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alexandra_k July 9th, 2006 09:38 AM

Emotions versus Reason?
 
People have worried about the emotions / reasons debate
Kinda like people have worried about the nature / nurture debate
Clearly we have both!
And clearly both are important!
What is left to be done is to work out the relative contribution of each.

So...

I found it interesting how Damasio had this notion that emotional consciousness was primary and other varieties of consciousness are sort of layered upon that. Does he talk about pain at all or am I moving to another theorist about now???

Pain... In the beginning (well near enough for my purposes) there was pleasure and pain. Precisely what constituted the organisms 'good' (its pleasure) and its 'bad' (its pain) was to be figured out by natural selection. Basically, the organisms that approached the 'bad' didn't fare so well, and similarly for those that avoided the 'good'.

So this kinda looks like a functionalist story...

object -> internal state -> action

Precisely when the internal state got to be conscious (as opposed to an unconscious reflexive mechanism) is kinda up for grabs...

But it is fairly important to be able to QUICKLY process information that represents objects / states of affairs that importantly bear on the organisms welfare. Important to duck incoming bricks BEFORE thinking about ones possible options and prioritising them and WACK!!!!! So the emotional 'low road' from amygdala to motor production seems to provide a 'quick and dirty response' to aspects of the environment that need to be processed FAST. Dirty? How come I say dirty responses? Some features can be processed at the amygdala. Coiled objects... Will result in a fear response. After a few loops of the cortex we realise that the garden hose isn't going to bite us, however. More detailed features (features that enable us to tell garden hoses from snakes) aren't able to be processed in the amygdala. Hence... Dirty responses.

(Interesting the role of cognition... If I judge it to be a garden hose then will sudden movement from it result in my jumping or will my prior judgement be able to inhibit my low level fear response???)

Interesing that consciousness does seem to be embodied, however. Philosophers tend to worry more about visual perception as the paradigm of conscious experience. Some worrying about pains. But those do seem to be embodied states. The trouble with functionalism is that it works from the input to mental state, internal role from mental state to mental state (from perception to belief for example, and inductive and deductive reasoning processes), and mental state (and other mental states) to action. But... there is always the further question / problem of whether there is anything it is like to be in that mental state and what on earth that might be for. If you start from the phenomenology of the consicous experience you might be able to get to the functional role from the consicous experience. Conscious experiences REPRESENT the world (because they are typically caused by) and they MOTIVATE adaptive action (because those who didn't act adaptively were culled). Hence... Consciousness could function as the link between the world our needs and our acting in it...

Margaret McGhee July 10th, 2006 03:58 PM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
It seems so obvious to me that emotions provide the values that are weighed in behavior choice - for all sentient creatures. Also, that more complex creatures, those that have evolved as generalists in more complex environments, have evolved more refined inputs to their emotional decision mechanism.

Memories that hold complex belief systems, social intelligence and intellectual reasoning - seem all good examples of those more refined inputs that are available to humans.

Of all vertebrates only a small number have access to these advanced inputs - and really, only humans posses them in any significant way. Of the hundreds of thousands of species (other than humans) that operate via this basic emotional mechanism - each have also evolved a set of species-appropriate tuned inputs. Why would humans alone have evolved some basically different control system - such as the intellectually-based decision-making mechanism that most models of the mind seem to endorse. I say seem to endorse because they all seem to do so by implication or default.

LeDoux implies this mechanism when he mentions downward causation, but neither he nor any other psychologists explicity describe how this intellectually-based decision-mechanism works. Neither does he offer any evidence that my emotion-based decision mechanism would not be valid - where intellectual downward inputs may affect causation.

Would 200,000 years be nearly enough to completely change over this basic control system in humans? I doubt it. How did ancient humans make behavior choices as this transition occurred? Did intellect at some time become dominant over emotions? How did these early humans resolve opposite urges from their newly acquired intellect and their older emotions? And, how do humans now, before the age of reason, or after they lose their ability to reason in old age, make any decisions for their survival - absent that emotionally based system?

It seems so obvious to me that intellect is a species-appropriate evolved input - to our emotional control system, the basic design of which we share with all mammals, if not all vertebrates. But, it remains just a strange and unsettling view of human nature to many others. Is that because we prefer to believe that we are the thinking, intellectual animal - and that makes us special in nature? And any evidence to the contrary makes us uncomfortable?

This seems like the kind of psychological question that a philosopher would find especially interesting. Or, does philosophy depend so intrinsically on the human-intellectuality paradigm (that makes philosphical contemplation possible) - that any contradictory hypothesis is too unsettling to consider?

Margaret

alexandra_k July 10th, 2006 10:11 PM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
> It seems so obvious to me that emotions provide the values that are weighed in behavior choice - for all sentient creatures.

Okay. I'm wondering how loosely you are intending to use the word 'emotion'. There are pleasures and pains. There are likes and dislikes. There are urges and goals and desires. Are you subsuming all motivational states under the rubric of 'emotion'?

The 'value' stuff is interesting... William Seager (Toronto) has a paper on Emotional Consciousness that you can access from his homepage. He talks about how emotions represent value. He also talks about how perceptions can represent value, however. Something akin to salience. If you are looking for some kind of tool because there is something you want to do and you are going to have to improvise... Then if you go out to your garage your eyes will just pass over the things that are unsuitable and the things that are more likely candidates will pop out. Here the thing you want to do with it influences your perception. I agree that emotion (and more in particular) mood can alter the values of perceptions... But seems to be that desires and drives and urges and pains and tickles and itches are distinct, though related phenomena.

In terms of evolutionary history... I think pleasure and pain are likely to be basic... And more complex drives are layered on top... And emotions are layered on top of those... And of course simple detectors evolved into the 'decoupled representations' (beliefs) that we have now.

Seager is interesting because he likes the line that emotional consciousness is more basic than cognition and perception. He maintains that perception and the cognitive capacity needed to process information from perception only came about because of emotional consciousness. But then Seager also grounds emotions in pleasures / pains.

> LeDoux implies this mechanism when he mentions downward causation, but neither he nor any other psychologists explicity describe how this intellectually-based decision-mechanism works. Neither does he offer any evidence that my emotion-based decision mechanism would not be valid - where intellectual downward inputs may affect causation.

Okay I think I might be getting a little lost. By downward causation are you referring to his observation that there are more connections from amygdala to cortex than from cortex to amygdala? The 'downward causation' are the neural pathways from cortex to amygdala? Pays to remember he is studying fear in rats... But lets grant him his observation and lets grant him his generalisation from rats to people...

Have you heard of Frank? Economist from Cornell. He tells a bit of a 'just so story' about emotions... More in particular he is interested in the evolution of altruism and the like. He considers how emotions like anger may have evolved: (I'm going to have to reconstruct)

Lets say we are both stomping through the forest and we come across a cookie jar with 10 cookies in it. You grab the jar and say that you will give me one cookie and you will keep the rest. You are much bigger than me. If I try and fight you for it it is likely you will hurt me. It is more rational for me to accept an unfair bargain (and come up one cookie better off) than to not accept the unfair bargain and risk my life trying to fight you for my share.

But what happens? I feel outraged that you would offer me such an unfair bargain and thus my heart begins to race and my body prepares for me to do my jolly best to knock the shit out of you.

Why? Because in the long term... You are less likely to offer me (and other members of society perhaps) unfair bargains. Even if I hurt you just a little... You are less likely to offer me an unfair bargain in the future. And with anger... sometimes you just need a convincing display where the other person thinks you are committed to action and then they will back down.

Emotions evolved as solutions to the committment problem (if you offer me an unfair bargain I display emotion which committs me to damaging you up best I can). His story of the evolution of romantic love has been seriously criticised but the overall approach is interesting. He thinks that emotions are designed to circumvent or interrup simple means-end rationality (that would have you accept one cookie). When we act on these irruptive motivations... Well... We act on more long term interests, however. Thus emotions are rational in a sense.

But there are still plenty examples of 'irrational' emotions. Phobia. Recalcitrant emotions more generally. Fear that persists despite the judgement that the object can't hurt. Fear that is triggered by a garden hose which hardly looks like a snake at all! Sexual jealousy that persists EVEN WHEN there isn't anything wrong (could even evolve into delusional jealousy). Or depression... When we know we should get up and go for a run or keep scheduling activities as normal yet the mood overrides the best of intentions... Or anxiety... When we know we should take deep breaths and relax but our cortex just doesn't seem to be able to connect well enough with the amygdala to make that possible. I got the impression that that is what he was getting at. That these kinds of emotional disorder that are resistent to cognitive therapy because the dog / person just can't 'tell' the amygdala that tone will no longer be followed by shock. Well... If there were more connections from cortex to amygdala then we might have better cognitive control over some of these quick and dirty responses... Especially... When they get things wrong. I think that is more ideal than having rationality completely trump emotion. I think it is more about... Some of the pathological cases...

> Would 200,000 years be nearly enough to completely change over this basic control system in humans? I doubt it.

I actually have a lot of regard for mindfulness meditation and how it strengthens the muscle of attention so we are better able to have control over our brains (if you like). I think that people well practiced in mindfulness meditation have been found to have increased control over things we normally can't control. E.g., heart rate, SGR, low level emotional responses etc.

> This seems like the kind of psychological question that a philosopher would find especially interesting. Or, does philosophy depend so intrinsically on the human-intellectuality paradigm (that makes philosphical contemplation possible) - that any contradictory hypothesis is too unsettling to consider?

Philosophers used to hail rationality (aristotle: man = rational animal) as the ideal and emotions got a bad rap the way most traits that were considered 'feminine' did... But there has been a surge of interest in recent years. Especially in terms of ethics. Some people think that emotions are important for ethical behaviour / morality. I'm more interested in the role of emotions in our mental life more generally (to compare contrast them with perceptions, beliefs, desires, bodily feelings like tickles pains etc). In general philosophers have focused on beliefs and perceptions. There is a lot less out there on bodily feelings, desires. Pleasures and pains there is some on, but mostly with respect to trying to reduce them to beliefs and perceptions. People try and reduce bodily feelings and desires too. And emotions. Cognitive theories of emotion consider that to be angry is to judge that 'there has been an demeaning offence to me or mine' for example. They are trying to reduce emotions to beliefs.

But there is some interesting stuff now on the evolution of emotions. And some stuff now on the role of emotions with respect to beliefs and desires etc.

Margaret McGhee July 11th, 2006 01:39 PM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Alexandra said,
Quote:

Okay. I'm wondering how loosely you are intending to use the word 'emotion'. There are pleasures and pains. There are likes and dislikes. There are urges and goals and desires. Are you subsuming all motivational states under the rubric of 'emotion'?
From reading over your reply several times, I believe I have become lazy with my terms and that I am using the term emotion loosely. Let me correct that.

I really like Damasio's (mostly) explanation that emotions are changes in body state - in response to changes in our environmental that can affect our survival.

Feelings are another thing. They are our conscious awareness of our emotions. Emotions happen - whether we are aware of them as feelings and whether or not we are even consciously aware of the percieved dangers or rewards in our environment that caused them.

It seems obvious to me, after reading Damasio and LeDoux (among many others) very carefully - that our emotional responses, our changes in body state, form the intiating disturbance signal in the closed loop feedback system that provides basic behavior control for all sentient creatures. All sentient creatures exhibit emotional responses to their environment. Only a very few have an ability to reason.

Ultimately, this closed-loop-control-system can be observed in the operation of the pleasure - pain mechanism that you mention. This is now being directly observed by fMRI imaging by many brain scientists. My hypothesis is that all behavior is mediated by this mechanism. This is the closed loop feedback system that directs our lives - just as it does for all sentient creatures. We have no choice but to seek the pleasure and avoid the pain - to seek the emotional payoff (the pleasurable change in body-state) that is inherent in every behavior decision we make in life - to close the loop and correct for the intiating disturbance.

This is in opposition to the existing paradigm that we are the <i>thinking animal</i> - and that we therefore make our way through life by making intellectual decisions and following our reason except for those unfortunate times when our emotions get in the way. In this model of the mind, Mr. Spock from Star Trek represents the Platonic ideal.

