The Feeling of What Happens. Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness
by Antonio Damasio

  • Feyza Sancar
  • Adrianne Lord
  • Ann Mitchell
  • Sarah Nosal
  • Ruchi Rohatgi
  • Ann Mitchell
  • kim Bibbo
  • Libby O'Hare
  • Rehema Trimiew
  • David Mintzer
  • Nicole Stevenson
  • Allison Rosenberg

    Feyza Sancar:

    In his book, Damasio attempts to present a conclusive account of consciousness by dissecting it into its hierarchical components. This is in fact both one of the strengths and at the same time, one of the weaknesses of his account on consciousness. On the one hand, he puts a lot of effort forth in presenting a complete and comprehensive description of the components of consciousness as well as their neurobiological correlates. As a reader, I appreciated being presented the whole picture and its interconnected pieces. In doing so, however, he faces the problem of becoming too intricate and complex to the point of confusion (from the perspective of the reader). Quite frequently, he would introduce a collection of terms (such as emotion, feeling, feeling of knowing/awareness of feeling) and promptly proceed in introducing a whole new set of terms in his proposed hierarchy. This became frustrating at a point for the reader because layers upon layers of complexity are being added without the full understanding of how these layers relate to each other as well as what they mean in and of themselves.

    The organization of the book added to its comprehensive difficulties. For instance, he begins by introducing the important aspects of consciousness, starting at the level of emotion, and progressing to feeling, core-consciousness, and extended consciousness (respectively). Much later in the book, he introduces the concept of proto-self, which as understood by the reader, is a much more primative function in that it belongs lower on the hierarchy of consciousness levels (probably occurring or belonging somewhere before or after his construct of emotion). In this case, Damasio could have created better ease in reading and understanding if he presented each construct in the order in which it occurs in the making of consciousness. By skipping around a lot and introducing new terminology without fully clarifying the old made the text much more difficult to grasp.

    What I found especially successful was the interspersion of anecdotal evidence, as well as the one chapter towards the middle of the book on the neurological components/structures involved in the making of consciousness (and the logic behind implicating these structures). Although there was a general lack of experimental evidence to support his claims, I think the anecdotal evidence still proves to do a good job of providing some support for his ideas. The lack of hard experimental data was also not that troubling since there is a general paucity of such data on the topic of consciousness as a whole. Nonetheless, the anecdotal evidence introduced some very interesting possibilities, not to mention some of the more pertinent and observable states of consciousness. His stories and observations also made the text more interesting and readable.

    Finally, I found some of the more transient issues introduced in his book to be very thought provoking. These issues include the role of language and memory in consciousness. The idea that language is not necessary for the evolution of consciousness is very intriguing. Damasio does a good job of logically supporting this claim (it was convincing). What I found even more interesting, but did not fully agree with, were the conclusions he stated towards the end of the book. He decisively concludes that although consciousness is a highly specialized tool, it does not play a role in traits that people consider to be distinctly and specially human (such as conscience, and unprecedented creativity). It was extremely useful that he put his presentation of consciousness in context with phenomena that are or have been closely related. This helps the reader better understand what Damasio means by consciousness. Overall, his ideas were very unconventional and interesting, yet could have been better presented at times.

    Adrianne Lord:

    Damasio's book "The Feeling of What Happens" looks at consciousness with the introduction of new terminology that he believes aids in the understanding on how consciousness develops. Some of his favorite terms, which he uses over and over again are: protoself, core consciousness, extended consciousness, autobiographical self, and first order and second order maps. The reader needs to seriously think about what the words mean or eluding to regarding consciousness because the terms are used throughout the book. Damasio does not simply present a term like core consciousness or any of the others without interweaving descriptive case studies such as Epileptic amnesia, Alzheimer's, Anosognosia or Transient Global amnesia that helps the reader to visualize that "body state", the capabilities or limitations and the combination of these two on the development or hindrance on the making of consciousness.

