You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel?

Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting?

Each week, host Jason Gots surprises some of the world's brightest minds with ideas they're not at all prepared to discuss. Join us and special guests Neil Gaiman, Alan Alda, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Richard Dawkins, Maria Popova, Mary-Louise Parker, Neil deGrasse Tyson and many more...

This incredibly rich machinery – with Antonio Damasio

Picking up where we left off a year ago, a conversation about the homeostatic imperative as it plays out in everything from bacteria to pharmaceutical companies—and how the marvelous apparatus of the human mind also gets us into all kinds of trouble.

Think Again Podcasts
  • "Prior to nervous systems: no mind, no consciousness, no intention in the full sense of the term. After nervous systems, gradually we ascend to this possibility of having to this possibility of having minds, having consciousness, and having reasoning that allows us to arrive at some of these very interesting decisions."
  • "We are fragile culturally and socially…but life is fragile to begin with. All that it takes is a little bit of bad luck in the management of those supports, and you're cooked…you can actually be cooked—with global warming!"




Quick question. Answer without thinking too hard. Ready? Where is your mind? What is your mind?

Ok, Raise your hand if you thought of your brain.

If you did, you're in good company. For centuries, Western science, culture, and language has been obsessed with the head as the center of thought and the body as the center of feeling. This split can get hierarchical, attaching ideas like "sin" and to the body and the emotions while putting the brain, along with rationality, up on a pedestal. Picture your brain on a pedestal: not doing much good up there, is it?

I'm very happy to be speaking again today with neuroscientist and philosopher Antonio Damasio, who has done more than anyone one else I know to get that brain down off its high horse and reattach it to the body. We last talked a year ago, about his book THE STRANGE ORDER OF THINGS - Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures, which has now come out in paperback. It turns everything upside down, not only re-anchoring mind in body, but finding in primitive bacteria and social insects patterns that help explain human culture. Maybe there's more going on in the Mona Lisa than in a bacterial colony, but they also have quite a lot in common.

Surprise conversation starters in this episode:

Frans De Waal on animal consciousness

Gear
  • 12min summarizes hundreds of best-selling books down to essential 12-minute microbooks.
  • Microbooks are downloadable in both text and audio formats.
  • You can request a 12min summary of any non-fiction book not in their vast library.
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Reginald Dwayne Betts - Nothing to resurrect after prison

"I think when you come to grips with what happened, it gives you a chance of doing something different. What's really dark is when you're going through something and you have no perspective." By revisiting—through poetry—his 9 years in prison for a teenage carjacking, Reginald Dwayne Betts finds freedoms most of us have never known.

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Some experiences change you so completely that you're left with a choice: either spend your life running from them or spend your life turning them over in memory, trying to find new ways in, through, and out the other side. The power of the impulse to explain or somehow articulate these experiences is inversely proportionate to other people's ability to understand them. They're everything all at once. It seems to me that my guest today has made that second choice, the hard choice not to run away. Or maybe it's a choice you have to keep making over and over again. His name is Reginald Dwayne Betts. He's 39 years old—an accomplished poet and essayist and a graduate of Yale Law School. But he spent most of his teenage years and young adulthood in prison and over a year in solitary confinement, experiences neither society, nor memory, nor his fellow feeling for the more than 2 million people behind bars in the United States, the vast majority of them black men and boys, has let him forget. Dwayne's beautiful and necessary new book of poems is called FELON, and I'm honored to have him with me here today to talk about it.



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