I see intellect as simply an additional source for the emotional signals that are resolved in our pleasure/pain decision mechanism. This allows humans to be human - to use our intellects as an additional source for the decision-mediating emotions that guide us through life. A Mr. Spock is an existential impossibility. Without emotions to translate environmental changes that could affect our survival in some way - into physical values (emotions) - there could be no decision-making. There would be no reason for a sentient creature to choose any one behavior over another.

I believe we automatically resolve (convert) our intellectual conclusions to emotional signals that can be weighed (considered) by this mechanism - along with other inputs such as from basic instincts, memories, social instincts and especially our beliefs. Our actions will ultimately be determined by a summation of those emotional inputs on any considered behavior.

LeDoux seems to imply that humans have the ability to direct our behavior from the cortex down to the amygdala as you mention (downward causation). Or, at least, some believe that's what he was saying.

I disagree. I think cortical conclusions (thoughts representing a possible course of action) must first be weighted (according to our confidence in the conclusion) and then resolved along with other emotional forces from other sources. I suspect these are manifested in our brains though the release of various neurotransmitters and other chemical signals, in concert with synaptic activity - and resolved in someway as a go / no-go decision for some contemplated behavior. (Possibly in the amydala, but where is not important to me.)

I believe these chemical signals are far more than a response to cognition as they are often characterized in psychological brain models. I believe that they cause cognition to start with (by selectively activating various brain regions) and that they are the signals that get resolved, the values that get weighed, in all behavior decisions. This is the elaborate evolved closed-loop system that controls our behavior, IMO.

Thinking about something is relatively useless in itself - much as dreaming is useless in terms of behavior choice. Thoughts must first be resolved to values (emotions) that can have some effect on our survival, the chemicals that flow through our brains that can cause a change in the body-state of our minds before they can affect our behavior decisions.

In practice, I believe that our intellectual conclusions are vastly over-rated as sources for our important behavior decisions. Instead, I believe that we use our intellect for more utilitarian behavior decisons, like what route to take to Home Depot, or what size peanut-butter to buy for the best value. I suspect this is because our intellect has evolved to be incapable of generating strong emotions. That translator that converts an intellecual conclusion to an emotional value just doesn't have much horsepower. (That's good - our intellect has a very limited ability to accurately predict the outcome of our behavior decisions.)

That leaves our intellect useful for more mundane decisions - but almost useless for affecting crtitical decision that could have a great effect on our survival. Instead, our more ancient emotion sources such as instincts and beliefs provide those stronger signals.

Important decisions, those that are called up by strong emotional signals, require strong emotional inputs for resolution. I believe these strong emotional signals typically come from our beliefs - in humans and other creatures that have more complex intellectual activity. The stronger the belief, the stronger the emotions that bind it to our cognitive identity and the stronger the emotional signals it provides to our decision mechanism.

When we are making an important decision - we use our intellect for another purpose - to justify our strong beliefs that would bear on that decision - and/or to justify the behavior choice that those strong beliefs led to. I have used the Supreme Court as an example for how this works. Even justices highly committed to objective interpretation of the law will consistently make behavior choices that align with their ideology. Every 5-4 decision proves how strong are the emotions of their beliefs and how weak the emotions produced by their intellects are.

Almost every post in forums like these also provide evidence of the strong emotions at work in our behavior choices (defending our beliefs is the behavior that these forums provide an opportunity for). Every strong (esp. emotional) disagreement here provides evidence for the use of our intellects to logically justify and defend, rather than logically examine, our beliefs.

We all like to believe that we personally apply the purest logic to our conclusions - and that those who disagree with our well-reasoned conclusions are just not very smart. They lack critical thinking skills. Actually, we all spend far more intellectual energy justifying our existing beliefs - than opening our minds to any evidence that could possibly contradict them. Changing important (identity) beliefs is a very rare occurrence in a human adult. Those beliefs provide the emotions for all our important behavior decisions.

(My purpose is not to denigrate the thinking ability of anyone here. It is to discuss how our minds actually work, and how we apply our intellect, which IMO isn't nearly as enlightened as existing models of the mind propose. That certainly goes for my mind too.)

Margaret

Margaret McGhee July 11th, 2006 03:21 PM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
I would add that scientists are trained to have a belief in (and almost always adopt a belief in) scientific objectivity - especially in their field. I think many young scientists generally exhibit this open-minded objectivity early in their careers.

As they get older, some scientists yield to the strong emotional rewards provided by applying their scientific skills and connections - toward justifying some set of ideological beliefs. Sometimes this ideology is scientific, sometimes it's political or religious - often it's a combination of those.

However, for many older scientists the objectivity they learned as young scientists becomes a way of dealing with life in general. I greatly admire these scientists because they have traded in the emotional rewards that come from a more ideological life-style - for a less exciting life - in the service of scientific truths that can potentially improve all our lives. I see parallels with a celibate priesthood and with some judges who have a true calling for their profession.

I can see in these scientists' discussions and debates a general suspicion toward emotionally made positions - they carefully avoid them themselves (it become second nature to them I think) - and they are alert to and dismissive of them in others.

However, all scientists (and all non-scientists) have beliefs with which they make important decisions in life. The difference between scientists (and non-scientists) is largely the humility with which they hold their beliefs - how careful they are not to attach their beliefs to strong emotions - how willing they are to re-examine their beliefs logically when new evidence comes available.

It's a more difficult life to live because one's beliefs will require constant editing. And it's not nearly as exciting as harboring a strong belief system in one's mind that can provide continuous emotional rewards and clear (belief based) directions - if not always intelligent directions - for behavior decisions.

I believe that the strong emotions of ideology are contageous. It's important to be wary of the use of strong words and strong emotions in support of positions in a discussion like this, even if we agree with the position - or soon, all ability to have a discussion will be lost - a very unsatisfactory outcome, IMO.

I offer these observations to encourage more high-quality discussions like those that have generally occurred here recently.

Margaret

alexandra_k July 12th, 2006 12:53 AM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Okay. I started this thread because I was hoping you would summarise your thinking, so thanks for that. I'm sorry I didn't get to the writing you sent me earlier. There is a lot there, so I'll have to be selective as to what I respond to (sorry about that, but I need to get to doing some work today).

:-)

> I really like Damasio's (mostly) explanation that emotions are changes in body state - in response to changes in our environmental that can affect our survival.

Okay. Damasio (and Le Doux) both buy into what was originally known as the James-Lange theory of emotion. They have updated it in light of some neurophysiological details, but the theory is very much in line with the James-Lange theory where emotions are the feeling of certain kinds of bodily changes.

> Feelings are another thing. They are our conscious awareness of our emotions.

Okay. So that is a point of difference. May seem picky but if you are interested in what emotions ARE then you are looking to make an identity. IF emotions are FEELINGS OF BODY STATE CHANGES then body changes in the absence of feeling would not consititute an emotion (and hence unconscious emotions would be impossible. IF emotions are CERTAIN KINDS OF BODY STATE CHANGES then surely the body changes can occur in the absence of feeling (and hence unconscious emotions would be possible).

I can't remember who conducted the survey (Jackendoff I think, though I could be wrong). He surveyed first year students and asked them 'which of the following three aspects seems most central to emotion?: Bodily state changes, feelings / phenomenology, cognition? By far the majority of people said that feelings / phenomenology is the most central. (The only exception was the philosophy majors who thought that cognition was the most important!). What does this mean? I guess it depends on what you want your theory of emotions to do... If you want to know what emotions are as people typically use the terms then it seems that people think that phenomenology / feeling is most central. Thus... If you are going to make an identity it would be more in line with folk inutition / common sense to identify emotions with FEELINGS / PHENOMENOLOGY rather than with the bodily state changes. But then if you are more interested in developing a science of emotions... There would seem to be better prospects for studying bodily changes than for studying phenomenology.

I'd really reccomend the following book. Griffiths is a philosopher of science who is interested in developing a theory of emotions that is a SCIENTIFIC theory of emotions. He ends up concluding that Ekman's affect program responses (I think there were six of them) are natural kinds, whereas the other emotions (the more paradigmatically cognitive emotions) don't seem to constitute scientifically interesting natural kinds of phenomena. He offers an extensive review of the scientific literature, criticises surveys which amount to little more than 'conceptual analysis by numbers' and he says that if one wants to know about the real nature of water you need to ask the chemists not the folk and hence if you want to know about the real nature of emotions you need to ask the psychologists / biologists not the folk.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/022...lance&n=283155

> our emotional responses, our changes in body state, form the intiating disturbance signal in the closed loop feedback system that provides basic behavior control for all sentient creatures. All sentient creatures exhibit emotional responses to their environment. Only a very few have an ability to reason.

It is controversial what is and is not sentient. Are snakes sentient? How about fish? How about oysters? There are bacteria that exhibit approach / avoidance behaviour to certain chemical concentrations, does that imply that they have the conscious experience of pleasure / pain? I'm not at all sure that it does... Do snakes have emotions? How about other reptiles? While there are analogues of some emotional responses in the higher mammals (most notably of Ekman's affect program responses) do animals other than adult humans have emotions such as... Awe? Reverence? Wonder? Angst? These 'higher cognitive emotions' seem to be more distinctively human. They also seem to involve cognitive capacity that is simply lacking in other mammals. They also seem not to have distinctive patterns of bodily change associated with them. People are doing work on trying to scaffold sexual jealousy, embarrassment, and shame onto Ekman's basic affect program responses (to show how these emotions evolved out of them due to social / environmental factors). The higher cognitive emotions? It would be nice to build a bridge to them... But I don't know how far an evolutionary approach that focused on patterns of bodily changes would get us...

Who was it that talked about the 'as if loop'? That is an interesting idea... Typically emotions seem to go like this:
Properties of the object that bear on persons welfare -> Unconsciously 'perceived' by amygdala -> Which sends signals to both: Motor production (to initiate pattern of bodily change) and Cortex (so we may become consciously aware of the property we are responding to). Now... If emotions are bodily state changes or feelings of bodily state changes then what does this entail for people who are paralysed (ie people who can't undergo the requisite body state changes and also couldn't feel them were they to occur?) The data is mixed... Seems most plausible that paralysed people DO have emotional responses comperably to non paralysed people thus that suggests a problem for the theory.

If you are interested in the bodily changes / feelings of bodily changes model then I'd reccomend this book (in a way even more so than the previous one. The previous one is better written / argued to be sure, but this one will extend your current line of thought quite nicely.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/019...lance&n=283155

(I should also say that both authors have shorter papers available for download from their homepages which are easily accessed if you google their names)

He makes a big deal of the 'as if loop'. Here the idea is that while emotions are typically perceptions (or feelings) of bodily state changes there can be emotion in the absence of bodily state change. How so? The notion is that the area of the brain that is typically associated with bodily state change is active even though there is an absence of bodily state change. As such his theory is more that emotions ARE brain states that typically function to register bodily changes where those bodily changes represent core relational themes (properties in the world that bear on the persons welfare). Kinda complicated... But interesting theory... You can sort of consider there to be a progression from James-Lange to Damasio and Le-Doux to Jesse Prinz. He patches up some of the difficulties that the other theorists had. Most notably the problem of 'if emotions are feelings of bodily state changes then how is it that emotions can REPRESENT properties of the world rather than merely representing the fact that ones body has changed?'.

I think the notion of the 'as if loop' is that while emotions are TYPICALLY caused bottom up by perceiving (unconsciously) features of the world, emotions can also be caused top down by thinking about / remembering things. Consider... Some circumstance in which you have felt wronged in the past... If you really reflect on that and think it through soon enough... Your body will start entering into the body changes associated with anger. While Prinz argues that bottom up is necessary for the circuits to develop (he is an empiricist rather than a rationalist) he also allows that we have 'calibration files' where things (including thoughts / words) can be added to those files. Consider fear... We have innate calibration files (the probability of feeling fear to heights, insects, etc) and during development other things can be added to that calibration file (such as people yelling 'fire!' or the sound of a tone). We can perceive things in the calibration file, but we can also remember things in the calibration file. Hence there are top down and bottom up routes to emotional responses even though bottom up is primary.

Prinz reports... Now he could be wrong... But my understanding is that valence (the pleasant / unpleasant weighting of emotion) is an aspect that scientists are struggling with... They are having trouble finding brain regions in common to pleasant emotions, they are having trouble finding brain regions in common to unpleasant emotions. This has suggested to some that valence is folk nonsense... I wouldn't quite go that far... But there is difficulty...