    The contents of certain chapters such as from chapter two to three seemed a bit disconnected. The structure did not flow well. Damasio discusses emotion and feeling in chapter 2 and then jumps right into consciousness in chapter three. However, each subsequent chapter discussed the different degrees/types of consciousness (like the ones before) which made the book flow better.

    The material/topic of the book was interesting especially because of the case studies Damasio noted. The chapters I found rather interesting were entitled "Biology of Knowing" and "The Neurology of Consciousness" which discussed the influences of lesioning/damage to certain regions of brain (e.g. Reticular formation, back of the brain stem) on the development of particular levels of consciousness (such as core consciousness or extended consciousness).

    "The Feeling of What Happens" tackles a difficult topic basically what is consciousness. Damasio raises ideas people interested in neurology and consciousness might want to ponder about. This book is not bad (even though the text can be a bit wordy at times) because it raises good ideas for looking at consciousness and investigating deeper into the cases Damasio uses as support for his claims on who is conscious and who is not.

    In his book The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness, Antionio Damsio posits that consciousness is a feeling of knowing because it feels like a feeling. Damasio first attempts to explain how it is that one arrives at consciousness from the perspective of an initial feeling, and then tries to explain the various processes required for consciousness. His overall conclusion is that it is not consciousness itself which distinguishes humans from other animals, it is feelings, or at least according to his theory, consciousness as a product of feelings.

    Damasio begins his theory with the distinction between feelings and emotion. He states: “I have proposed that the term feeling be reserved for the private mental experience of an emotion, while the term emotion should be used to designate the collection of responses, many of which are publicly observable.”p.42 This distinction is important, as it provides the basis for the rest of Damasio’s theory of how consciousness comes to be explained. Feelings and emotion contribute to the interaction between what Damasio terms protoself and an outside object. The proto self is a neural pattern that provides the ability to relate between object and self and therefore serves as an internal image of the self. The interaction between an outside object and the representation of self constitutes what Damasio calls second order processing. In this sense, the proto-self serves as a pre-requisite for core consciousness.

    After second order processing, the next level is core consciousness. At this level of processing, a non-verbal interaction occurs between representation of external objects and the representation of the internal self. Damasio explains this process in terms of two types of self: core self and autobiographical self. Core self occurs as a non-verbal account of second order processing whenever the proto-self is modified. Autobiographical self incorporates autobiographical memory into what Damasio terms “something to be known”. Damasio claims that at this level, the conscious state begins. Therefore, he considers all processing prior to core consciousness unconscious.

    The third and final stage of this theory is called extended consciousness. Extended consciousness is simply awareness of core consciousness, and has the ability to re-represent core consciousness. The relationship between core consciousness and extended consciousness is such that extended consciousness can not exist without core consciousness.

    Damasio supports this theory with various case studies, neurological disorders, and then proposes possible neural pathways that correlate with each section of the theory. Although most of his examples are convincing, they are just case studies. Unfortunately Damasio’s proof remains limited by the ethics of research, which does not permit researchers to lesion or destroy areas of the brain in order to observe which structures might cause humans to lose consciousness. In addition, Damasio manages to side step examples like pain which are inconsistent with his theory.

    Another problem with the book is the general writing style. Damasio’s references to other literary forms and fields detract from not only the quality of the work, but also the point of the book. His writing style is vague and inadequate for the topic he tries to tackle. Perhaps the book is written in a wordy manner in order for other “lay” people to read it. If this is the case, however, Damasio then needs to present his ideas on a level of cohesiveness and coherence that a "lay" person can understand. The book could have been written in at most one hundred pages, but instead it stretches to over three hundred pages.

    However, Damasio does present some interesting, though unorthodox ideas about the origin and process of consciousness. He also admits that the major limitation of the biology of consciousness is that even when we can correlate our neural process to our actions and even recreate these neural processes, we will never be able to recreate a subjective experience.

