1. Standard memberBosse de Nage
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    16 Oct '06 08:17
    I might be falling under his spell. Should I take the plunge?
  2. Standard memberPalynka
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    16 Oct '06 18:17
    Definitely an interesting read. I'd also suggest Antonio Damasio's 'Looking for Spinoza'. Here's a quickly googled interview for a taste of the neurologist's book.

    Q: Much of the work you have done in the lab and with your previous books explored the role that emotions play in decision-making and in the construction of the self. In your new book, LOOKING FOR SPINOZA you seem to be presenting a progress report on our understanding of the nature and significance of feelings. What is new here? What have you found out?
    A: Neuroscience is advancing at a fast pace. As of four years ago, when my last book was published, we had a reasonable hypothesis regarding the brain basis for feeling, but no certainties. Now, we can speak with confidence about "what feelings are" - where they come from, how they happen, what they are made of biologically. That is why the book's subtitle is the "feeling brain." We have identified brain areas and brain pathways necessary to feel emotions. Armed with the new knowledge we can even venture to say what feelings are for. The new knowledge broadens our view of human nature. We can not really know who we are if we do not understand the brain mechanisms behind emotion and feeling - what causes emotions, what leads to feelings, how they affect our decisions, social behavior, and creativity, and where they fit in evolution.

    Q: What value does understanding the difference between emotions and feelings have?
    A: Understanding the difference between emotions and feelings removed a barrier to research on the nature of affect, and opened the way to elucidating the origin and content of feelings.

    Q: Are there neurobiological foundations for Ethics?
    A: Yes there are. One of the payoffs of the new understanding of emotions and feelings is the realization that moral behavior does not begin with humans. In certain circumstances numerous non-human species behave in ways that are, for all intents and purposes, comparable to the moral ways of human beings. Interestingly, the moral behaviors are emotional -compassion, shame, indignation, dominant pride or submission. As in the case of culture, the contribution of everything that is learned and created in a group plays a major role in shaping moral behaviors. Only humans can codify and refine rules of moral behavior. Animals can behave in moral-like ways, but only humans have ethics and write laws and design justice systems. Animals can show attachment to others but as I discuss in the book only humans love in the proper sense of the term.

    Q: Why bring Spinoza in to this?
    A: Because Spinoza prefigured in a remarkable way some of the ideas on emotion, feelings, and ethics that are now taking shape as a result of modern neuroscience (Spinoza's views on the mind body problem are especially modern). Also because Spinoza's uncanny foreshadowing of modern views on biology and mind have not been recognized by contemporary science and deserve to be so. Finally, as I studied Spinoza with the purpose of giving him his due, I became intrigued by the person and the times, and both found their way into the book.

    Q: Are there any case studies that illuminate your argument?
    A: There are many such cases. For example, children who suffer brain injury in certain regions of the frontal lobe in their first year years of life develop major defects of social behavior in spite of being otherwise intelligent. They do not exhibit social emotions (compassion, shame, guilt) and they never learn social conventions and ethical rules.

    Q: Is it possible to locate the spiritual in the human organism?
    A: It is indeed. The spiritual is a special feeling state and, as other feelings states, it can be traced to the particular operations of several brain and body regions. We might say that the spiritual is the ultimate state of well-being—there is a maximal ease, harmony, and balance of organism functions. Spiritual states are most conducive to survival.

    Q: People who have read Looking for Spinoza were surprised to find it hopeful. Do you think it is hopeful?
    A: The book does have a message of hope. This may be unexpected, given the bleakness of today's headlines, but I believe it is justified. The message emerges naturally from several sources. For example, I am suggesting that knowing about the workings of mind and brain can help us deal more effectively with the social problems we face today. Part of our failures in the past may well be due to underestimating the positive and negative power of emotions. On a purely practical level, the new knowledge will also let us develop new medications to cure causes of human suffering such as pain and depression. No less importantly, perhaps, the book shows how Spinoza, alone and marginalized, was able to achieve happiness by cultivating curiosity, knowledge, and goodness of character.
  3. Standard memberBosse de Nage
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    17 Oct '06 08:02
    Originally posted by Palynka
    Definitely an interesting read. I'd also suggest Antonio Damasio's 'Looking for Spinoza'.

    [b]Q: Is it possible to locate the spiritual in the human organism?

    A: It is indeed. The spiritual is a special feeling state and, as other feelings states, it can be traced to the particular operations of several brain and body regions. We might say that the s ...[text shortened]... harmony, and balance of organism functions. Spiritual states are most conducive to survival.[/b]
    Thanks, I'll add it to my reading list! Time to get realistic about spirituality, it seems.

    Thanks to Spinoza, I can now quite happily say that I believe in God.
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    17 Oct '06 08:07
    Originally posted by Bosse de Nage
    Thanks, I'll add it to my reading list! Time to get realistic about spirituality, it seems.

    Thanks to Spinoza, I can now quite happily say that I believe in God.
    So the next step is: which religion to believe?
  5. Standard memberBosse de Nage
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    17 Oct '06 08:14
    Originally posted by ckoh1965
    So the next step is: which religion to believe?
    It isn't necessary to belong to any religion.

    Here's a Spinoza site with the Ethics and other texts:
    http://home.earthlink.net/~tneff/index3.htm
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    17 Oct '06 08:19
    Originally posted by Bosse de Nage
    It isn't necessary to belong to any religion.

    Here's a Spinoza site with the Ethics and other texts:
    http://home.earthlink.net/~tneff/index3.htm
    Wow.... so much reading required!.... I guess I'll have to delay reading it. Still at the office! Well, maybe tonight. I kinda like this idea of believing in God without believing in religion.
  7. Standard memberBosse de Nage
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    17 Oct '06 08:21
    Originally posted by ckoh1965
    I kinda like this idea of believing in God without believing in religion.
    It kills two birds with one stone, which comes in pretty handy if you're in need of spiritual food.
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