We have more of a capacity to initiate emotions top down than other creatures with less cognitive capacity. We have more of a capacity to add things (like words, images etc) to our calibration files than other creatures.

> Our actions will ultimately be determined by a summation of those emotional inputs on any considered behavior.

The philosophy model typically looks something like this:

genes + natural / social environment -> representational states + motivational states -> behaviour.

The notion being that ones genetic inheritance and ones social / natural environment determines what mental states we will have. Indeed... We have representational states that function to represent the world truely (when all goes well). Beliefs (about the world) are representational. Perceptions (when all goes well) are representational. One could consider that emotions are representational in the sense that they represent the world as being a certain way (that there are properties in the world that bear on my welfare). One could consider desires to be representational (where they represent ways we would like the world to be). Emotions and desires also seem to be motivational, however. If one had representational states without motivational states then one would have no REASON to act. But if one had motivational states without representational states one would be a simple reflexive mechanism (though arguably even the bacteria that swim away must detect / register / represent the world before they can act on their motivations). I'm just meaning to say that representations and motivations may be kinda like two sides of the same coin... I don't think either one is fundamental. Kim Sterelny in 'Thought in a Hostile World' (well worth a read if you are interested in the evolution of representation / motivation backed up with good anthropological data)... Kim maintains that when the organism isn't very complex there isn't really a meaningful distinction between representation and motivation. We have a simple reflexive response like an eyeblink or a kneekick. I'm not sure that one side is more fundamental than the other... Though it is fair to say that philosophers have tended to not focus on the motivational side. I think that part of that is that representation has an interesting logical structure and people are interested in the logical structure that is common to thought / language / the world. Motivations don't seem to have that interesting structure... More like a bunch of people where little groups shove up their hands every now again and say 'drink! drink! i vote that what we should do next is drink!' while another neurone population shove up their hands even more insistantly to say 'mate! mate!' and whichever population is most 'vocal' gets control of motor production...

Back to the philosophical model... The notion is that beliefs (or representations) are states that are designed to fit the world... desires (or motivations) are states that are designed to fit the world to it. Fantasy... Does neither. The notion is that an organism will act from its strongest desire on the assumption that its beliefs are true. Without belief one wouldn't know what to do in order to achieve ones desires... Without desire one wouldn't want to do anything... Both are kinda important...

I think you might be overestimating the value we give to hedonistic pleasure... I give quite high weighting to hedonistic pleasure, but then I have trouble with impulse control (and most consider this a defect). People are able to forgo short term high for longer term wellbeing... Activities such as saving money etc... Don't underestimate how much people do those in their daily lives as well. While deliberative reasoning isn't something we undertake for every decision it seems to be a strategy that we employ when the decisions really matter. It isn't so very important to be whether I buy the cheapest jar of peanut butter, I know what kind I like, and I consider the saving to be negligible. When I am considering which university to attend, however, then I weigh pros and cons because that is what it takes to make it more likely to achieve my desire (of attending the place that is best for me in the following respects ____ because those are the things I desire / value).

Fred H. July 12th, 2006 09:39 AM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Quote:

Alex: People are able to forgo short term high for longer term wellbeing... Activities such as saving money etc... Don't underestimate how much people do those in their daily lives as well. While deliberative reasoning isn't something we undertake for every decision it seems to be a strategy that we employ when the decisions really matter. It isn't so very important to be whether I buy the cheapest jar of peanut butter, I know what kind I like, and I consider the saving to be negligible. When I am considering which university to attend, however, then I weigh pros and cons because that is what it takes to make it more likely to achieve my desire (of attending the place that is best for me in the following respects ____ because those are the things I desire / value).
Oh no, no, Alex, my longwinded friend, it seems that now you too have fallen victim to MM’s circular hypothesis regarding our supposedly inexorable seeking of emotional payoff, wherein MM proclaims, in her so called “axiom,” that “people believe [only] what feels good to them - and use their brains to justify it.”

Margaret will inform you that of course some people will forgo short term high for longer term well-being, b/c for some people, longer term well-being “feels good to them,” at least better, overall, than a “short term high,” and therefore, voil*, those people will use their brains to justify longer term well-being . . . and you’ll never convince her otherwise b/c everything she herself thinks and does is, using her stated belief, “the result of seeking that emotional payoff - that comes from satisfying [her] likes - and avoiding [her] dislikes”—and it seems that MM dislikes freewill, choice, moral responsibility.

Margaret McGhee July 12th, 2006 12:08 PM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Alexandra, Thanks for the taking the time from your busy day to write such a thorough response. Sometimes, I write too much in a post because I expect that the reader will be looking for gotcha's so I try to protect my point ahead of time by being extra thorough. When you reply to me - rest assured I'm not trying to trip you up. I am very interested in your perspective. Be brief. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt - if I have doubt. And I'll ask for clarification if I need to. Expect me to do any heavy lifting here. I've got the time (usually) and you have better things to do.

I'll just pick one area of your last post for this reply - to clear this up. You said,
Quote:

Okay. So that is a point of difference. May seem picky but if you are interested in what emotions ARE then you are looking to make an identity. IF emotions are FEELINGS OF BODY STATE CHANGES then body changes in the absence of feeling would not consititute an emotion (and hence unconscious emotions would be impossible. IF emotions are CERTAIN KINDS OF BODY STATE CHANGES then surely the body changes can occur in the absence of feeling (and hence unconscious emotions would be possible).
I am not making a claim for what emotions ARE. I am using Damasio's definition which I think is useful. My thesis does not depend on his definition being true - or even accepted by a majority of brain scientists. I am saying that if we accept Damasio's definition of emotion - then here's how (that kind of) emotion fits into my hypothesis.

To be specific, as I understand Damasio he is saying that our awareness of our emotional state is not necessary for an emotional state to occur in us. The emotional state of being cold, such as might cause goose bumps, may not be consciously noticed. Yet, we may interrupt reading a book momentarily to pull a blanket over our bare legs without realizing why we did it - or even noticing that we did it.

Unless we notice consciously that we are chilled then we do not have the feeling of being cold according to Damasio - yet we still have the emotion and that emotion, that change in body state, caused a behavior. I think this is useful because it allows emotion to become a signal for corrective behavior whether or not our cognition is engaged. I think that's important. This hypothesis then covers the behavior of all animals who do not possess consciousness as well as humans who are too young, too old, too asleep, thinking about something else, etc. to be consciously aware of emotional signals. I like explanations that cover more than just special subsets of the world.

It seems that the greatest proportion of human behavior is not consciously controlled - as it almost never is with other animals, of course. Consciousness is a relatively new evolutionary phenomena. My hypothesis gives conscious thought a role as an important new layer in the human behavior decision process - a new input channel for emotional signals that can add to the signals coming from various sources that can affect a behavior decision.

The word emotion is related to the root motive. I believe the early philosphers that described emotion were accurately describing that force within us that compells us to do the things we do. Perhaps it is my physics background, but my mind likes definitions where some force causes an action. Where there is an action I look for some force for explanation. Emotions are correlated with the flow of neurotransmitters and increased neural activity in our brains and bodies on fMRI scans.

It is possible that the behavior control mechanism has evolved in humans so that our cognition has the ability to take full control of it - when we wish to have that voluntary control over our behavior. It is possible that just by thinking that we should refuse to stand and recite a pledge that requires us to acknowledge a god that we don't believe in - that we can make ourselves follow that course of action - for example.

But, many of us will stand and recite anyway. In my view they do that because the competing emotion of not wanting to be seen as unpatriotic by others was stronger than the emotion compelling them to be true to their own beliefs.

When I see this and many more examples like it, where we do the opposite from what we think we should do, it makes me doubt that cognition has the ability to control our behavior. Instead, I have proposed that this new cognitive layer has the ability to produce emotions that get summed with other emotions from other input channels during a behavior decision. These would be instincts, social forces and especially beliefs.

Our large human memories allow us to have elaborate belief systems covering many slight variations of the real world in our minds. I have wondered if this is the reason for the abrubt evolutionary expansion of the human brain - to hold our many thousands of beliefs as we became more capable of objectively discriminating between the many slight variations to be found in nature - and eventually capable of generalizing our beliefs and applying them to unrelated but similar phenomena.

Beliefs are relationships we believe to be true about the world. For example, dogs can bite, is a belief. As an infant we may be instinctively fearful of any large animal that approaches us. However, after a few such scary encounters - we learn (we develop the belief) that this particular large animal (the family dog) is not dangerous. Note that this can happen well before a child learns to speak or develops an ability to reason. Later, we may learn that some dogs do bite.

During our life we then consult our belief system about dogs whenever we encounter one. This is much faster than logically reasoning out the possibility for danger each time. It is also generally more accurate. We may have limited experience with dogs and therefore have limited data to evaluate this logically. Our belief system however, can instantly generate fear or love emotions when we see a strange snarling dog on the street or our beloved Taffy.

The good thing about beliefs is that they provide instant emotions for decisions - and that they can be modified as we have new experiences. We can even apply logic to our beliefs to help modify them and make them more refined. For example, we may learn from reading a book at age ten that rabid animals exhibit erratic behavior and may foam at the mouth - and are very dangerous. So, as we grow we add to our belief system and we edit it continuously to provide the most accurate predictive emotions about many things in the world that can affect our well-being or our survival.

Many animals have beliefs. They have the ability to learn relationships about the world that affect their survival. My cat, through instinct and trial and error, has learned (developed the belief) that sitting next to her empty bowl and whining will generally result in me filling it up. Human belief systems are much larger and can hold many nuanced variations of any belief.

Beliefs don't depend on reasoning for survival, even though a good ability to reason can help smart persons edit their beliefs and add to them creatively so that they represent an increasingly large and accurate data base of relationships about the world - always ready to produce an instant emotion for our decision-making.

Enough for now.

Margaret

alexandra_k July 13th, 2006 01:32 AM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
> Oh no, no, Alex, my longwinded friend...

ROFL!!!
You are too funny :-)

(Yes okay, one for Fred)

;-)

alexandra_k July 13th, 2006 02:05 AM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Hey. I'm sorry I don't have the time to put more thought into my posts. If I had more time I would try and edit them more for syntax and spelling and clarity and succinctness... I really am sorry about that.

I guess there are questions about what emotions ARE and about what emotions DO. They kind of go together.

>as I understand Damasio he is saying that our awareness of our emotional state is not necessary for an emotional state to occur in us.

Yes, that is what he seems to be saying. I guess what I'm interested in, however, is the question 'But is Damasio right'? I do hear what you are saying about cold, but I disagree that feeling cold is an emotional state. There are a variety of related (though different states) and typically feeling cold is classified as a bodily state such as pains, tickes, itches, orgasms, and feelings of cold. How those states relate to emotions is controversial (and that is what I'm writing on now, as a matter of fact)
:-)

> The emotional state of being cold, such as might cause goose bumps, may not be consciously noticed. Yet, we may interrupt reading a book momentarily to pull a blanket over our bare legs without realizing why we did it - or even noticing that we did it.

Yes. And when I have a headache for a couple of days I presumably don't feel the pain ALL the time. My attention may be distracted from it when I am asleep or when I have my mind on other matters, that seems true enough. There is a sense of 'pain' in which the term refers to the conscious state so that I am in pain when and only when I feel pain. There also seems to be another sense of 'pain' in which the term refers to some kind of soft tissue disturbance / damage, however. In the latter sense of the term 'pain' unconscious pains are possible. You can tell a similar story in the case of emotions. Some of the controversy is over whether emotion terms refer to the consicous feeling of emotions (Freud and James seemed to think so) or whether emotion terms refer to the bodily state changes (Damasio and Le Doux seem to think so).

> It seems that the greatest proportion of human behavior is not consciously controlled

Yes.

> The word emotion is related to the root motive. I believe the early philosphers that described emotion were accurately describing that force within us that compells us to do the things we do.

Here you seem to be talking about desire. Desires are related (though distinct) phenomena.

> Perhaps it is my physics background, but my mind likes definitions where some force causes an action. Where there is an action I look for some force for explanation.