    In conclusion, this book contains interesting ideas that could have been stated in a much more concise and clear manner. However, the argument Damasio presents is not so compelling when examined closely, nor is it written in a manner accessible to the comprehension and analyzation of a lay reader. Readers may find that this book requires extensive prior knowledge of the subject. So, “lay” readers beware, even with the footnotes in the back, this book is not for you.

    In The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness, Demasio has no qualms with the frequent use of such 90's catch words as "emotion" and "feeling". In a decade of the popularized "emotional iq" what seems to us a sloppy and haphazard application of awkwardly re-defined terms is likely a well-crafted ploy to enhance sales. Luckily, when addressing a topic such as consciousness readers have become accustomed to authors who write much and yet say very little. This book is no exception.

    At the heart of Demasio's book is an attempt to lay the structural groundwork, which supposedly makes possible the construction of self. This self-construct is deemed evolutionarily beneficial as it insures an inherent predisposition to selfishness and thus the maintenance of self-preservation as top priority. While that's all well and good, Demasio delivers his true accolades in the directions of that which he does not even attempt to explain. Out of no where in the last few pages Demasio introduces several inadequately supported conclusions, ill defined terms, as well as conclusions which have been out right directly denied earlier in the text.

    Several statements which address the “circle of influence -- existence, consciousness, [and] creativity” (316) leave a reader to wonder where in the world Demasio is going. Such other worldly, exterior from self, power which seems to be acknowledged in this collective creative possibility seems at once ridiculous and for Demasio rather self-defeating. In proposing that which is created is beyond consciousness yet from consciousness -- one must ask where?why?how is it different?and must it only exist outside the self? or within yet apart from the body? Does this not revert us back to some of the earliest concepts of consciousness and self?

    Exceptionally offensive is Demasio’s inclusion of pain in his statement describing that which consciousness permits, “It is not just the price of risk and danger and pain. It is the price of knowing risk, and danger, and pain”(361). As far as one may conclude from the evidence Demasio offers, early on in his text he was forced to remove pain as a concept all together as he proved consistently unable to get it to adhere to his proposed model.

    It is not that I believe Demasio’s model to be inadequate, just merely inconsequential. Likely Demasio may believes that he supplies his readers answers to their most profound and introspective questions. Yet from my perspective, the 'feeling of what happens' is an answer we already had, to a question we never cared to ask.

    In his book, A Feeling of What Happens, Antonio Damasio tries to explore the underpinnings and the actuality of consciousness. He attempts this by relating known terms such as emotions, feelings and knowing to describe what consciousness is comprised of. In summary, Damasio characterizes three stages of development leading up to consciousness: an emotion, a feeling and a feeling of knowing. He uses the terms proto-self, core consciousness and extended conssciousness to define these three categories.

    Damasio provides insights into a realm of being that is difficult to explore. The book starts off well using "stepping into the light" as a metaphor for consciousness and the first chapter laying out what he plans to accomplish. The second part of the book however, could be organized better. Damasio reveals that there are many layers underneath the heading of consciousness. However, many times he adds more concepts to the a layer before the other concepts are properly explained. There is too much lateral movement within a layer before existing concepts within each layer are sufficiently explained. Damasio also uses a lot of vertical movement between layers to show relationships, but there are instances where this approach leads to confusion. The proto-self concept, I feel is not introduced early enough. If anything, it should be discussed first since the interaction between outside self and the proto-self (that part which is responsible for mapping internal states moment by moment) leads to core consciousness. Instead, Damasio explains core consciousness first. Furthemore, his discussion of the autobiographical self makes it seem as if this attribute is necessary for extended consciousness. However, on closer examination, autobiographical self actually arises from consciousness. Again, structural placement of concepts often becomes confusing.

    Damasio gives different meanings to concepts which one is usually familiar with. The word emotion to the lay reader, for example, may actually be consistent with Damasio's definition of core consciousness. Damasio's notion of emotion is more of an internal physiological response, and not so much an abstract idea as one would think.

