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  #21  
Unread July 16th, 2006, 11:16 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Emotions versus Reason?

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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?
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  #22  
Unread July 16th, 2006, 11:55 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default 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
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  #23  
Unread July 17th, 2006, 06:59 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Emotions versus Reason?

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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.”
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  #24  
Unread July 17th, 2006, 07:26 AM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default 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...
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  #25  
Unread July 17th, 2006, 09:42 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default 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.)
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  #26  
Unread July 17th, 2006, 09:59 AM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Emotions versus Reason?

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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.
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  #27  
Unread July 17th, 2006, 12:40 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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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.

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

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; July 17th, 2006 at 08:30 PM.
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  #28  
Unread July 17th, 2006, 01:09 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default 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

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; July 17th, 2006 at 07:57 PM.
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  #29  
Unread July 17th, 2006, 01:59 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Emotions versus Reason?

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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.”
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  #30  
Unread July 17th, 2006, 02:06 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Emotions versus Reason?

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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
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