Put with brutal succinctness, Damasio’s brief goes like this: Mental activity consists of a stream of “images” that map aspects of the world around us. But these images, by themselves, cannot be conscious. For that, they must be related to a perspective, an “owner,” a self — this, after all, is what subjectivity means. And here is where feeling comes in. As Damasio uses the term, “feelings” are “the hybrid, interactive processes of the interior, at once mental and physical.” They register how well or badly its various subsystems are doing at maintaining homeostasis, at keeping the organism alive and flourishing. So feelings point within, to the interior; images point without, to the world. And when feelings and images come together in the brain, the result is conscious thought. To adapt a simile of Damasio’s, feelings are like a musical score that, when added to the silent reel of images in the mind, produces cinematic consciousness.
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