Yes. Magnets as a model for attraction / repulsion.

> But, many of us will stand and recite anyway. In my view they do that because the competing emotion of not wanting to be seen as unpatriotic by others was stronger than the emotion compelling them to be true to their own beliefs.

Emotion or desire? Can you have desire in the absence of emotion? Can you have emotion in the absence of desire? I still think you are subsuming all the motivational states (bodily sensations, drives, preferences, motivations, motives, urges, goals, intentions, pleasures, pains) into the term 'emotion'. Most people think 'motivational state' is the general header and these other states are different kinds or classes of motivational state. Like you have the general header 'representational state' and there are different kinds or classes of representational state such as memories, perceptions, beliefs, etc. Emotions are typically thought to be interesting (as are bodily states) because they seem to cut across the traditional representational / motivational divide. They seem to contain both representational and motivational aspects.

> Many animals have beliefs.

That is very controversial... To have a belief requires that one has concepts. It is arguable whether animals have the conceptual sophistication required for belief. Same goes for infants. Some theorists have concluded that infants and animals can't have emotions either because evaluative judgements 'that dog can hurt me' are necessary causes of emotional states and animals and infants are thought to lack the cognitive capacity required for the evaluative judgements. Depends... Whether you think that evaluative judgements are necessary for emotions (I don't think so).

> My cat, through instinct and trial and error, has learned (developed the belief) that sitting next to her empty bowl and whining will generally result in me filling it up.

I grant that she has learned that. I'm not sure that her learning consists in propositional knowledge (the belief that 'if i wine then i'll get some food') because I think she lacks the concept of 'wining' and 'food' and also the concept of hypotheticals (if i do x then i'll get y). Animals have some basic understanding of causal connections but that doesn't entail they have the concept of causation. Animals can learn many things but I don't think their learning is propositional / belief-like in form. Because... They lack language and the cognitive sophistication required for langauage like ours (with syntax).

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/emotion/

(Hope you can access... I'm getting a 'please convince your university to donate to maintain these pages note' so it is possible that my access is only possible because I'm using a university computer).

Let me know if you can't access and I'll see what I can do...

Margaret McGhee July 13th, 2006 07:40 PM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
No problem with access to stanford.edu . I plan to read the article this evening. Thanks for the link.

>>Me: Many animals have beliefs.

>Alex: That is very controversial... To have a belief requires that one has concepts. It is arguable whether animals have the conceptual sophistication required for belief. Same goes for infants. Some theorists have concluded that infants and animals can't have emotions either because evaluative judgements 'that dog can hurt me' are necessary causes of emotional states and animals and infants are thought to lack the cognitive capacity required for the evaluative judgements. Depends... Whether you think that evaluative judgements are necessary for emotions (I don't think so).

Inserted aside:
Quote:

Me: I am trying to paint a picture of a different paradigm of how the mind works. To do that I am challenging the definitions that we commonly use - the conventional wisdom on these things - because those conventions impose their own paradigm. They were largely created to support it. Just as I'm doing by re-defining some of those definitions now to support my new paradigm.

Please look at my proposals as hypotheticals - as part of a larger provisional picture that I am saying will offer a better explanation for how we humans make behavior decisions. Think of them as as if propositions.
When you say belief requires that we have concepts, I disagree. I am proposing that belief only requires that an entity expects a certain relationship to be true about the world. Remember, I used the example of my cat expecting her dish to get filled when she whines. She developed that belief through operant conditioning. She tried several things and her whining behavior was reinforced. (Scratching the sofa was not.)

That is a form of knowing that doesn't require a conceptualization of the objects and relationships involved. Yet, the emotions produced by that concept-less belief now provide the motivation for her to whine when she is hungry (according to my paradigm of animal behavior).


Alexandra said,
Quote:

Animals can learn many things but I don't think their learning is propositional / belief-like in form. Because... They lack language and the cognitive sophistication required for langauage like ours (with syntax).
I agree. But you still agree they can learn many things. I am saying that whatever they learn is a belief. It is knowing something about the world that did not come in their genes (instincts). But, like their instincts, learned beliefs are capable of generating emotions that cause behavior choice. In fact, I'm proposing that in animals that have a complex CNS, like most mammals, that beliefs are a common source for behavior selecting emotions. I suspect that the more complex an animal's CNS is, the more that the emotions generated by its beliefs govern its behavior choice - and the less emotions generated by its instincts govern its behavior choice.

That's because beliefs are completely adaptable. They allow an animal's behavior to be fine tuned to its environment. An animal that can learn beliefs not only has a better chance of surviving in an environemt that is significantly different from that of its recent ancestors, it has a much better chance of surviving in an environment that changes during that animal's life-time - like the appearance of a new predator, for example. Certainly that's a huge survival advantage over animals that are restricted to mostly instinctive behavior.

I am proposing that the mental development of animals with a complex CNS is largely a matter of developing (learning) accurate beliefs about the world that are appropriate for their genotype and the environment they must cope with.

My cat does not like loud noises. She'll protectively find a hiding place if she's scared by a loud noise - an instinct that produces a useful emotion directly tied to survival.

What if she learns from a few bad experiences the belief that a particular neighbor dog loves to chase cats. Isn't it easy to see how that belief can produce a similar emotion of fear and cause a similar reaction, hiding? Still, no conceptualization is necessary.

In fact, after thinking about this last night (thanks for your thougtful posts that caused me to lose some sleep last night BTW ;) ) I'd go further and say that it's likely that concepts can not generate emotions at all. It's likely that they only change our behavior (from what it would be without having the concept) by modifying or changing our beliefs about something.

Prior to today I had proposed that our intellectual conclusions were another source for our behavior decision emotions. I am now proposing that our intellectual conclusions (made possible by conceptualization) serve to edit and refine our beliefs about a particular subject. They allow us to refine our beliefs about something in our world so they are more accurate and nuanced and more predictive. It is then the emotions enabled by those refined beliefs that actually motivate our behavior.

I am proposing that our powerful human intellect did not evolve as another source for behavior emotions (as I previously proposed). I am saying our intellect evolved as a support system for our beliefs. It likely evolved to allow us to have ever more accurate beliefs about the world for our behavior decisions.

It's easy to imagine how the first animal that developed a slight ability to learn even the simplest beliefs about its world - the simplest learned expectations about the things in its world that could harm it or help it survive - eventually led to an explosion of new species into almost every environmental niche - displacing most other animals in those niches that had less ability to learn such beliefs about the world.

Looking through this window it's also easy to imagine how a little bit of this ability (to develop beliefs about the world) - inexorably led to the evolution of animals with even more of that ability - probably it led to humans and our ability to conceptualize - at this time the ultimate belief support system created by evolution.

But, be careful. Conceptualizing does not always lead to better beliefs because of logical errors, insufficient data, etc. And, I'm sure the provisional beliefs we devise / modify using our intellect must still be tested empirically before we fully accept them. We are probably justifiably cautious with newly created or revised beliefs that can seriously affect our survival or well-being.

That cautious behavior is no doubt, caused by emotions that come from an instinct. For example, that's why rats and mice are very cautious about new food sources and are fairly difficult to catch in a baited trap.

Thanks, Margaret

alexandra_k July 14th, 2006 01:28 AM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
> Me: I am trying to paint a picture of a different paradigm of how the mind works. To do that I am challenging the definitions that we commonly use - the conventional wisdom on these things - because those conventions impose their own paradigm. They were largely created to support it. Just as I'm doing by re-defining some of those definitions now to support my new paradigm.

Okay... Trouble is that the current paradigm has been incredibly fruitful in terms of productive theorising and interesting experimental results. People typically need jolly good reason to switch paradigms. Usually the reason is that there is anomalous data that can't be explained by the current paradigm and another paradigm can explain everything the other paradigm could explain as well as the anomalous data.

Do you have any experimental results that your paradigm would predict that would be anomalous results for the previous theory?

Are you trying to do science or are you trying to tell 'just so' stories?

You are of course free do define and use terms any way you want to. The trouble with redefining terms, however, is that other people need to accept your definitions in order to communicate with you. I'm having significant difficulty understanding what you mean by your terms because you are using them in ways that diverge from the ways they are used in the psychological / philosophical literature. Also because I'm not at all sure that you understand the way that they are typically used in the standard psychological / philosophical literature which makes it hard for you to say how your position is similar or different to the standard one in certain respects. Im not sure you understand the motivations for the standard definitions either.

For example, I think you define 'emotion' in such a way that that maps on to what is typically considered to be 'motivational states in general'. If you mean 'motivational states in general' some of your claims are trivially true, whereas if you mean 'emotion' in the way that the term is standardly used then I think some of your claims are very unlikely to be accepted (because there are obvious counter-examples).

> When you say belief requires that we have concepts, I disagree.

The way the terms are standardly used (thus the terms in which the debate has been traditionally conducted) there is a distinction between:
KNOWLEDGE HOW and
KNOWLEDGE THAT
Know-how is a kind of skill or ability. I know how to ride a bike. I know how to catch a ball. Your cat knows how to get some food (by making a noise by her bowl). Know-how doesn't require beliefs. Know-how doesn't require concepts. I can know how to ride a bike without having the concept of a 'bike' and without having any beliefs about bikes whatsoever. Animals and infants know how to do a whole heap of stuff.

Know-that is typically glossed as propositional knowledge. It can be glossed as knowledge that a certain proposition is true. Propositions are typically glossed as abstract entities that are (roughly) the meanings of sentences / utterences / thoughts. Here are some examples of propositions (so you can sort of get what I mean).
it is raining
particles have spin
fido is a dog
i have brown hair
Know-that is knowledge of the form 'I know that p' where p stands for any proposition at all. I can know that it is raining, I can know that particles have spin, I can know that Fido is a dog etc etc. Knowledge-that entails belief. For me to know that p I must believe that p.

Belief is a propositional attitude. It is an attitude that we can take towards propositions. There are other propositional attitudes. One can desire that p, fear that p, hope that p, wish that p etc. So desires, fears, hopes, wishes, beliefs can have propositional contents in common. They differ in being different attitudes that one takes towards the proposition.

Propositions are structured arrangements of concepts. The above examples of propositions have concepts like RAINING, PARTICLE, SPIN, FIDO, DOG, BROWN, HAIR. In order to entertain the proposition (under any propositional attitude) one is required to grasp the concepts that the proposition is composed of.

'it is raining' (a statement in language either written or spoken)
IT IS RAINING (a thought / belief)
rain (a state of affairs in the world)

There is a logical structure in common between language, thought, and the world. Logic describes that common structure.

To say that beliefs aren't propositional attitudes (to say that beliefs don't require concepts) is to undermine the explanation for their structural isomorphism with language and the world. There are good reasons for saying that beliefs require concepts... I can grant that infants and animals know how to do a whole heap of stuff... But they lack the cognitive sophistication required for belief. To have a belief entails that one believes that p. To believe that p entails that one has the concepts that are involved in the proposition. Animals lack the concepts therefore they can't have beliefs. They don't have states that they can manipulate according to the rules of deductive and inductive reasoning... They don't have beliefs.

alexandra_k July 14th, 2006 01:35 AM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Though... It might be possible that they have 'proto concepts' or something like that... coarse grained concepts. Some theories of concepts say that to have a concept involves being able to manipulate the concept according to the rules of logic / inductive / deductive reasoning etc. Other theories of concepts have a much more minimilist view of concepts where to have a concept is merely to have some kind of behavioural ability or capacity. I guess it is the latter line that you are thinking of... These behavioural abilities or capacities seem to be imporantly different from concepts that can be manipulated according to the rules of logic / inductive / deductive reasoning etc, however. Some have said that they are more 'proto concepts' or know how than know that...

Fred H. July 14th, 2006 09:28 AM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Quote:

[Alex to MM:] Do you have any experimental results that your paradigm would predict that would be anomalous results for the previous theory?
Oh Alex, don’t be silly—of course not; for as MM has acknowledged, she believes that she/everyone believes only what “feels good” to her/them, and uses her/their “brains to justify it.”

Quote:

[Alex to MM:] Are you trying to do science or are you trying to tell 'just so' stories?
Let’s face it Alex, even the latter is a stretch, since MM believes that she/everyone believes only what “feels good” to her/them, and uses her/their “brains to justify it.”

