Saturday, April 19, 2003
Apparently Spinoza was right after all.
Lately, scientists have begun to approach consciousness in more Spinozist terms: as a complex and indivisible mind-brain-body system. And now Dr. Antonio Damasio, the head of neurology at the University of Iowa Medical Center in Iowa City and leading anti-Cartesian crusader, says that Spinoza was right in other ways as well. In particular, Dr. Damasio argues in his new book, "Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain" (Harcourt, 2003), the philosopher anticipated one of brain science's most important recent discoveries: the critical role of the emotions in ensuring our survival and allowing us to think. Feeling, it turns out, is not the enemy of reason, but, as Spinoza saw it, an indispensable accomplice.
"Science is proving Spinoza more current," Dr. Damasio said over tea at his hotel during a recent visit to New York. "He intuited the basic mechanism of the emotions."