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Unread July 10th, 2006, 03:58 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default 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

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; July 10th, 2006 at 05:29 PM.
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