    The last part of the book, part III, is better organized. The "Neurology of Consciousness" addresses biological evidence for ideas brought up in the first two parts of the book. However, as I was reading this third part, I felt that Damasio could have even started his book at this point (with a chapter before straight-forwardly defining the main concepts of proto-self, core consciousness and extended consciousness along with an emotion, feeling and knowing a feeling). Damasio's interjections of patients with particular breakdowns in the consciousness schema are interesting. He ties the examples well with what he is trying to prove, and the situations are convincing.

    I feel that a good book is one that communicates ideas effectively and understandably- the fact that it took 2 hours in senior seminar to agree upon and understand what exactly Damasio was saying is a problem. Overall however, one can learn a lot from reading this book. Damasio did a good job in trying to delve into an abstract concept of consciousness and he did make me think and question what exactly consciousness was.

    "The Feeling of What Happens" is a constant barrage of traditional terms used in not so traditional ways. Damasio reassignment of commenly used terms in Psychology makes the arguments more than slightly difficult to follow. The myriad of terminology gave a feeling of confusion, as opposed to a comprehensive picture of consciousness. In addition, by constantly using phrases such as "the way I use the word" it diminishes Damasio's credibility. The book might have worked better had he worked with previously established terms in the field of human cognition.

    Once the reader does get used to the terms, though, there are definitely some valid arguments that begin to illuminate the idea of human consciousness. Damasio does start at the very basic levels of consciousness, illustrating the components that are needed: feelings, emotions, etc. Yet, I found myself saying, "Where is this going?"

    Perhaps the most striking thing about the entire novel itself was the core idea that consciousness can only ever be subjective. The first admission that Damasio makes is regarding this fact. It would be infinitely impossible to make compilations of everyone's idea on their own consciousness. And since it is something private that can never be explored fully, the explanation on consciousness is sure to come up short. Damasio's construction is rather confusing, and I found myself several times loosing conscious comprehension of the words. However, my eyes kept running across the page as if I was reading.

    Overall, "The Feeling of What Happens " does have some good basis in Damasio's case studies. Yet, one of the first things to ruminate on is that the case studies are anecdotal. His own consciousness of those situations could have, in itself, been shaped to see his perspective on the patients. In addition, they are retrospective, and not scientifically done in a controlled manner. How could they be, for that matter? There is only so much that can be done. It is more of a book that can be taken as a fun read, if you are looking for a novel with little hope for actual further exploration.

    With his bookThe Feeling of What Happens, Damasio takes a household term and flips it into a complex scientific mapping of an interesting concept, namely consciousness. He has obviously placed an extensive amount of time and thought into his research and subsequent conclusions, yet seems to move in a circular pattern of explanation, never completely finishing his ideas. Granted it is necessary to have some previous neurological knowledge before delving into his piece, yet I feel he makes his concepts too confusing, utilizing familiar words, such as emotion and feelings, in unconventional ways, and frequently interspersing his new words into his text. On the other hand, to his credit, Damasio attempts to keep the reader turning the pages by strategically placing interesting case studies of neurological disease and damage, coloring his descriptions of his various proposed levels of consciousness.

    Damasio begins his book with new definitions of emotion and what it means to feel. He then proceeds to illustrate his ideas on his levels of consciousness, mainly the protoself, core consciousness, and extended consciousness, and describes their reference to each other. These explanations are at times confusing as he introduces them out of logical order and necessitates the reader to refer backwards in order to understand the following definitions. He is able to rope his reader in, only to later lose them in ideas he previously addressed. I found myself taking in his words and but not always able to string them into plausible concepts. Choosing to write in quite a flowery manner, the author extrapolates to the nth degree his ideas on the importance of construction and understanding of the self, in his definition of consciousness. He could have saved much time and confusion in a quarter of the amount of paper. He is basically attempting to distinguish the difference between existence and action, and the ability to obtain and utilize knowledge of existence and action, better known as his idea of the higher level, “the feeling of what happens”.

