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

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In The Strange Order of Things, Antonio Damasio argues that human culture, from our technological advances to our artistic endeavors, is driven and derived from feelings, as opposed to intellect. And, furthermore, he contends that feelings are the product of one simple biological process: homeostasis. The same process that governs all living things, even down to bacteria. So Damasio goes on to posit therefore that the ostensible uniqueness of human feeling and intellect isn’t the product of advanced intellect nor is it unique to humanity. Rather, they are abilities evolved out of basic homeostatic processes that even single-celled organisms perform. Feelings are simply an advanced product of and way of maintaining homeostasis.

The Strange Order of Things offers an intriguing hypothesis. But unfortunately, it does so in a thick, patience-testing prose that makes the book a slog. Though it’s marketed as a general-audience book, it reads much more closely to academic writing, interested primarily in proving an argument rather than breaking one down for a lay audience–and certainly not for entertaining them in the process. I deeply respect Damasio’s approach. But biology is far from my specialty, so the book was rather more impenetrable to me than it may be to a more specialized audience.

If you have a foundation in biology, I think you’ll find this book’s argument interesting and worthy of consideration. If, like me, you’re part of the lay readership, you may find this book a bit punishing to read through in its entirety.


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Author Antonio Damasio
Star Count 3.5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 336 pages
Publisher Pantheon
Publish Date 2018-Feb-06
ISBN 9780307908759
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue December 2018
Category Philosophy
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