The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures

The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures

From one of our preeminent neuroscientists: a landmark reflection that spans the biological and social sciences, offering a new way of understanding the origins of life, feeling, and culture.The Strange Order of Things is a pathbreaking investigation into homeostasis, the condition of that regulates human physiology within the range that makes possible not only the surviva...

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Title:The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures
Author:António R. Damásio
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The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures Reviews

  • Maria Ferreira

    António Damásio divide o livro em três partes:

    Consiste em olhar o individuo por dentro, desde as bactérias às enzimas e células nervosas, responde a questões puramente biológicas de como o individuo sente a dor física e como a mente perceciona essa dor.

    Fala-nos sobre a homeostasia, como seja um conjunto de operações que o nosso organismo executa para persistir e prevalecer.

    Os sentimentos e a homeostasia estão associados de modo próximo e consistent

    António Damásio divide o livro em três partes:

    Consiste em olhar o individuo por dentro, desde as bactérias às enzimas e células nervosas, responde a questões puramente biológicas de como o individuo sente a dor física e como a mente perceciona essa dor.

    Fala-nos sobre a homeostasia, como seja um conjunto de operações que o nosso organismo executa para persistir e prevalecer.

    Os sentimentos e a homeostasia estão associados de modo próximo e consistente. Os sentimentos são as experiências subjetivas do estado da vida, ou seja, da homeostasia, em todas as criaturas dotadas de mente e de um ponto de vista consciente.

    Nesta parte o autor revela como o homem observa, reflete e age. Nós, seres humanos importamos para a nossa mente as imagens percecionadas pelos nossos 5 sentidos: olfato, visão, tato, audição e paladar, e a partir dessas imagens que a nossa mente recebe do exterior, armazena na memória e dá-lhes um sentido, ou seja cria as suas próprias narrativas a partir destas imagens e da nossa experiência vivida, aguarda igualmente na memória permitindo-lhe mais tarde recordar e contar ao outro. Foi através deste processo que foi evoluindo progressivamente e lentamente a mente humana.

    O autor revela que subjacente a este processo está a emoção do medo, o facto do homem percecionar o perigo e de sentir dor é que nos motiva a agir em conformidade para terminar com esta sensação desagradável. Duas grandes ações extremamente importantes e eficazes para o homem foi o domínio do fogo e a invenção da alquimia, que deu origem à medicina.

    A descoberta da forma de controlar o fogo, foi das invenções mais importantes para a civilização, em imensos aspetos que não valerá a pena aqui falar sobre todos, mas um que o autor revela no livro achei muito curioso. Após o domínio do fogo o homem passou a dormir menos horas e permanecer mais tempo acordado ao final do dia, pelo que enquanto cozinhavam, comiam e se aqueciam em torno da fogueira passaram igualmente a conviver mais, a contar histórias das atividades diurnas, umas verdadeiras, outras fantasiadas, a criar utensílios de caça, a fabricar as roupas para satisfazer muitas das necessidades básicas, mas não só, também a partir destes momentos que se passou a dar mais importância aos afetos e às emoções, à construção dos sentimentos, a refletir sobre as experiências vivenciadas e sentidas na dualidade corpo-cérebro, resultando no aparecimento das artes e rituais, a musica, a dança, o teatro, as pinturas seriam uma manifestação artística para responder ao desejo de manifestar emoções positivas como a alegria, o prazer e a paixão.

    Após ficarmos a conhecer o nosso corpo biológico, o funcionamento do cérebro e as interligações corpo – cérebro reportando o nosso passado até 2017, justificando porque somos como somos. O autor faz uma breve analise sobre o homem cultural social, o mundo que nos rodeia.