    After defining his three basic levels and two types of consciousness, the actual neurology of consciousness is addressed. This is helpful in moving from what I see as concepts to actual biological explanations for his reasonings. He then moves back and forth between “changes in the body state and changes in the cognitive state”, fading back into more abstract thoughts on how to explain actions and the actual cognizance of actions.

    Yet for as annoyed as I occasionally felt while reading Damasio’s piece, I was quite amused when I found myself in a conversation with someone about consciousness and began to refer to some of Damasio’s ideas. I think that his effort is a valiant one, simply convoluted at times. The importance of the ability of human introspection are clear, yet his theories seem stuck due to lack of ability for the individual to ever separate from the self and obtain objectivity. It will be interesting to see what ideas, both supporting and contradicting, arise in the future.

    When I first began reading "The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness", I was frustrated by the language Damasio used to discuss his theories on consciousness. It seems that creating new terms and re-defining old terms only serves to confuse the reader. But the more I got into the text, the more I realized the nescessity of such language. Reading the comments above, one can see a clear trend. Almost everyone was dissapointed with Damasio's use of language and his tendancy to set up elaborate schemata that were often difficult to understand. But one must ask, is it possible to talk about something so vastly complex as human consciousness in simple language?

    I think that Damasio does a fine job of setting up the 3 components of the consciousness continuum: protoself, core consciousness, extended consciousness. These three constructs make good practical and intituitive sense. He is also able to offer fairly persuasive neurological evidence of brain disorders that manifest themselves in a lack of one of these kinds of consciousness (transient global amnesia for lack of EC, preserved CC; epileptic automatism for lack of CC and EC).

    Damasio uses a language all his own. I wonder if others that have attempted to outline a biology of consciousness have done the same thingf? The theories are complex, but that's inevitable when you a trying to explain one of the last frontiers in the field.

    Freshman year I read Descartes Error. Since that time I have accumulated many questions about the nature and evolution of consciousness. I thought that The Feeling of What Happens would clear up some of my difficulties, instead they remain. After taking a class, philosophy of cognitive science, I could not understand the usefulness of consciousness and why it might have evolved (as Jeff mentiond in the last class). I had hoped that Damasio would shed some light on this, yet I'm still fealing unsatisfied. I am thrilled that he gives real examples(patients, and brain disorders) of concepts that he refers to, I still remember Phineaus(sp?) Gage from his other book. I think that his numerous examples help elucidate his paradigm of the mind. I know that I had my own concept of the mind and having examples allow me to plug them in and see if they confirm/contradict what I already think. So, he remained excellent in using appropriate examples that really help you to better discern specifically what his point is.

    I really wanted to better understand where exactly extended consciousness, consciousness, or self awareness, lies in the brain. He has shown me that it is much more complicated then I first thought. I feel like more research needs to be done to understand just what self awarness and consciousness are comprised of (feelings?chemical reactions?neuronal connections?all of these?) and how exactly they function. But, I think that he has made a great effort in teasing out all of the intricacies of the mind and basing them on physiological functions.

    On the whole, the book was informative, more or less clear, and worth reading.

