Andres Alejandr Freyre-Descartes’ Error

Author of Book: Antonio Damasio
Date Read: July 18, 2023

Book Report

The book I’m reporting on today goes by the title: Descartes’ Error by Antonio Damasio. In the book, the author introduces his theory about emotion being a necessary part of reasoning and decision-making. The common paradigm is that the best way to make decisions is to keep emotions out of the equation and use logic, consider the possibilities, and reason out the solution. Damasio refers to cases in which patients of his with frontal cortical brain damage (an area linked to emotion processing) had a difficult time making good decisions when it came to their personal likes even though logically they were able to identify exactly what they needed to do. He also explains the mechanisms in the brain that cause us to experience thoughts, emotions, memory, and consciousness. He proposes that mind and body do not operate apart from each other (something Descartes believed) and that although some regions of the brain are linked to certain aspects, it would be incorrect to say that those regions are solely responsible for those corresponding aspects. The brain with its many regions and complex anatomy is interdependent with itself and the entire body to produce the mind, mainly in images and symbols. He also proposes that the mind could not exist without the body as a frame of reference against the environment. He writes that Descartes’ error was in believing “I think therefore I am.” After reading the book, I think it should have been more like “I think BECAUSE I am.”
I chose to read this book because I have this natural fascination to understand the mechanisms that drive us. I think the more knowledge that I gain about ourselves as human beings the more likely it will be that I can create a successful strategy to help me make the correct decisions. But even more interesting to me is trying to identify what went wrong in my own decision-making process when I was younger and even up to the not-so-distant past when I first got incarcerated for this charge. Since then I’ve made a full 180-degree turn in my decision-making and have experienced a peace of mind that was completely unfamiliar in my life prior to getting incarcerated. I would like to understand this awakening more so I can put it down in words and in this way maybe find out a way to help others transform their own decision-making without having to endure a life of suffering, addiction, crime, and long prison sentences. Since part of my plan is to gain an education that will allow me to do this type of thing as a profession, reading Descartes’ Error is definitely something that aligns with my goals. Even though I’m getting this education through an accredited university, I also read these types of books in my free time. It helps that I’m naturally passionate about subjects related to psychology, neuroscience, and sociology. Through reading this book I learned that emotion is a critical part of successful decision making. This leads me to believe that my decision-making was being affected on a physiological level (In the frontal lobe areas) not only by my decision to use hard drugs but even before then, by emotional abuse and trauma during childhood that I wasn’t able to overcome in healthy ways. This makes sense to me because unfortunately, I must admit, it seems as if I’ve been stuck at an emotional maturity level that had to have been much below the average person. I’ll end this with an important question that comes up in my head from reading this book: Could it be possible to strengthen people emotionally when they’re young, during tough times, to help them be more successful in their decision-making?