Essay - Descartes' Error and the Future of Human Life; October 1994; Scientific American Magazine; by Damasio; 1 Page(s)
At the beginning of the 1950s, in an impassioned speech inspired by the threat of nuclear destruction, William Faulkner warned his fellow writers that they had "forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself." He asked them to leave no room in their workshops "for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed--love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice."
Although the towering nuclear threat of four decades ago has assumed a less dramatic posture, it is apparent to all but the most absent-minded optimists that other clear and present dangers confront us. The world population is still exploding; air, water and food are still being polluted; ethical and educational standards are still declining; violence and drug addiction are still rising. Many specific causes are at work behind all these developments, but through all of them runs the irrationality of human behavior, spreading like an epidemic, and no less threatening to our future than was the prospect of nuclear holocaust when Faulkner was moved to speak.