Quote:

[Alex to MM:] You are of course free do define and use terms any way you want to. The trouble with redefining terms, however, is that other people need to accept your definitions in order to communicate with you. I'm having significant difficulty understanding what you mean by your terms because you are using them in ways that diverge from the ways they are used in the psychological / philosophical literature. Also because I'm not at all sure that you understand the way that they are typically used in the standard psychological / philosophical literature which makes it hard for you to say how your position is similar or different to the standard one in certain respects. Im not sure you understand the motivations for the standard definitions either.
Be assured Alex—for as MM has acknowledged, she believes that she/everyone believes only what “feels good” to her/them, and uses her/their “brains to justify it.”

Fred’s theorem regarding circular BS: It’s circular BS.

alexandra_k July 14th, 2006 09:56 AM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Why do you post those kinds of posts Fred?

Margaret, I'm sorry if what I said sounded harsh... I didn't mean to be... There is a lot of dispute... I'm just struggling to understand what you are trying to say...

It seems to me that you are seeing things through the lens of emotion

Whereas traditionally people saw things through the lens of belief / rationality

And it seems to me that some middle way between them is what is most likely to be true

But communication is hard... I don't even understand what other philosophers are talking about half the time...

Margaret McGhee July 14th, 2006 11:19 AM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Quote:

Alex: Okay... Trouble is that the current paradigm has been incredibly fruitful in terms of productive theorising and interesting experimental results.
We could disagree on that. I think that the field of psychology, splintered as it is into several competing sub-paradigms, each with its own poorly described model of the mind, really explains very little about human behavior choice. And what explanations there are tend to disagree with the other camps. Pick any three major thinkers in this area and you'll find three explanations for behavior choice that have little in common.

Quote:

Alex: People typically need jolly good reason to switch paradigms.
Well, yes. A paradigm is a meta-belief, a framework for knowledge. Changing paradigms is extremely difficult because a large number of one's most important beliefs will have to be rejected and replaced. This is especially difficult for professionals whose whole educational experience has been a process of becoming intimately steeped in the arcane knowledge and especially the terms, the language of the current paradigm.

Quote:

Alex: Usually the reason is that there is anomalous data that can't be explained by the current paradigm and another paradigm can explain everything the other paradigm could explain as well as the anomalous data.
I think you're talking about hypotheses and theories. Paradigms are invisible to those who live in them. Designed experiments assume the paradigm is correct. Unexpected results are not seen to question the paradigm. Instead, scientists will look hard for within-paradigm explanations. They'll propose alternate hypotheses and are rewarded by their peers when they find within-paradigm explanations - criticized when they don't.

Psychology is full of data that can't be explained by the current paradigm. That's why psychology is so splintered. Each sub-discipline is an attempt to deform the existing intellicentric paradigm around the edges just enough so that certain kinds of data will fit better.

Let me try this again. The current paradigm asserts that we are the thinking animal. That we use our reason, our intellect, to make behavior choices. That if we make bad choices, that means we don't think good. Probably it also means that our emotions got in the way and prevented us from thinking clearly. In this intellicentric paradigm emotions are side-effects that add spice to life. Those who behave poorly are accused of seeking those emotional rewards too eagerly and ignoring the better advice from their reason when making behavior choices.

This is the paradigm of dualism - a world of enlightened thinkers and evil brutes who seek their own pleasure regardless of the consequences - often in the same body. It is the paradigm of gods and devils, of Dr. Jekyls and Mr. Hydes, of yin and yang forces battling for control of the soul. In this world the concept of free-will is created as the inscrutible agent in us, that ghost in the machine that tells us which path to follow.

My emotion-centric paradigm says that we are emotional animals just like all the others. We do the things we do because of the emotional rewards built into our CNS for pursuing behavior that generally increases our survival and well-being - and because of the emotional punishments we generally experience when we pursue the opposite behavior. It says that animals have two primary sources for the emotional rewards / punishments that guide our behavior - instinct which provides built in emotional responses to certain stimuli - and beliefs, which allow more highly evolved animals to learn things about its world through experience and attach appropriate emotions to those objects, events and relationships that could affect its survival.

Quote:

An aside: I have carefully defined belief as a learned expectation about the world that does not require conceptualization. (Although we can use our intellect to justify or examine the rationality of our beliefs.) Your resistance to provisionally accepting my definition (for when I use the term in my posts) tells me that you are feeling discomfort at being forced (by my definition) to consider this different paradigm. Your preferred definition for belief is completely tied to intellect. I prefer my definition because it does subtly force the user into this new paradigm - to implicitly accept the possibility that intellect has a secondary supporting role in human behavior choice.
Humans, with our very large and complex brains, depend mostly on beliefs - with instincts providing little behavior guidance except in very emotional situations - like sex, war, childbirth, etc. Because of our dependence on our large elaborate belief systems we've evolved an additonal tool, conceptualization, that allows us to logically expand and edit our belief system, hopefully to provide objectively appropriate emotional rewards and punishments for almost any imaginable circumstance we encounter - or imagine that we'd like to encounter.

Belief-mediated behavior choice is a very powerful adaptation. However, the emotional forces of our old instincts are still largely intact. Civilization has greatly reduced the emotional intensity of our everyday lives. It has eliminated the extreme dangers that early humans faced every day. That has greatly reduced the need for instinctive response and it allows us to live our lives mostly according to our acquired beliefs. In fact, I'd propose that without this ability (to learn beliefs about the world and test them first logically and then empirically) society (beyond extended family clans where instinctive emotions can still be pretty useful) would be impossible.

However, this is not the rational utopia one might imagine. When we face an extremely emotional situation those instincts that lie just beneath the surface come alive and flood us with behavior choice emotions that are usually much stronger than those from our beliefs.

That's why armed men who grew up in a very enlightened environment with access to a good education and all the civilizing influences - could rape and kill a fourteen year old girl and then kill her father, mother and younger siblings and burn their bodies, for example.

Another problem is that our enlightened intellect is not as powerful as we like to believe. And, we may use it just as often to justify existing beliefs that may provide emotional rewards for inappropriate or anti-social behavior - as we use it to examine the rationality of those beliefs to start with. (However, different persons have better or worse abilities to use their intellect to examine their beliefs - and in different contexts.)

Quote:

Alex: Do you have any experimental results that your paradigm would predict that would be anomalous results for the previous theory?
I do but I'll put those in a following post.

Quote:

Alex: Are you trying to do science or are you trying to tell 'just so' stories?
Ah, the ultimate put down - used by human nature scientists whenever their own beliefs are challenged.

To me, the greatest just so story ever told is the one about how we humans in 200,000 years completely rewired our brains and evolved a totally differerent behavior control system from every other vertebrate that ever existed - a control system that unplugged the emotions that guide the behavior of all other animals and gave those emotions a role as provider of our spice in life - so that our newly acquired intellect, that thinking thing that we are consciously aware of in our minds, could become the new director of operations, confirming the pleasurable conclusion that we are each just as consciously and intelligently in control of our behavior - as our conscious minds always imagined ourselves to be. Now, that's a good story. :rolleyes:

I don't take offense at this put down because I think I understand why you feel compelled by your emotions to make it. I have questioned the whole framework of your understanding of human nature. No-one said science was supposed to be easy.

I don't really expect to change anyone's mind either. I'm mostly interested in seeing the quality of any arguments against my view. My posts are thorough to give you lots of targets. I'm well aware that those who challenge the CW don't make many friends but I do appreciate your engagement. :)

Margaret

Fred H. July 14th, 2006 01:35 PM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Quote:

Why do you post those kinds of posts Fred?
Come on Alex, I essentially just corroborated what you posted.

The bottom line is that by MM’s reckoning—that everyone believes only what “feels good” to them, and uses their “brains to justify it”—no matter what you say, or whatever evidence or proof you provide, if it’s different than whatever she herself happens to believe at that moment, she’ll simply inform you, essentially, that you believe only what “feels good” to you, and use your “brains to justify it,” or that she understands why you “feel compelled by your emotions” to say what you say, or believe what you believe. There’s no getting thru to someone like that—I think she truly believes her own BS.

Margaret McGhee July 16th, 2006 05:35 PM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
While I'm working on the post that will discuss experimental results regarding the intellicentric vs. my emotion-centric paradigm, I saw this (Courtesy of Daily Kos: ) which I thought worth noting to anyone following this discussion:

Anne Kornblut wrote a column in the NYT for today titled:
Quote:

Clinton, in Arkansas, Says Democrats Are 'Wasting Time'

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, returning to her red-state ties, chastised Democrats Saturday for taking on issues that arouse conservatives and turn out Republican voters rather than finding consensus on mainstream subjects.

Without mentioning specific subjects like gay marriage, Mrs. Clinton said: "We do things that are controversial. We do things that try to inflame their base."
However, Clinton was actually chastizing the Republican controlled Senate. Clinton actually said,
Quote:

Wouldn't this be a good agenda for America: safeguard America's pensions; good jobs for Americans; make college affordable for all; protect America and our military families; prepare for future disasters; make America energy independent; make small business and healthcare affordable, invest in life saving science; and protect our air, land, and water.

You know, Blanche Lincoln has a bill to make healthcare affordable for small business, I have a bill I was talking to you about with respect to energy independence, we have legislation sitting in the Senate to address these problems.

But with the Republican majority, that's not their priority. So we do other things, we do things that are controversial, we do things that try to inflame their base so that they can turn people out and vote for their candidates. I think we are wasting time, we are wasting lives, we need to get back to making America work again, in a bipartisan, nonpartisan way."
I highlight this as an example of emotions not only directing our concusions - but to show that they can do so by subtly editing our perceptions, the data that we reference when forming a conclusion. I don't believe Anne Kornblut intended to deceive her readers. She read Clinton's words and to her they meant what she already believed them to mean before she started reading them - or perhaps what she wished they meant while she was reading them. In any case, from that point on I'm sure her conclusions just rolled off her word processor.

I think we all are subject to this type of editing-the-data error. This is a good example of how smart persons can do very illogical things. Of course, this doesn't prove that her emotions caused this. However, Kornblut has revealed her animosity (negative emotions) for Democratic pols in the past - so it seems likely that these emotions emanate from somewhere in her identity belief zone. It's quite an obvious and serious error in any case.

Added on edit: I now see that many far left blogs are piling on to Clinton in agreement with Anne Korblut. I never claimed that irrational emotion-based behavior decisions were the exclusive domain of the far right. In fact some here might note that my premise is that everyone does this.

My premise however, is more subtle than that. I have also asserted that different persons have different identity beliefs. In some persons, (especially some scientists) their identity beliefs include a strong respect for rationality - they have developed a bias against the use of strong emotions in their own personal and professional behavior decisions.

That's not an easy path to follow in life but some have seen (reasoned) that there is great value in that for both themselves and the the society they live in. They have purposely weighted that approach to life with positive emotions - and they consciously try to pursue that process in their lives by following those beneficial personal values they have adopted.

Anyone who can pursue the path of reason in these contentious, emotion-filled political times - deserves my admiration.

Margaret

Fred H. July 16th, 2006 08:10 PM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Quote:

MM: In some persons, (especially some scientists) their identity beliefs include a strong respect for rationality - they have developed a bias against the use of strong emotions in their own personal and professional behavior decisions.
And how, MM, will you ever “know” this, in any real or objective sense—that “some” scientists “include a strong respect for rationality”—if indeed, as you assert, you and everyone believes only what “feels good” to them, and use their “brains to justify it?” Hello?

Unless you’re beginning to see that we humans are capable, after all, of discerning objective truth, certainly objective mathematical truth, and using that truth to understand the reality we find ourselves in; and making choices based on truth and reality (Ledoux’s downward causation, more or less), rather than making choices based only on what “feels good” to us and then “using our brains to justify it?” . . . certainly “not an easy path to follow,” as you’ve opined . . . OMG MM, are you evolving? Oh happy day.

But what really makes me happy, MM, is that if you really are beginning to see that we humans are indeed capable of discerning objective truth, certainly mathematical truth, and using that truth to understand reality, then you’ll soon also realize that it’s highly unlikely that Libs understand truth and reality b/c most of them are so terrible at math. In which case you’ll probably want to switch from reading Daily Kos to reading Power Line.

