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Unread July 17th, 2006, 12:40 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 271
Default 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.

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.

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.


Last edited by Margaret McGhee; July 17th, 2006 at 08:30 PM.
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