Volume 14, 2018
History of Philosophy
Antonio Damasio about Descartes and Spinoza on Passions and the Body
This paper focuses on Antonio Damasio’s recent reinterpretation of Descartes’s and Spinoza’s philosophy. Damasio underlines, from an interdisciplinary perspective, the relevance of philosophical conceptions of the mind to current, neurological research on emotion. His main thesis affirms that some 17th century philosophical concepts can be useful within the framework of contemporary research on the human brain and the emotions. Damasio’s work is also an effort to foster dialogue between the humanities and natural sciences within the field of scientific research on human emotions. The thesis expounded in several of Damasio’s works is the necessity of overcoming the mind-body dualism. While Damasio’s evaluation of cartesian philosophy is superficial and underestimates Descartes’s last work, Les passions de l’âme, his approach to Spinoza’s philosophy is more accurate. His interpretation of the concept of “conatus” in terms of homeostatic self-regulation of the organism seems interesting also for a reappraisal of the XVII century’s philosophical debate and its use in a contemporary scientific context.