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

From one of our preeminent neuroscientists: a landmark reflection that spans the biological and social sciences, offering a new way of understanding the origins of life, feeling, and culture.

The Strange Order of Things is a pathbreaking investigation into homeostasis, the condition of that regulates human physiology within the range that makes possible not only the survival but also the flourishing of life. Antonio Damasio makes clear that we descend biologically, psychologically, and even socially from a long lineage that begins with single living cells; that our minds and cultures are linked by an invisible thread to the ways and means of ancient unicellular life and other primitive life-forms; and that inherent in our very chemistry is a powerful force, a striving toward life maintenance that governs life in all its guises, including the development of genes that help regulate and transmit life. In The Strange Order of Things, Damasio gives us a new way of comprehending the world and our place in it.

Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear and Rage: An Account of Recent Researches Into the Function of Emotional Excitement

Cannon is best known for his work on the “Fight or Flight” response. In 1915, he coined the term “fight or flight” to describe an animal’s response to threats in “Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear and Rage: An Account of Recent Researches into the Function of Emotional Excitement.” He is also credited with being one of the first to understand the significance of “Homeostasis” in the self-regulation of each human being. He developed the concept of “Homeostasis” from the earlier idea of Claude Bernard of milieu interieur, and popularized it in his book “The Wisdom of the Body” in 1932. Cannon presented four tentative propositions to describe the general features of homeostasis:

Constancy in an open system, such as our bodies represent, requires mechanisms that act to maintain this constancy. Cannon based this proposition on insights into the ways by which steady states such as glucose concentrations, body temperature and acid-base balance were regulated.

Steady-state conditions require that any tendency toward change automatically meets with factors that resist change. An increase in blood sugar results in thirst as the body attempts to dilute the concentration of sugar in the extracellular fluid.

The regulating system that determines the homeostatic state consists of a number of cooperating mechanisms acting simultaneously or successively. Blood sugar is regulated by insulin and other hormones that control its release from the liver or its uptake by the tissues.

Homeostasis does not occur by chance, but is the result of organized self-government.