    As I sit back to reflect on Antonio Damasio’s The Feeling of What Happens, I admit that I am perplexed by certain aspects of the book. For me, it was one of those books where I felt like I was going along, following his argument fairly well, only to turn the page and read a paragraph that seemed to me to conflict with his earlier notions of the nature of consciousness. There were definitely moments when I wanted to pick up the phone and call and ask him a question. But, I guess in many ways, this is a compliment to the author in that I generally found the book engaging. Sure there are some long sections about the intricate details of brain structures that I have never even heard of, but all and all, it is a fairly entertaining read. I think that for the majority of the book, he makes a very clear distinction between core consciousness and extended consciousness, which is a unique contribution to the topic of consciousness, which can often be discussed in a very vague and ambiguous terms in various academic circles. As I think back to the structure of the book, I think that he has effectively organized the book so as to first discuss theoretically (though with lots of case studies and examples to illustrate his points) the concepts of core and extended consciousness, and then go on (in the section entitled “The Neurology of Consciousness”) to map his argument onto the actual structures of the brain. If I were to summarize his concepts of core and extended consciousness respectively, I would do so as follows. The core self arises from the integration of two primary images, namely the proto-self and the image of the object, into a secondary image. Since the “proto-self” is a Demasio-defined term (there are a number of these in the book, many of which are actually common terms such as “emotion”, but have been uniquely redefined by Demasio. I must say that, in my opinion, this can be one frustrating aspect of reading his book), it needs to be defined. The proto-self is the self-referent that collects and presents a collection of neural patterns which map the state of the physical structure of the organism. Extended consciousness builds upon core consciousness, adding in various influences, perhaps most importantly memory. With extended consciousness comes the ability to integrate with the proto-self not only “here and now” images of objects, but also images that have been stored and can then be re-activated. The common thread that winds through both core and extended consciousness and which Demasio repeatedly points to as crucial to understanding consciousness is “an inner sense of self in the act of knowing” (p 250). Demasio then goes on in the final chapter of Part III to do an excellent job of correlating particular brain structures with the theoretical concepts such as “proto-self” that he presents. While some of the neurological jargon may go over the heads of the typical reader, I think it is relatively easy to glean out the important points of the chapter. I found this to be an important chapter because it connected the somewhat abstracts concepts that he had been talking about to the concrete domain of the brain. In short, I think it added validity to the presentation of his theories on consciousness. I was a bit frustrated with the final chapter of the book, particularly the last page because I felt that it contradicted much of the theory that Demasio had presented through the book. All of a sudden he is, as I read him, focusing on consciousness as if it is unique to humans, talking about the “drama of the human condition” and arguing that “civilization is the main consequence of consciousness” (316). Perhaps part of the problem is that unlike in the majority of the book, he is not clear about what he means when he writes “consciousness”. I can only give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is referring in the last chapter primarily to extended and not core consciousness (yet, of course the latter is a prerequisite for the former). This chapter came as a disappointment to me because I felt that one of his central points in writing the book was that core consciousness is based in evolutionarily old structures of the brain, rather than the neocortex. The implication is that a whole range of organisms have core consciousness, and thus it should be “[brought] down from its current pedestal” (311). It is for this reason that I felt it was a poor choice to end the book focusing on the drama and tragedy that consciousness bestows on humans. But alas, Demasio must play to his audience, which, for now, is composed solely of humans, I should not be so critical of his poetic ending.

    In his book The Feeling of What Happens, Antonio Demasio attempts to tackle the problem of consciousness from a neurobiological perspective. The reader may be disappointed by the fact that in the first chapter, he dismisses the questions regarding qualia and sentience as beyond the grasp of our current scientific understanding. Avoiding these topics may seem like a cop-out, as they seem to be the most illusive and intriguing characteristics of consciousness. However, such a move allows Demasio to concentrate his efforts on explicating another vital aspect of consciousness-- how the brain knows, and how it knows itself. Demasio dedicates a good portion of his book to describing and classifying the different levels of consciousness and knowing; the plethora of terminologies he provides can be confusing. Nonetheless, these highly specific problems can be directly addressed by neuropsychological and neurophsyiological studies. Demasio’s interest in consciousness stems from research regarding emotion and accordingly, a significant portion of his book describes how we become conscious of emotions. He distinguishes between the autonomic signals of emotion, experiencing these emotions (feeling), and finally, knowing these feelings. His discussion of emotion leads him into a broader examination of consciousness and how the organism becomes aware of itself and its environment. Here, he distinguishes between core consciousness and extended consciousness. Demasio defines core consciousness as our immediate experience of sensory input. There is no context for this experience, and often meaning is not attached to the input. The organism is aware of itself in reference to the incoming information, but has no sense of past or future, no autobiographical self. Furthermore, the individual can respond to its environment, but deliberated and planned behavior is not possible. Demasio describes core-consciousness as pulses impinging upon the organism. It is formed through the interaction of external objects (the something-to-be-known) and the organism itself. Images formed through core-consciousness require a second-order neural system which maps the changes occurring within the organism.