    Embora faça a ponte entre o homem biológico e intelectual, o autor pretendeu deixar a sua opinião sobre a politica, as crenças religiosas, a medicina, a crise económica, a ausência de valores morais, a tecnologia e os conflitos mundiais. Uma das criticas que fez foi a Yuval Harari no seu livro Homo Deus em que este refere que os organismos vivos são algoritmos, logo programáveis, logo com capacidade de se auto desenvolver e controlar o mundo levando ao extermínio da humanidade, algo fatalista e irreal. Damásio responde assim a yuval:

  • Charlene

    This is a hugely important book and one worth reading. Why? Because Damasio has joined the ranks of scientists such as Nick Lane (mentioned in the book) and Jeremy England (not mentioned) who are giving the "modern" synthesis of evolution a much needed update. This update replaces the gene centered theory with a theory centered on thermodynamics. As Damasio outlined in this book, there are 2 approaches scientists are taking when trying to understand the origins of life:

    1. Genes first, champione

    This is a hugely important book and one worth reading. Why? Because Damasio has joined the ranks of scientists such as Nick Lane (mentioned in the book) and Jeremy England (not mentioned) who are giving the "modern" synthesis of evolution a much needed update. This update replaces the gene centered theory with a theory centered on thermodynamics. As Damasio outlined in this book, there are 2 approaches scientists are taking when trying to understand the origins of life:

    1. Genes first, championed by Dawkins and the like, which suggests genes came first and replicated.

    2. Metabolism first, which suggests metabolism predated genes and in fact gave rise to genes. This dethrones the selfish gene (finally!) and paints a more accurate picture of the evolution of every species as yet another way for an organism to capture and circulate energy. Unlike genes first, metabolism first can account for the energy needed to create the molecules of life. Deep hydrothermal vents, which of course do not have genes, provide an acidic environment in which all that H+ acted like a battery, allowing bonds to be broken and made, thus making the molecules of life. RNA world and other gene centered theories simply cannot account for the energy needed to put these molecules and cells together so that evolution of living organisms can get a foothold. Damasio thanks Martin and Lane (and Russell) for their work on this front, as do I because it was paradigm shifting.

    Damasio makes his arguments for metabolism first by focusing on the evolution of emotions. I cannot say I was a fan of the second half of the book, which offered a lot of philosophical musings I had heard many, many times before. But the first half of the book was truly exceptional. Damasio argued that feelings have shaped our culture and those feelings have arisen from homeostatic processes that can be traced back to single cells. If anyone can make this argument, it's Damasio's, whose research dominated my neuroscience textbooks. I cannot recall one professor at Penn who was not in awe of his excellent work over the many decades he has been studying the brain. Damasio argued that emotions themselves were a product of the very first hoeostatic processes at work *while* assembling genes at the hydrothermal vents, pre-dating genes. Thus, the evolution of emotions arises from those processes and not from genes. Genes themselves arise from homeostatic processes and not the other way around because homeostatic processes developed before the creation of genes. Homeostatic processes have been passed down through every generation. Genes were merely a way to help these processes occur inside organisms. At the end of the day, homeostatic processes arise because of the second law of thermodynamics. They are a thermodynamic process. Genes were created to aid this process. This process was not created to aid the passing down of genes. The passing down of genes certainly continues to help this process occur in each species, but the gene is a helper, not the star of the show.

    As organisms continued to gain complexity, their homeostatic processes in turn became more complex as well. For example, when organisms evolved nerves, their homeostatic processes were regulated via these nerves. As the nerves (brains) became more and more complex, so too did the homeostatic processes that govern those nerve networks. As a result, we all have internal drives. (I cannot think of another scientists who has done more to study internal drives. See Damasio's work on impulse, galvanic skin response, etc to learn more about internal drives and associated brain regions). The internal drives common to population of humans served as the drivers for the very development of civilization. Consider bacteria and criminal justice. Bacteria do not even have nerves; and yet, they engage in punishing non cooperators. It's easy to imagine how this developed into a criminal justice system (flawed or not) in organisms with more complex bodies (namely brains). Other examples are provided about the evolution of punishment, creation, and other aspects of human existence that have helped build all of the civilizations from the beginning of recorded history.

