Damasio, Antonio. “Stepping into the Light”

Damasio, Antonio. The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness. New York, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999.

To remember:

  • Whether individually experienced or observed, pathos is a by-product of consciousness and so is desire (4).
  • At its simplest and most basic level, consciousness lets us recognize an irresistible urge to stay alive and develop a concern for the self. At its most complex and elaborate level, consciousness helps us develop a concern for other selves and improve the art of life (5).
  • three distinct although closely related phenomena: an emotion, the feeling of that emotion, and knowing that we have a feeling of that emotion (8).
  • [the twofold problem of consciousness:] The first is the problem of understanding how the brain inside the human organism engenders the mental patterns we call, for lack of a better term, the images of an object … [The second is]the problem of how, in parallel with engendering mental patterns for an object, the brain also engenders a sense of self in the act of knowing (9).
  • consciousness is not a monolith (16).
  • The sense of self which emerges in core consciousness is the core self, a transient entity, ceaselessly re-created for each and every object with which the brain interacts. Our traditional notion of self, however, is linked to the idea of identity and corresponds to a nontransient collection of unique facts and ways of being which characterize a person. My term for that entity is the autobiographical self (17).
  • If ‘self-consciousness’ is taken to mean ‘consciousness with a sense of self,’ then all human consciousness is covered by the term-there is just no other kind of consciousness as far as I can see (19).
  • two key players [in the problem of consciousness], the organism and the object, and … the relationships those players hold in the course of their natural interactions (19).
  • in the relationship play of consciousness, the organism is represented in the brain, abundantly and multifariously, and that representation is tied to the maintenance of the life process … life and consciousness, specifically the self aspect of consciousness, are indelibly interwoven (23).
  • Consciousness, when it appears in evolution, announces the dawn of individual forethought (25).
  • Spinoza said that the effort to preserve oneself is the first and unique foundation of virtue. Consciousness enables that effort (25).
  • consciousness was invented so we could know life (31).
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