    Demasio names the uniquely human aspect of consciousness “extended consciousness”. Extended consciousness bestows humans with a sense of identity. It situates us between a past and future and allows for increasingly complex behavior. Fundamental to extended consciousness are the capabilities of language and memory which allow us to understand and elaborate upon the pulse of core-consciousness which we experience.

    Demasio utilizes several lines of investigation when forming these categories and attempting to relate them to neural activity in the brain. Almost unavoidably when discussing consciousness, Demasio relies at times on introspection. At the very least, his definitions of core and extended consciousness should be consistent with our introspective experiences. Demasio often introduces his concepts with introspective anecdotes so that the reader may relate to the subject matter before diving into the empirical evidence. Some of the most convincing evidence comes from studies of neurological disorders. When brain damage can impair extended consciousness but not core consciousness, Demasio concludes that the two must be distinct neural phenomena. However neurological disorders can only provide so much information. Especially when investigating consciousness, it may be difficult to ascertain what the patient is experience. Demasio sometimes seems overly convinced that a patient is or is not conscious and draws bold conclusions from his observations. Furthermore, brain lesions may affect a wide range of areas in the brain and may unpredictably spare others. Therefore it is not easy to determine brain structures responsible for specific impairments. As Demasio discussion of the reticular formation demonstrates, certain areas of the brain may not be as structurally and functionally related as they seem.

    The other technique which Demasio employs to relate neural activity with consciousness is brain imaging. He does not detail the many imaging studies of emotion, memory and other phenomena, but he does rely on these studies to identify structures and pathways which may be involved in consciousness. At most these studies can correlate neural activity with observable manifestations of consciousness. However they do not necessarily offer a causal link between awareness and the nervous system. In his chapter on the neurology of consciousness, the neurological data supports his hypothesis regarding core and extended consciousness. The correlations are there, but researchers have yet to identify the point at which neural signals allow for consciousness.

    Demasio’s book does not unravel many of the deeper questions regarding consciousness, but it does offer some basic definitions of knowing and possible neural explanations. The complexity of his classifications reveal the momentous task which he has undertaken. Consciousness is not a phenomenon which can be simplified, and he is correct in attempting to break it down. However, at times, his definitions seem artificial and unnecessary. By constructing his categories, he is setting himself up to identify neural correlates, and it is possible that other, equally tenable explanations exist. However, this book is valuable as it offers an empirical strategy for investigating consciousness which may eventually lead to more concrete answers. His model of consciousness is a rigorous attempt at explaining how consciousness may emerge from neural activity, although his framework and terminology are not easily accessible to the average lay-reader.

    Damasio succeeds in making me think about consciousness in a more complex way. Originally for me, consciousness was a complicated term that could be explained fairly simply, as someone being aware of their surroundings. Damasio has constructed his own theories and dares to explain them to psychologists, biologists, physicists, philosophers, students, and any one else who reads his book- people who have already formulated their own thoughts on the topic. I don't think he is trying to make his ideas more credible than anyone else's, but just adding to the possiblities that can exist surrounding the realm of consciousness. I think he does a good job introducing new terms and components of consciousness that, I think, no one would have included in their own previous thoughts of consciousness otherwise. He takes these words and gives them concrete meanings, even though he is only postulating these ideas himself. His ideas of protoself, core consciousness and extended consciousness making up the consciousness continuum were very interesting to me because it took my general ideas of self- awareness and brought them to a deeper level.

    At the same time however, Damasio has also shown that the complicated term of consciousness can be explained in an even more complicated manner. The words he uses and the way he goes about his explanations can be confusing. I think it might have been a bit more clear if he had placed the end of the book at the beginning and then proceeded from there. It would have given the readers a broad sense of the issues before he tried to conquer them with his often complicated language. But overall, I think that if you can get passed the sometimes flowery language, Damasio is able to make you think of consciousness in new ways that will make you want to pursue the other possible ideas that may be out there.