    Damasio suggested we take the "static" part out of homeostatic processes because they are anything but static. Rather, they are homeodynamic because these internal states are always active, striving to help the organism maintain the optimal state. Being in that state requires constant internal work that requires a lot of cooperation between cells, organs, hormones, etc -- a very dynamic process. His discussion on this type of cooperation inside organisms was very pointed at the Dawkins minded scientists who still subscribe to the conflict only, selfish gene paradigm. In the end, it is homeostasis and not genes that drive organisms to survive, thrive, and live on throughout the generations. It is this drive that has led to the cultural practices that appear to help global progress that has resulted in longer lives, on average, and will continue to focus on better sustaining the life process.

    Damasio could not refrain from talking about the transhumanists who believe they can make an AI that preserves the brains of humans. He suggested they forgot about the fact that the brain had to work with the many microbes (and their homeostatic processes) and other cells inside the body. He, imo, is short sighted in this regard. I can imagine that eventually transhumanists will simply come to understand what role microbes and other cells, and their homeostatic processes, play in governing the brain and body and they will simply incorporate that into their AI. Seems shortsighted to be so confident in ruling that out. Instead, it would have been better to simply list the challenges to current models of AI. For example, being clear that they will need to take the role of microbes into account. That is something missing from Kurzweil's arguments. So it adds to the discussion. Ruling out the possibility that they can incorporate microbes seems far less helpful.

    If for no other reason, you should read this book to understand, in great and fantastic detail, the evolution of our senses. Just brilliant.

    One last note: Damasio mentioned the work of John Torday, whose work I love. He called him a kindred spirit but barely gave the reader an idea of what Torday's work entails. I highly recommend reading his academic articles on evolution and homeostasis.

  • Gary

    This book provides an incredibly good way to think about order, origins of life and life. Anytime one can look at a problem coherently from a different perspective one can develop a deeper insight and understand the nature of reality just a little bit better than they did before. For example, I love ‘information theory’ and how it can be used to explain the universe as a paradigm for fundamental understanding of the quantum nature of the universe even to the degree that one of the most famous ph

    This book provides an incredibly good way to think about order, origins of life and life. Anytime one can look at a problem coherently from a different perspective one can develop a deeper insight and understand the nature of reality just a little bit better than they did before. For example, I love ‘information theory’ and how it can be used to explain the universe as a paradigm for fundamental understanding of the quantum nature of the universe even to the degree that one of the most famous physicist in recent times, John Archibald Wheeler, would say that ‘it from bit’ explains our universe, that ‘existence comes from information’ (this is not germane to my point, but someday when you have time look up Rule 110 on wiki you’ll be able to understand how a universal computing machine that is Turing complete can come from an incredibly simple algorithm thus leading to a complex universe as ours appears to be) , and that Claude Shannon would show that the second law of thermodynamics (Entropy) can be restated inversely in terms of information theory. (Shannon actually seemed to be a hero of the author of this book).

    This book deals with biology more than physics but the author has an alternative way of thinking about biological life arising from chemical processes leading to humans rather than appealing to the standard paradigmatic archetype most of us are already familiar with. He’s going to show how order arises from chaos through homeostasis and metabolism (stealing useful energy from outside of oneself) explains the origin of life and intelligent life.

    Spinoza will say and the author will paraphrase him as such ‘everything (both mental and physical) strives (Latin: conatus) to preserve in its being’. In order to do that, the thing in question must steal useful energy (or order) from somewhere outside of itself and it must preserve its nature or it will lose its nature. This is the paradigm the author describes, the homeostasis, the striving (the clinging, the endeavor, the will (that’s what Schopenhauer speaks about, by all means read his Volume I of ‘Will and Representation’, the ‘will to power’ (Nietzsche takes Spinoza’s conatus and Schopenhauer’s’ ‘will’ to come up with this same idea that the author gives except they can’t use those words because they haven’t been codified in their time period)) and the stealing of useful energy from outside of itself thus leading to an increase of entropy in the system as a whole but a decrease in entropy in the thing (the entity).

