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  #1  
Unread July 9th, 2006, 09:38 AM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default 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...
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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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  #3  
Unread July 10th, 2006, 10:11 PM
alexandra_k alexandra_k 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.

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.
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Unread July 11th, 2006, 01:39 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default 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

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; July 11th, 2006 at 01:54 PM.
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  #5  
Unread July 11th, 2006, 03:21 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default 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
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Unread July 12th, 2006, 12:53 AM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default 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).
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Unread July 12th, 2006, 09:39 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default 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.
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  #8  
Unread July 12th, 2006, 12:08 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default 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

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; July 12th, 2006 at 07:20 PM.
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  #9  
Unread July 13th, 2006, 01:32 AM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: Emotions versus Reason?

> Oh no, no, Alex, my longwinded friend...

ROFL!!!
You are too funny :-)

(Yes okay, one for Fred)

;-)
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  #10  
Unread July 13th, 2006, 02:05 AM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default 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...
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