In his 2017 study, Antonio Damasio, whose celebrated 1994 book argues Descartes got it wrong, addresses our long lineage that begins with single living cells

Antonio Damasio, whose 1994 book argues Descartes got it wrong, continues the discussion about the larger, wider context of life.

I have added a note about Antonio Damasio’s work at a previous post, about the world-wide phenomenon of disappearing coastlines. By way of bringing attention to Damasio’s work, the current post repeats the note, which is devoted to two of his books – one from 1994 and the other from 2017.

The Strange Order of Things (2017)

A study entitled The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of the Cultures (2017) offers valuable observations regarding the larger context of life.

An excerpt from a blurb at the Toronto Public Library website, for the above-noted book, reads:

Antonio Damasio makes clear that we descend biologically, psychologically, and even socially from a long lineage that begins with single living cells; that our minds and cultures are linked by an invisible thread to the ways and means of ancient unicellular life and other primitive life-forms; and that inherent in our very chemistry is a powerful force, a striving toward life maintenance that governs life in all its guises, including the development of genes that help regulate and transmit life.

Descartes’ Error (1994)

Antonio Damasio is also author of Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (1994), references to which I have encountered many times over the years. An excerpt from a blurb at the Toronto Public Library reads:

In the course of explaining how emotions and feelings contribute to reason and to adaptive social behavior, Damasio also offers a novel perspective on what emotions and feelings actually are: a direct sensing of our own body states, a link between the body and its survival-oriented regulations, on the one hand, and consciousness, on the other. Descartes’ Error leads us to conclude that human organisms are endowed from the very beginning with a spirited passion for making choices, which the social mind can use to build rational behavior.

Additional recent studies about Descartes, Erasmus, and Luther

I have an interest in learning about the philosophical narratives that provided some of the underpinnings for the French Revolution.

I have an interest, in this context, in determining what influence, if any, Descartes had in this area.

Descartes (2000)

A related study is entitled: Descartes: A Very Short Introduction (2000)

An excerpt from a blurb at the Toronto Public Library website reads:

In this book Tom Sorrell shows that Descartes was, above all, an advocate and practitioner of a new mathematical approach to physics, and that he developed his metaphysics to support his programme in the sciences.

Descartes (2005) & Fatal Discord (2018)

Descartes: The Life of René Descartes and Its Place in His Times (2005)

An excerpt from a blurb at the Toronto Public Library website reads:

Before his death in 1650 Descartes made immense contributions to an exceptionally wide range of fields and disciplines, and his assertion ‘Cogito, ergo sum’ (‘I think, therefore I am’) has become one of the most famous maxims in all philosophy. He was the very archetype of a ‘Renaissance man’, and yet surprisingly little is known about him. Drawing on new research and his own insights as one of our leading philosophers, A. C. Grayling presents a stunningly accessible and fascinating portrait of the man and the remarkable era in which he lived.

Of related interest is a recent study entitled: Fatal Discord: Erasmus, Luther, and the Fight for the Western Mind (2018).

An excerpt from a blurb at the Toronto Public Library site reads:

In Fatal Discord, Michael Massing seeks to restore Erasmus to his proper place in the Western tradition. The conflict between him and Luther, he argues, forms a fault line in Western thinking–the moment when two enduring schools of thought, Christian humanism and evangelical Christianity, took shape.


As a blogger, I do better with excerpts from blurbs, than with posting of entire blurbs for books. Site visitors are more likely to read and the excerpts, whereas the longer blurbs are less likely to register. The excerpts, in a sense, serve as soundbites.

A further thought – or corollary – occurs to me, based upon my volunteer media relations work and my reading of Marshall McLuhan and Harold Innis.

The thought is: Life is about soundbites, and in order for soundbites to useful, it can be helpful if they are based upon evidence.

Without evidence, things go downhill, slide into the abyss.

Evidence-based communications about climate change

As I have also noted at a previous post, I follow the work of Yale Climate Connections, which is concerned with an evidence-based approach to communications about climate change.

An April 26, 2018 article at the Yale Climate Connections website is entitled: “Climate change communication and activism April brought the 2nd March for Science and the 48th anniversary of Earth Day. As the month ends, here are some titles to help with the work that must follow: communicating climate change.”

The opening paragraphs read:

Last June, Yale Climate Connections published a two-part bookshelf devoted to books and reports on climate change communication. The last book in that selection was published in April 2017.

This bookshelf highlights books published since then and includes recent titles on climate change activism. It includes two new reference works on climate change communication. A separate review of one of these three-volume sets, Handbook of Climate Change Communication, will be posted this summer. The descriptions and links for both of these major releases are at the end of this list.

1 reply
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    More on Descartes: An Oct. 14, 2021 San Francisco Chronicle article is entitled: “Physicist Fritjof Capra charts 50 years of science and philosophy in ‘Patterns of Connection’”.

    I don’t know what the author knows about mysticism, but I find his comments about Descartes of interest; an excerpt from the article reads:

    Q: You’ve long advocated for the abandonment of linear thought and mechanistic views of Descartes. Can you point to efforts that are succeeding in this shift?

    A: Linear, mechanistic science has been very successful from the time of the scientific revolution in the 17th century (Bacon, Newton). This has provided a successful basis for scientific inquiry. But at the same time, the world got more populated and more interconnected. As this happened, it became more evident that we are all living in networks within networks. We discovered 100 years ago the network structure of ecosystems, and subsequently the importance of networks in all living systems.

    Today, everybody knows that social networks are very important. … A network is a certain pattern of links and relationships, and it is nonlinear. In order to understand networks we need to learn to think in patterns and relationships. But this nonlinear way of thinking and acting is something that we are not used to, as most of us have been educated in this nonlinear way. It’s difficult to overcome.


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