology of our survival mechanisms. It rediscovers a thinker whose work prefigures modern neuroscience, not only in his emphasis on emotions and feelings, but also in his refusal to separate mind and body. Together, the scientist and the philosopher help us understand what we are made of and what we are here for. Based on laboratory investigations but mindful of society and culture, Looking for Spinoza offers unexpected grounds for optimism about the human condition and is a masterwork of science and writing."--BOOK JACKET.
So it is that Spinoza’s ideas, largely suppressed as heresy in his own time, have received appreciative treatment in several recent works, notably in Looking for Spinoza. Author Antonio Damasio, head of the department of neurology at the University of Iowa Medical Center, links cutting edge neurobiological research with the Spinoza’s philosophy. As it turns out, they dovetail beautifully. Damasio relates how Spinoza anticipated modern findings about the biological basis of feelings and consciousness.
Although Damasio plumbs the biological underpinnings of spirituality, he strives to avoid reductionism: “By connecting spiritual experiences to the neurobiology of feelings, my purpose is not to reduce the sublime to the mechanic and by so doing reduce its dignity. The purpose is to suggest that the sublimity of the spiritual is embodied in the sublimity of biology and that we can begin to understand the process in biological terms. As for the results of the process, there is no need and no value to explaining them: The experience of the spiritual amply suffices."
"Accounting for the physiological process behind the spiritual does not explain the mystery of the life process to which that particular feeling is connected. It reveals the connection to the mystery but not the mystery itself. Spinoza and those thinkers whose ideas have Spinozian elements make feelings come full circle, from life in progress, which is where they originate, to the sources of life, toward which they point.”
The introduction of Spinoza thesis is not necessary and a kind of a secondary story.
Read Aug 2006
The book was written in 2003. As such, I am not sure if there have been any further developments on this topic that either enhance or diminish Damasio's theory of feelings. But the part about Spinoza is worth reading given the fact that Spinoza is a very well-know, but little-read, philosopher, mainly because of his difficult-to-read writing style.