Margaret McGhee July 16th, 2006 09:47 PM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Fred asks,
Quote:

And how, MM, will you ever “know” this, in any real or objective sense—that “some” scientists “include a strong respect for rationality”—if indeed, as you assert, you and everyone believes only what “feels good” to them, and use their “brains to justify it?” Hello?
I have explained this exhaustively but you are so emotionally committed to the idea (your belief) that I am taking intellect out of the behavior question - that you don't see what I have actually said. It shows that you have made no effort to understand what I have said. This is very much in the same way that Anne Kornblut was so certain that Hillary Clinton was criticizing Democrats instead of the Republican Senate.

As I have said, we make behavior choices in order to optimize the emotional payoff - to feel better about our decision and the results of our behavior - than if we had chosen another alternative.

Rational persons (in any particular context) are simply those for whom rationality provides sufficient emotional rewards (in that context) for them to follow their rationality - rather than other sources of emotion.

More specifically, this means that their belief systems are populated with beliefs that have been tested rationally. Irrational beliefs have been largely edited out - over the course of their lives. When they call upon their beliefs then, the emotions they provide are more likely to support rational outcomes, for whatever behavior choice is being considered.

Scientists are generally drawn to science as children where they internalize a respect for what scientists can do and accomplish. If they pursue science in school they will learn that scientific accomplishment is mostly the result of a strictly practiced and institutionalized rationality.

While human belief systems are amazingly capable of compartmentalization - it seems likely that someone who develops a strong respect for rationality will be able to extend that respect into more belief compartments than their vocation. That seems to be verified by the small number of scientists, even non-biologists, who profess a belief in divine creation, for example. (1% or so are the figures I've seen)

I have great admiration for those who apply rationality in their behavior decisions, scientists or not - especially knowing the many irrational decisions I have made in my life. It's not so easy because non-rational beliefs can provide such huge emotional rewards.

But, some rationalists persist, despite the odds, in seeking that most practical rational balance in their own and in human affairs. Just as some scientists spend their lives searching for objective truth - and not in some emotionally fulfilling quest to affirm their ideology, like Behe and Dembski.

I have mentioned these two before. I have an admitted emotional dislike for scientists who use their professional credentials to support irrational beliefs. That is the whole strategy of the ID movement - to insidiously use science to discredit any science that so obviously reduces the notion of God to a quaint superstition. This is the dilemma faced by the left generally these days. It's similar to the question of how, if you hate bigots and their bigotry, you are not a bigot yourself. I won't try to answer that one here.

When I say we make behavior decisions to optimize the emotional payoff - I am describing the decision-making process, the things that get weighed on the behavior-decision scale. My hypothesis sees rational behavior choice as the difficult to achieve ideal. It only works consistently in minds that have been tended with that purpose in mind. I admire those who organize their belief systems that way.

I'd feel much more secure sharing my world with these folks than any true-believers.

Margaret

Fred H. July 16th, 2006 11:16 PM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Quote:

MM: Rational persons (in any particular context) are simply those for whom rationality provides sufficient emotional rewards (in that context) for them to follow their rationality - rather than other sources of emotion.

More specifically, this means that their belief systems are populated with beliefs that have been tested rationally.
Yes MM, I of course can understand how you “feel compelled by your emotions” to “believe” that “rational persons” are “simply those for whom rationality provides sufficient emotional rewards”—because for you, believing that “rationality” (although you don’t, and can’t, define specifically what “rationality,” or your so-called “institutionalized rationality,” is or how it could ever be objectively defined/identified/discerned) provides sufficient emotional rewards for “rational persons” (although again you don’t, and can’t, define specifically who/what a “rational person” is or how such a person could ever be objectively defined/identified/discerned), is obviously what makes you yourself feel good, and, using your “axiom,” you’ve “used your brains to justify it.” Hello?

Margaret McGhee July 16th, 2006 11:55 PM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Rationality isn't that hard to define. Webster's says it is the quality or condition of being rational; reasonableness or the possession or use of reason. Another way is to say that it is the opposite of your last post.

BTW - Most of your posts tend to be pretty annoying to read due to your inability to consider ideas and concepts that don't serve your ideological mission here. But, your constant use of the "Hello" thing is really getting obnoxious. It really raises the level of disgust your posts inspire.

That, plus the increasing level of insults in your posts - as always happens whenever I try to take you seriously - means that I will now terminate this colloquy in the usual way. Goodbye.

Margaret

Fred H. July 17th, 2006 06:59 AM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Quote:

MM: Rationality isn't that hard to define. Webster's says it is the quality or condition of being rational; reasonableness or the possession or use of reason.
Yes MM, I can now see how you see things using your ideas and concepts and ideology—I can now see how and why you “feel compelled by your emotions,” to believe, in this instance, that Webster provides whatever you happen to believe is required regarding the definition, identification, and discernment of “rationality,” to confirm whatever it is that you believe; and, as you’ve acknowledged b/f, that you believe it b/c that is what makes you yourself feel good, and, using your “axiom,” you’ve “used your brains to justify it.”

alexandra_k July 17th, 2006 07:26 AM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
> The current paradigm asserts that we are the thinking animal. That we use our reason, our intellect, to make behavior choices. That if we make bad choices, that means we don't think good. Probably it also means that our emotions got in the way and prevented us from thinking clearly...

That used to be the case... But that is changing now. Frank, Damasio, Le Doux and others have been saying that there is a rationality to emotions and that without emotions we wouldn't be particularly functional.

> It is the paradigm of gods and devils, of Dr. Jekyls and Mr. Hydes, of yin and yang forces battling for control of the soul.

Hmm.

> My emotion-centric paradigm says that we are emotional animals just like all the others. We do the things we do because of the emotional rewards built into our CNS for pursuing behavior that generally increases our survival and well-being - and because of the emotional punishments we generally experience when we pursue the opposite behavior.

So you link positive valence to reinforcer and negative valence to punisher. Then you consider the 'valence' to be 'emotion'. Behaviourists are similar except they focus on the external rewards and punishers whereas I think you are more interested in the neural underpinning of reward and punishment. Cognitive-neuropsychologists would have sympathy...

Animals have two primary sources for the emotional rewards / punishments that guide our behavior - instinct which provides built in emotional responses to certain stimuli - and beliefs, which allow more highly evolved animals to learn things about its world through experience and attach appropriate emotions to those objects, events and relationships that could affect its survival.

Right. So some of the things we find reinforcing / punishing are that way because we have a biological basis for that (primary reinforcers). Other things we learn to find reinforcing / punishing (secondary reinforcers).

> Your resistance to provisionally accepting my definition (for when I use the term in my posts) tells me that you are feeling discomfort at being forced (by my definition) to consider this different paradigm.

It isn't about my resisting the paradigm so much as having difficulty understanding what you are saying because you are using terms differently from the norm. I understand what you mean by 'belief' now - learned expectation for the future. That can be non-conceptual and not belief-like (in the traditional sense) at all.

> Your preferred definition for belief is completely tied to intellect.

It is tied to the last couple centuries usage.

> I prefer my definition because it does subtly force the user into this new paradigm - to implicitly accept the possibility that intellect has a secondary supporting role in human behavior choice.

Le Doux and Damasio manage to write about how emotions are the basis for other kinds of conscious experience while preserving the traditional meaning (for the most part) so that they are better able to communicate their ideas / results to others. Nobody likes to feel 'forced' people like to be 'invited to consider'. It can be hard to follow when one has to translate most words into terminology one understands.

> Belief-mediated behavior choice is a very powerful adaptation.

Why? What does it offer us that emotions can't?

> However, the emotional forces of our old instincts are still largely intact.

Yeah, because they are innate.

> Civilization has greatly reduced the emotional intensity of our everyday lives. It has eliminated the extreme dangers that early humans faced every day.

Though there are modern stressors. Noise pollution etc. Greater prevalence of mood disorder etc... Obesity is a modern 'epidemic'.

> That has greatly reduced the need for instinctive response...

Does that mean it just goes away?

> it allows us to live our lives mostly according to our acquired beliefs. In fact, I'd propose that without this ability (to learn beliefs about the world and test them first logically and then empirically) society (beyond extended family clans where instinctive emotions can still be pretty useful) would be impossible.

You would need to look at anthropological data on the evolution of cognition and family structure to know whether that hypothesis is credible...

> Another problem is that our enlightened intellect is not as powerful as we like to believe. And, we may use it just as often to justify existing beliefs...

Sure. There is a literature on 'confirmation bias'.

> To me, the greatest just so story ever told is the one about how we humans in 200,000 years completely rewired our brains and evolved a totally differerent behavior control system from every other vertebrate that ever existed...

That is kinda my point, though. In order to tell the story in a way that is scientifically plausible one needs to learn something about the anthropological data that is available to us. There is evidence about when tools arrived on the scene, when fire arrived on the scene, what kinds of animal bones were found around campfires etc. People form very specific hypotheses as to the level of cognitive ability required in order to make / use certain kinds of tools etc. One needs to form hypotheses that are capable of being supported / disconfirmed by anthropological data (whether we have found the relevant data not not yet) if one wants to tell scientific stories as opposed to 'just so stories'. Otherwise... One just becomes one among many of the people saying 'it happened like this because thats just what seems right to me' and things don't progress very much at all...

Once again... I'd reccomend Kim Sterelny "thought in a hostile world: the evolution of human cognition". I'd also reccomend "sex and death: an introduction to philosophy of biology" for an introduction of scientific methodology when it comes to evolutionary hypotheses.

> I don't take offense at this put down because I think I understand why you feel compelled by your emotions to make it. I have questioned the whole framework of your understanding of human nature. No-one said science was supposed to be easy.

That isn't quite it... It is more about... Whether you are doing art or science. Sure science can be an art, but it needs to have some contact with the empirical world... I really don't see how you are calling for a radical overhaul of the current framework anyway because your thinking seems to be very heavily influenced by Damasio and Le Doux who write about how emotions have been forgotten and about how they play a more central role than we previously thought. They are writing in response to... How the behaviourists and people in the 60's and 70's ignored emotions because they were more focused on other matters. There has been a real surge of interest in emotions in the last 20 years so it seems to be you are jumping more on their bandwagon than anything. That is why I reccomended Prinz, because Prinz is a 'new and improved' version of Damasio and Le Doux. A version that is much more plausible because it accounts for the representational aspects of emotions as well, which is something that needs work with respect to the previous accounts. His book "Gut Reactions" came out just last year so it is about as 'new' as you will find. He is fairly hostile to cognitive accounts (as you are because you seem to allow that we can have emotion without conceptualised thought / conscious judgement". His ideas on valence needs to be developed... Also Sterelny's book... Does indeed focus on 'cognition' (or representation / thinking) more than 'motivation' (emotion or preference or desire). So his ideas could be developed too... But one typically has better luck extending / critiquing particular notions / arguments so people are easier able to understand what you are saying...

Fred H. July 17th, 2006 09:42 AM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Damn Alex, over 1,300 words in that last post of yours—ever consider cutting back on the stimulants?

Unlike MM, you actually seem to have a somewhat reasonable understanding of the whole Damasio/LeDoux emotions/intellect/consciousness area, and that we Homo sapiens actually possess some sapience (otherwise they wouldn’t call us Homo sapiens sapiens, would they?), but it tends to get lost in your excessive verbosity. Really Alex, try to be more self-restrained and more concise—besides the outside chance that you might actually help MM see things a bit more rationally, I, and perhaps others, might be more inclined to seriously consider and respond to your posts. (BTW, another one of my theorems is that verbosity, typically, is inversely proportional to actual understanding and knowledge.)

TomJrzk July 17th, 2006 09:59 AM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Fred H.
(BTW, another one of my theorems is that verbosity, typically, is inversely proportional to actual understanding and knowledge.)

Wow! How could you ever say that about this post? It was long mostly for all the quotes. The points were very concise, especially for Alex ;). And the understanding and knowledge were actually phenominal!

Maybe you should actually read it this time. Or maybe you need WAY more meds.

Margaret McGhee July 17th, 2006 12:40 PM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
I have an event coming up this week that will pevent me from completing the (experimental results) post I'm working on. So don't expect anything for a while on that. I can still do a little on this stuff though.