    I’m easily irritated with willfully ignorant people. One of my pet peeves is someone who says that since we weren’t there we can’t possibly know what happened therefore ‘god did it’ (Rush Limbaugh did exactly that the day after Stephen Hawking died and dismissed the ‘big bang’ in his ravings). This book gives a beautiful retort to such stupidity in abiogenesis. Before there were bacteria there were chemical processes. The processes that stayed around and evolved are the ones that reached a steady state with a modicum of homeostasis and metabolic systems at play (and it probably happened in undersea vents. One of the few places on Earth where the energy doesn’t come from the sun. It comes from the radiation left over from the accretion of the earth during its formation).

    The author in the first two thirds of the book never just states things. He builds his argument across time and across space. The body develops before the central nervous system in its evolutionary development. Our emotive, temperament and mood happened before our feelings. Our feelings come before our reason both evolutionary and developmentally. A really smart biologist can prove evolution by analyzing the taxonomy of the current living organisms of the now. The fossil record is not necessary for them to prove evolution and its development over time, but the biologist also has the fossil record to make their story even more complete. A neuroscientist, as the author is, also has brain development and processes to add to the equation. This author uses every fact at his disposal in his telling for the development of the self awareness that humans possess.

    Logic only preserves truth. It cannot create truth. The feelings we have from our emotive, temperament and mood give us the narrative and the intuition that we need in giving us our self awareness (consciousness) and the story that we end up telling ourselves. Our subjective selves come from our feelings not from our logic based rational selves. (I think all of this is in his book in one way another). He believes our mental states come from our experiences. He even ended one chapter by saying something along the lines that ‘Proust explains it in ‘Swann’s Way’’). It’s too bad he ended that chapter like that because I think Proust had it better than this book does, and also I think ‘How Emotions are Made’ by Lisa Barrett follows Proust more closely and they both wisely stay away from absolute mental states.

    I thought the last third of this book never should have been written. He was really out of his depth. He speaks about AI, trans-humanism, camp fires, religion, Adorno, Pinker, Freud and his death wish as expressed in ‘Civilizations and its Discontents’ and many other topics. Matter of fact, I’m currently reading ‘Feminine Law’ and the name and idea dropping between the that book and the last third of this book surprised me in their overlap, but for ‘Feminine Law’ she’s a specialist in the field of psychoanalysis and this author does not seem to be. I can say two nice things about the end of the book, he’s trying to connect his thesis with reality, and secondly he actually predicts the ‘Cambridge Analytics’ and Facebook scandal with incredible prescience.

    In spite of the train wreck of the last third of the book, the first two thirds make this book a special find and I would definitely recommend it.

  • João Carlos

    (n. 1944)

    O português

    (n. 1944) – médico, neurologista e neurocientista, é professor da cátedra

    de “Neurociência, Psicologia e Filosofia", e director do

    na

    , em Los Angeles, Estados Unidos da América.

    Com o seu primeiro livro –

    -

    pretende

    (n. 1944)

    O português

    (n. 1944) – médico, neurologista e neurocientista, é professor da cátedra

    de “Neurociência, Psicologia e Filosofia", e director do

    na

    , em Los Angeles, Estados Unidos da América.

    Com o seu primeiro livro –

    -

    pretende

    No início de

    ,

    refere:

    Em

    surgem inúmeros conceitos e ideias numa busca incessante por nova(s) teoria(s) que interligam os

    e a

    com a(s) cultura(s). Como é que se iniciaram determinados processos – ou como é que evoluíram? A questão da linguagem verbal surge a par de outras características notáveis, como a sociabilidade intensa e um intelecto superior. Há, no entanto, um motivo poderoso que é inquestionável – os

    .

    (Pág. 15)

    (Pág. 17)

    Quase no final do primeiro capítulo

    refere:

    (Pág. 19)

    Ao ler

    apreendemos que mais que a excepcional inteligência humana e a linguagem são os sentimentos as forças primordiais que amplificam a saga das culturas humanas. A ausência de sentimento(s) é incompatível com a vida humana – existindo em qualquer ser o objectivo de estabilizar o seu ambiente interno – a

    .

    Nem sempre de leitura fácil -

    é uma excelente “mistura” entre detalhes científicos e filosóficos, numa reflexão assente nos detalhes biológicos e sociais, sobre os caminhos percorridos desde a origem da vida até aos nossos dias.

  • Owlseyes

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