Quote:

Alex: That used to be the case... But that is changing now. Frank, Damasio, Le Doux and others have been saying that there is a rationality to emotions and that without emotions we wouldn't be particularly functional.
Yes, a few of them are trying to work emotion into the equation again. I'm appreciative because their views are largely responsible for showing me this path that I'm now on. However, I think I have followed this path further than they have. I understand that there could be good reasons for that. But so far, no-one here has suggested what those reasons might be.

But, saying that there is a rationality in emotion misses the point entirely. It shows that they too are stuck in the paradigm - and you with them. Animals that do not reason (including humans much of the time) make behavior choices that serve their survival all the time. There is no existential reason for emotion to have rationality or to be the result of any cognitive process, reasonable or not.

>> Me: Belief-mediated behavior choice is a very powerful adaptation.

Quote:

Alex: Why? What does it offer us that emotions can't?
Here, you missed the point again. The question isn't what it offers that emotions can't. It does not exist as part of our mental landscape in opposition to our emotions. A more relevant question is what it offers that instincts can't. As I explained carefully, it offers the ability to adjust behavior choice to environmental conditions that change much faster than instincts could possibly change. That gives animals that can use belief, the ability to learn accurate expectations about things in their world that can affect their survival (as I have defined belief), a survival advantage over those who can't.

An even more relevant question is what does this proposed mechanism for behavior choice offer that the current paradigm (that we think our way through life's decisions and that emotions are a side effect) does not.

For one, it offers a cause and effect explanation for behavior choice that is consistent with the observed behavior of all other animals - and it explains human behavior choice (for the majority of times) when our intellect is not necessarily engaged. I don't mean to imply that it does not explain human behavior choice for those times when it is engaged.

For another, it offers a cause and effect explanation for behavior choice, period. Neither cognitive behaviorists nor evolutionary psychologists can explain, just how it is that we make a choice to do one thing and not another. Cognitive behaviorists don't explain how our mental representations of behavior alternatives cause us to choose one or the other. Neither is it helpful for evolutionary psychologists to say that it is in our nature to choose one over the other.

My hypothesis shows how each of these mental devices (I know there's a better term for this), instincts and cognition, come to bear on our behavior choices. It plausibly shows where they fit in our behavior choice mechanism.

I'm not sure how seriously to take your objections. I often make the mistake of taking someone too seriously - assuming they are interested in the meaning of concepts in a discussion - when they are really only interested in descrediting my premise because it doesn't fit with their identity beliefs - like I did with Fred at first. Despite some evidence to the contrary, I have assumed until now that you were interested in the concepts we are discussing. I hope I am not disappointed.

If one of my music students, who might be a very well educated physician, has an ahah! and comes to understand a useful concept about music theory - and uses the wrong words to describe it because she is not familiar with the terminology - I would not criticize her. I would be delighted that she was able to understand a concept that was elusive to her previously.

My (slightly more complete) understanding of that concept would probably allow me to interpret the actual meaning of her incorrect terms in order to understand her larger meaning. How counterproductive it would be if I dismissed her and told her to come back and talk about those things only after she learns to use the right musicological terms.

That's the feeling I sometimes get in this discussion with you. I am constantly going to Wiki and other psych sites so I can understand your usage of these terms. I enjoy that as it opens up my ability to understand your meaning - which is what I'm excited about when I read someone's posts. I'd feel better if you conveyed that same interest level. Instead, you express irritation at my terms even when I carefully define them for you.

My best guess at this time (not an assertion) is that my emotion-centric human behavior choice premise kind of suggests that philosophy (your vocation) - being focused on mental representations of higher order meta belief-systems - perhaps isn't such a useful tool for understanding what it means to be human as you've been led to believe. I suspect that may be the reason you cling to some hope for free-will. Some definition of free-will that allows the human mind to remain just mysterious enough to justify the field of philosophy.

Therefore, you feel intuitively that my view must be wrong - and you use your mind, not to understand and consider my premise, but to find ways to discredit it. My unorthodox use of terms is an easy target. However, anyone who is following this discussion can see that I have been very careful to define my use of terms whenever I suspect there could be a misunderstanding. I wouldn't want to upset anyone's positive valence reinforcers. ;)

Cross-cultural views of the world can be very fruitful if you can get past the terminology barrier. It takes some effort but when someone looks at the world through a completely different window than their usual one - they usually see something interesting - unless that view is an emotionally uncomfortable one.

Margaret

Margaret McGhee July 17th, 2006 01:09 PM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Continuing . . .

Quote:

Alex: You would need to look at anthropological data on the evolution of cognition and family structure to know whether that hypothesis is credible...
I have. There are no firm theories on that - just guesses. My hypothesis is consistent with those guesses. There seems to be a gradual increase in the ability to hold complex mental representations. This is mostly based on the appearance of religious symbols and other forms of art in the record. I see this as the ability to conceptualize, to imagine.

>> Me: Another problem is that our enlightened intellect is not as powerful as we like to believe. And, we may use it just as often to justify existing beliefs...
Quote:

Alex: Sure. There is a literature on 'confirmation bias'.
Yes, and my hypothesis explains how confirmation bias works. Our beliefs are generally arranged in a hierarchy with a few higher order beliefs at the top - at least within the various belief compartments in our mind. Thousands of less important beliefs that depend on our acceptance of the beliefs above them in the hierarchy are arranged below (figuratively).

If you believe you're going to heaven or hell when you die - then you pretty much accept the higher order belief in the Christian God who ordains all that. If you believe that paying taxes to support the poor is a good idea - then you pretty much accept the higher order liberal belief that we are all in this together and bear some responsibility for each others' well-being.

When we are first exposed to a new idea we do a quick emotional check to see if it is incongruent with any of our important higher order beliefs - if it resonates or not. That resonance (or dissonance) we feel is the emotional experience of our belief-testing system in action.

A Christian would probably feel dissonance when exposed to the idea that some famous atheist was a highly moral person. A secular humanist is likely to feel a resonance when exposed to the idea that abortion is a private decision that's best for the preganant woman to decide.

If a new idea does challenge one of our existing higher order beliefs, if we decide to accept it (say due to its compelling logical validity) we will have to change many of our lower order beliefs that depend on it. We don't do such things lightly. By the time we are adults, it takes a major life-changing event for us to change any serious higher order beliefs - like a belief (or disbelief) in God for example - but that sometimes happens.

That's why it feels bad even when we are just exposed to ideas that contradict our higher order beliefs. Incongruent ideas make us feel insecure - like the world is unpredictable. They mean that the foundation for all our lower order beliefs that we depend on to generate appropriate emotions for our every-day behavior decisions are in danger.

OTOH it feels good when we are exposed to ideas that confirm our higher order beliefs. It makes us feel secure. It makes us feel like the world is predictable and that we are in firm control of our destiny in a world that is understandable on our terms.

For example, as a fairly liberal atheist, I admit to a perverse satisfaction when the hypocracy of some notably religious person is exposed. If they are Republican and religious, like Tom Delay, so much the better. An interesting question is if I would make a better (fairer) or worse juror at his trial - than a typical Christian. I think I could do a pretty good job of factoring in my distaste for him as a person - and separating that from the facts of the trial. Could a typical Christian just as easily do the same?

We decide to accept or reject a new idea according to how it makes us feel - because so much is at stake. Logic is a weak force in this arena. Once we make that emotional decision we will use our intellect to justify it. That's what people are usually doing when they say that they are reasoning - especially about any emotional decision. ;)

Note that if we feel no emotional resonance or dissonance from exposure to a new idea - that means that it is independent of our higher order beliefs and we are free to examine it logically.


I'll order some Prinz from Amazon. Thanks.

Margaret

Fred H. July 17th, 2006 01:59 PM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Quote:

MM: However, I think I have followed this path further than they have. I understand that there could be good reasons for that. But so far, no-one here has suggested what those reasons may be.
Well, one possibility is captured in an old proverb: “Give a beggar a horse and he’ll ride it to Hell.”

Margaret McGhee July 17th, 2006 02:06 PM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Quote:

Fred sed: Well, one possibility is captured in an old proverb: “Give a beggar a horse and he’ll ride it to Hell.”
Well, that's not too bad. I am a begger since none of the psychological fiefdoms offer any serious explanations for human behavior choice. As far as riding this horse to hell, who knows? But that's the risk anyone takes when riding into unexplored territory.

Now, weren't you going to explain to us just how it is that your free-will allows us to choose one behavior over another?

Margaret

Fred H. July 17th, 2006 02:35 PM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Quote:

MM: Now, weren't you going to explain to us just how it is that your free-will allows us to choose one behavior over another.
Well, among other things, it’s the sapience in Homo sapiens sapiens. Nevertheless, MM, I of course can understand how you yourself “feel compelled by your emotions” to “believe” that there can be no “free-will” (or moral responsibility) allowing us to choose one behavior over another, and that believing that is obviously what makes you yourself feel good, and, using your “axiom,” you’ve “used your brains to justify it.”

Margaret McGhee July 17th, 2006 02:42 PM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Quote:

MM: Now, weren't you going to explain to us just how it is that your free-will allows us to choose one behavior over another.
Quote:

Fred sed: Well, among other things, it’s the sapience in Homo sapiens sapiens.
OK then, who put the Ram in the Ramma-lamma-ding-dong? :rolleyes:

Margaret

alexandra_k July 17th, 2006 10:11 PM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Yes Fred. If I had more time I would post shorter posts. May seem paradoxical but the process of clarifying and editing and saying things simply is the most time consuming of the lot...

alexandra_k July 17th, 2006 10:49 PM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
> saying that there is a rationality in emotion misses the point entirely.

I meant a fairly loose sense of 'rationality' as 'appropriateness'. If you feel intense fear because the garden hose moved then there is a sense in which your fear is 'irrational'. If you say that you know the spider can't hurt you but you continue to feel fear there is a sense in which your fear is 'irrational'. We can come to understand why the response is there. The amygdala can't distinguish one coiled object from another, and history of reinforcement can explain phobia, but there still seems to be a sense in which these responses are irrational. Understandable, yes. Rational, no.

> Neither cognitive behaviorists nor evolutionary psychologists can explain, just how it is that we make a choice to do one thing and not another. Cognitive behaviorists don't explain how our mental representations of behavior alternatives cause us to choose one or the other.

Representations (cognitions) aren't thought to be motivational. Desires, preferences, urges, etc are supposed to be motivational. I reccomend Kim Sterelny because he is the world leader in philosophy of biology. While he focuses on beliefs in the first half of "thought in a hostile world' he also considers such dilemmas as 'why does the ant forage?' The behaviorists talked a lot about drives too... About drive reduction. About push me vs pull me theories of motivation. Goal selection is a problem. There is also what is known as the 'frame problem' which is a can of worms. To introduce the frame problem (as simply as possible) how is it that we stop cranking through beliefs and make a selection and act? Some have asserted (Damasio, I think and maybe Le Doux) that emotions are the solution to the frame problem. There hasn't been an adequate account of them as yet, however... Need a theory that is detailed (and clear) enough to be programmed... I just mean to say that while it is true that that whole issue has been passed over for a long time there are theorists currently working on it. There has been a literature accumulating. Beliefs (or representational states) were never meant to be the whole story about action. Motivations (or urges or goals or desires) are indeed meant to be the other half.

There have been experiments as to how emotion affects cognition. Salience is an interesting phenomena. Pop out. Unconscious processing of emotional significance. Intense emotions disrupt cognitive processing. Emotions facilitate memory etc.

> How counterproductive it would be if I dismissed her and told her to come back and talk about those things only after she learns to use the right musicological terms.

I'm sorry - I didn't mean to come across in that way. I just meant that I think there are distinctions that you might be missing. Like how the conversation on free will didn't progress until we had come to a common understanding of 'libertarian' 'compatibilism / incompatibilism' 'determinism' 'natural' 'emergent' etc. One might start out arguing not seeing the distinctions between libertarianism, soft determinism, and hard determinism. But they are distinctions. When you make assertions about whether we have free will or not it is important to be clear on what sort of thing free will is.

I'm understanding you better... And I guess what I want to say is that there is a literature on this stuff. Cognitive psychology text books and neuroscience text books touch on this stuff. People like Le Doux and Damasio have done more work still... And Prinz...

I'm actually writing my thesis on emotion. Aspects in terms of evolution (which I haven't started yet). I've been side tracked into writing on emotional consciousness and the conscious experience of pain and the conscious experince of visual perceptions. Is experiencing fear more like feeling pain or seeing read? How much can representationalist theories of consciousness account for the motivational aspect to conscious experience? IMO not very well... Hence that is what I'm writing on. But I do need to write with reference to stuff that there is a literature on (where people are more likely to be able to understand what I'm saying). Hence... Compare and contrast emotional consicousness with the experince of pain and visual perception.

> If a new idea does challenge one of our existing higher order beliefs, if we decide to accept it (say due to its compelling logical validity) we will have to change many of our lower order beliefs that depend on it. We don't do such things lightly. By the time we are adults, it takes a major life-changing event for us to change any serious higher order beliefs - like a belief (or disbelief) in God for example - but that sometimes happens.

Quine talks about this in the web of belief. Our beliefs are in a network... There are some beliefs that are closest to the periphery (ones formed on the basis of perceptual experiences or 'surface stimulations) and ones that are more toward the centre (the belief that a bachelor is an unmarried man) for example. He thought that in belief revision we revised near the periphery before making changes more in the core (which would entail that we revise a large number of our other beliefs). The principle of conservativism in belief revision is the principle that we should adopt the belief that requires the least pervasive changes throughout the belief network so as to retain consistency.

I did some work on delusions. One theory is that they adopt 'observational adequacy over consevativism' or they accept bottom up perceptual info over top down rationally considered evidence. I focused on... The notion that delusions seem to be responses to certain kinds of anomalous affective experiences and affective experiences can be modular or cognitively inpenitrable (so that fear persists despite the judgement you aren't in danger). Kind of recasting delusions (paradigmatically doxastic - beliefs) as a disorder of affective response rather than cognition.

I think we may be more similar in our thinking...
I also think... That we may be more in line with current work than you think...

Margaret McGhee July 17th, 2006 11:45 PM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Alex, While I'm digesting your last concept-rich post, I found 2 books by Prinz that might do the job.

Gut Reactions: A Perceptual Theory of Emotion (Philosophy of Mind Series) by Jesse J. Prinz (Hardcover - Aug 12, 2004) $39.95

Furnishing the Mind: Concepts and Their Perceptual Basis (Representation and Mind) by Jesse J. Prinz (Paperback - Sep 1, 2004) $24.95

There's also a Wolfgang Prinz but Jesse seems to be the one you had in mind.

Have you read both of these? Is one more on-topic for this discussion? Or, is one more suitable for my level of un-education? ;) Or, should I read Sterelny first maybe?

These are expensive books but I just got an Amazon gift cert from my son for my birthday. Perfect timing it seems.

Margaret

Fred H. July 18th, 2006 11:04 AM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Quote:

Alex: Yes Fred. If I had more time I would post shorter posts. May seem paradoxical but the process of clarifying and editing and saying things simply is the most time consuming of the lot...
I agree it’s not paradoxical that it takes time and thought to say/write/form things clearly and concisely, to be at least somewhat rigorous and consistent, to provide ideas, concepts, and questions that are actually worthy of consideration by others—and often, just adhering to the general rule that “less is more,” can be helpful. Try it, you may like it, and find in the long run that you’ll accomplish much more.

I tend to strive for such myself, and I suspect that that’s a reason some here are apt to get flustered whenever they attempt to push their half-baked BS—when I respond, I tend to be clear, concise, rigorous, and consistent, and I tend not to sugarcoat the reality that their half-baked BS is half-baked BS, that their baby is ugly. Go back thru the various posts of various threads, and I think you’ll agree that my posts are generally more interesting and consistent and make better points than most others, although mine typically have an edge; but then that makes them more interesting and worth reading.

Regarding somewhere in your last post where you consider, “Is experiencing fear more like feeling pain or seeing red?”—Difficult question, maybe even a stupid question, but what the hey, I’ve considered it myself on occasion, and, so far anyway, here’s what I’ve come up with—

“Fear” rarely, if ever happens in a vacuum, and generally seems to be accompanied by the other primary emotions of anger and perhaps sadness, and possibly disgust. Also, the so-called secondary emotions of shame, guilt, despair, etc., generally seem to accompany fear, so all in all any specific “experiencing fear,” or any specific “feeling” of fear, seems to be difficult, if not impossible, to isolate. Nevertheless, I do recall a time in my adolescent years, having just done something I shouldn’t have, and having been found out by some random adult and chased—as best I recall, “fear” was the only emotion that was triggered in that instance, a pure fear if there is such a thing (unhampered by anger, shame, despair, dread, etc.), and the energy that I got from it, probably adrenalin, along with an available escape route (I didn’t get caught), resulted in an exhilarating feeling —my “fear,” and I suppose the escape route, enabled me to survive and win. (If there had been no escape route, other emotions like anger, despair, shame, etc. would have kicked in, which, I think, many confuse with the experiencing or feeling of fear.”)

alexandra_k July 19th, 2006 12:18 AM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Yeah it is expensive ("Gut Reactions") because it hasn't come out in paperback yet. I'm not sure about buying it... Prinz is interesting at providing a 'big picture' view which is interesting, but some of his arguments aren't very carefully articulated or well thought out. You can download sample papers from his homepage:

http://www.unc.edu/~prinz/

(Click on 'research' then scroll down...)

There is a paper on emotions that summarises his view.
Bodily change theorists (James, Lange, Damasio) have trouble explaining how emotions get to be about things in the world.
Cognitive theorists (what used to be the mainstream view in philosophy) considered this to be a fatal objection.
Damasio backs down and says emotions are bodily states coupled with judgements.
Prinz tries to say that Damasio didn't need to back down to there. He attempts to explain how body changes can be about things in the world.

His book does all this in a lot more detail, but it will give you some indication as to whether you are likely to find it interesting or not...

alexandra_k July 19th, 2006 07:08 AM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
< often, just adhering to the general rule that “less is more,” can be helpful. Try it, you may like it, and find in the long run that you’ll accomplish much more.

There is a difference between my academic work and my posts on online forums. If I spent a lot of time editing and revising my posts on online forums... Then I would be giving away for free stuff that I might be able to get published (and properly acknowledged) for. I offer what I offer. I spend more time here than I probably should (workwise)... I am what I am, same way as you are what you are...

> when I respond, I tend to be clear, concise, rigorous, and consistent

You tend to call people names, write off what they have to say by sneering at a caricature of it, and otherwise poke fun without taking the time and effort to clarify before running it down. You also tend to sneer instead of providing reasons for your dismissiveness. You might consider that to be 'intellectually honest' but I have to say that I consider it to be dismissive and hostile most of the time. I think that you have greater problems with interpersonal communication, however. Also I appreciate that I can't see your manner / tone of voice. It might be that you are joking / being tongue in cheek. I have no idea. But I'm determined not to rise to what sometimes seems to be 'baiting' in the absense of any real issue.

Basically... Reinforce the behaviours you want to see more of, ignore the behaviours you want to cease. If Fred pokes fun then control yourselves and ignore him. When Fred has a good point reinforce him taking the time to actually engage in the real issues by responding to him. That is the strategy I've decided to take (I post it for the benefit of others). And on that note:

> Regarding somewhere in your last post where you consider, “Is experiencing fear more like feeling pain or seeing red?”—Difficult question...

> “Fear” rarely, if ever happens in a vacuum, and generally seems to be accompanied by the other primary emotions of anger and perhaps sadness, and possibly disgust.

That might be so, but surely it is possible that one can experience fear without experiencing other emotions. Though... Depends on how you carve up 'kinds' of emotion. Anxiety might be a kind of fear. Or fear might be a kind of anxiety. I think it is possible for creatures to feel fear without being able to feel anger, sadness, and disgust. Maybe snakes? Not sure on this...

> Also, the so-called secondary emotions of shame, guilt, despair, etc., generally seem to accompany fear

Though not in rats and other 'lower' mammals. Shame, guilt, despair etc tend to be thought of as more paradigmatically human emotions.

Regarding the feeling pain / perceiving question... The notion is that:

- 'Pain' tends to refer to the phenomenology / feeling.
- 'perception' on the other hand, tends to refer to properties of the object that is perceived.

E.g., 'I am in pain' is true when and only when I have the phenomenology of pain (and what nerve damage I may or may not have is irrelevant to the truth conditions of the utterance).
'I see a red square' is true when and only when there is a red square that causes me to detect it visually (if there is not a red square in front of me then the utterence is false).

The problem of focus is why perceptions seem to refer to the state of the world whereas pain seems to refer to the phenomenology. Are emotions more like pains (so emotion terms refer to phenomenology) or more like perceptions (so emotion terms refer to bodily changes / brain state changes)?

Margaret McGhee July 19th, 2006 10:21 AM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
I'll be offline for a few days and just wanted to thank everyone who has been participating positively in this discussion over the last week or so. It's been very rewarding for me as it always is when I can see my views evolving. Thanks Alex (please tell me if you don't like this shortened form of your name) for the book suggestions and fresh perspectives and thanks Tom for the good feedback.

BTW Alex, that thing I said about philosophy was one of my major all-time emotion-driven bloopers. I have nothing but respect for the field of philosophy and those who seriously immerse their minds into that difficult zone - even if my materialistic mind misses much of what's going on.

I hope this thread is still going strong when I get back.

Margaret

Fred H. July 19th, 2006 01:33 PM

Re: Emotions versus Reason?
 
Quote:

Alex: The problem of focus is why perceptions seem to refer to the state of the world whereas pain seems to refer to the phenomenology.
When you ask why “perceptions seem to refer to the state of the world whereas pain seems to refer to the phenomenology,” I guess you’re referring to emotion versus pain, and I’d agree that the pain system certainly seems more “primitive” or “simple” when compared to the not quite as primitive subcortical, subconscious emotional neural systems.

I think the quick answer to your question is this: Pain deals with damage that has/is being done to the organism, whereas emotions, e.g., fear or anger, deal with potential damage, or threats. Here’s how I look at things based on what I’ve learned from guys like LeDoux and Damasio—

As nerve fibers detect tissue damage and initiate behavior (e.g., withdrawal of your hand from something hot), after which the perception that there is tissue damage and the “feeling” of pain enters your consciousness; so too subconscious neural structures detect (a “quick and dirty” detection) threatening stimuli, initiate behavior (e.g., running from danger), after which the perception that, in the case of fear, there is some sort of threat (e.g., a snake) and the feeling of the emotion(s) triggered enter your consciousness.

Although a difficulty in this comparison is that while the feelings of pain (and behavior initiated by it) seems to be more or less monolithic (although it certainly can vary in intensity); while the feelings of emotion entails many different emotions, feelings, and behaviors; I’d say that the two mechanism are similar in that they both deal, subconsciously and almost instantly, with damage, in the case of pain, and with potential damage (threats) in the case of emotions like fear, anger, etc., to the organism, instantly initiating appropriate behavior, after which we consciously become aware of the damage/threat (and usually also “learn” so as to modify future behavior.)

So I’d say that’s why, using your phraseology, “perceptions [i.e. the feelings of emotions triggered by “threats,” and the various conscious perceptions/thoughts that those feelings cause as one of the inputs into our conscious thinking process] seem to refer to the state of the world, whereas pain [the feeling of tissue damage that has already happened] seems to refer to [just, more or less] phenomenology.”



Quote:

Alex: You tend to call people names, write off what they have to say by sneering at a caricature of it….
Unless you can show otherwise, I rarely, if ever, call people names, and rarely, if ever cast the first stone. OTOH, if your baby is ugly, I suppose I’m inclined to tell you it’s ugly, especially if you insist otherwise and provide no evidence to the contrary. For example, unless you’re actually doing real neuroscience research, I’d not be terribly concerned about “giving away for free stuff that [you] might be able to get published (and properly acknowledged) for”—guys like LeDoux and Damasio have almost certainly already thought of it and written about it. OTOH, if you’re trying to get published, I suppose you might get lucky and pick up something here. Regardless, I’d still strive for the “less is more” ideal.


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