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How can we discern the difference of how we authentically "feel" as opposed to

How can we discern the difference of how we authentically "feel" as opposed to how we "think" we feel?

Feeling pain is no more authentic than thinking that you're feeling pain. It is just that the two ways of accessing the experience of pain are different. When we feel something - pain, joy - we may be not aware that we are feeling it, whereas thinking that you're feeling pain or joy is a conscious experience in which our conceptual apparatus is mobilized. But this doesn't mean that feeling is a more authentic experience than thinking you're feeling. There are experiments that show that injured people feel pain in their amputated limbs even if they know that they cannot feel it anymore. That is to say that you may be deceived by your feelings as well as by your thoughts about your feelings.

As for discerning how we feel as opposed to how we think we feel, I would say that a sensorial experience is always underdetermined. We feel the gap between the raw experience and its conceptualisation according to our previous experiences, our cultural background and what we know about the world and ourselves. Feeling love may be described by a Shakespeare's sonnet or by a simple "Wow!". It is very difficult to disentangle what belongs to the "authentic" experience and what belongs to our way of making sense of it.

How can one acquire knowledge through emotions only?

How can one acquire knowledge through emotions only?

The anglo-american philosophical tradition has not been very kind to the emotions until relatively recently, when there has been an upsurge of support for the idea (latent, however, in Aristotle) that emotions can have cognitive content - they can tell you stuff about how the world is. The emphasis has rather been on the opposing dynamic of emotion - their ability to disrupt rational processes and so constitute an obstable to knowledge. Certainly, emotions can be an obstacle to knowledge; but it is important not to underestimate their positive cognitive power too. In the early eighties, feminist philosophers started writing about the role of emotions in telling you important things about your social experience: your anger that you are treated a certain way might be telling you something, namely, it's unjust to be treated this way. If you are living in a social-conceptual environment that offers you no tools to making sense of your experience as one of mistreatment, your anger is vulnerable to seeming misplaced, hysterical, when in fact the contrary is the case - your anger is a rational response to the treatment you are receiving, but collective forms of interpretation have not caught up yet. In cases like this, emotions can be a crucial cognitive resource for social and ethical change. And more recently there has been a lot more work vindicating the cognitive contribution of emotion.

Cases like the anger example above support the idea that emotion can have not only intentional content (it is directed to the world, it is about the world) but also cognitive content (it represents the world as being a certain way, and thus permits of truth or falsity). The anger example is primarily a case of ethical/political knowledge, but we can easily imagine more plainly empirical versions where what our emotional responses are telling us concerns, for instance, someone else's psychological states. For example, an emotional response of distrust or suspicion can tell us (defeasibly, of course - like any evidence) that someone has malevolent intentions towards us. These sorts of human response are crucial indicators for us in our social dealings with other people. At the minumum, they provide us with evidence, and if suitably reliable, can provide for empirical knowledge of others' psychology (intentions, attitudes). But more than this, rather than the emotions constituting evidence on which knowledge might be based, perhaps the emotions can themselves constitute the knowledge. Perhaps your anger, your suspicion, your trust, your sympathy can be the form of your cognitive grasp of the relevant facts.

Let's say that a virus spread throughout the world and damaged the areas of the

Let's say that a virus spread throughout the world and damaged the areas of the brain that are responsible for emotions. The entire population was affected and could no longer experience any emotional reactions, although their reason and intellectual ability was unimpaired. Would morality change if we no longer have any emotional reaction to cheaters, thiefs, inequity, or tragedy? Maybe it's difficult to answer such a hypothetical, but any opinions would be appreciated.

Can robots have human feelings?

Can robots have human feelings?

If you mean 'Can a computer have human feelings?', then the answer seems to be probably not.

One of the main characteristics of a computer is that you can build it out of any physical stuff you like: clockwork, silicon, carbon, some might say, even Swiss cheese. What a computer is made out of is (to a first approximation) unimportant, all that matters is that its material is organised in the right way.

Now consider the the following project (thought up by Ned Block): give each of the 1.3 billion people in China a 2-way radio and ask him/her to simulate the computational behaviour of a single neuron. Then arrange the network of radio connections between individual Chinese people to exactly mirror the arrangement of neurons in your brain. The Chinese nation now appears to be able to perform any computation that your brain performs. Yet it seems bizarre to say that the Chinese nation---as a group, not as individual people---would experience pain, happiness, itchiness, and so on. It seems implausible that such a system would have any feelings at all, no matter what computation you ask it to perform. So it does not seem that a system can have feelings purely in virtue of performing a computation---some other ingredient is required.

There is a lot of discussion of this case, including an explanation of how to extend to a full-blown robot. See Ned Block's original article if you are interested in more:

Block, N. (1978). Troubles with functionalism. In Block, N., editor (1980). Readings in Philosophy and Psychology, volume 1. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.

Hi, I'm a first year philosophy student at Hull university in the UK, I've been

Hi, I'm a first year philosophy student at Hull university in the UK, I've been searching for an answer to a question that has arisen as a result of a piece of work we were set on the nature of love. Most people try and quantify love, or in fact, any emotion based on the idea that it is subjective. My problem is this, I have never seen anyone explain to me exactly WHY emotions are subjective. It seems pretty obvious, but no one ever sat me down and said, here is the logically correct reasoning behind emotions being considered subjective. In a world of hypotheticals, isn't it hypothetically possible that emotion is an objective entity, so why is it considered not so? The best explanation I've had for this was that no one can agree on what the necessary and sufficent conditions of emotions are. But then, scientists still don't agree where the other nine tenths of the universe is hiding, does that make the rest of the universe subjective?

People mean many different things when they say that emotions are subjective. Before we can answer why people think emotions are subjective and whether they are right to do so, we first have to step back and ask what someone might mean by the claim.

One thing people sometimes mean when they claim emotions are subjective is that they cannot be assessed for rationality. They just are. "That’s how I feel" is supposed to end conversation, and if you ask for reasons why someone feels that way, or suggest that perhaps they shouldn’t, you can be accused of “not respecting their feelings.” If you think of emotions as merely inner sensations, like twinges or pangs, you will be inclined to think that they are subjective in this sense. There is no generally accepted theory of what emotions are, but even theories (such as Damasio's) that claim emotions are perceptions of bodily changes should not think that they are beyond rationality assessment. We have rich practices of interpersonal affective critique and these are socially important in interpersonal emotional co-ordination, so we couldn’t do without them.

A second thing people sometimes mean is that emotions are tied to individual biography: two people can differ in their emotional responses even when in similar situations. What you feel is a function of both the evoking situation and what you bring to that situation from your own emotional background. You might think that things are otherwise with e.g. beliefs: confronted with the same evidence, we come to converge in our beliefs. (Is this true? Often, but it also depends on whether we share relevant background beliefs.) It seems to me that emotions are indeed subjective in this sense. Subjectivity in the sense of being tied to individual biography is sometimes taken to support a claim of subjectivity in the sense of being beyond rationality assessment: we can only explain why people feel as they do, and not talk about justification, here. However, this move seems suspect to me and needs to be independently supported instead of assumed on the basis of equivocation in senses of "subjectivity."

I do not think that there is a plausible sense of "subjective" which would support saying a category is subjective if we cannot give necessary and sufficient conditions for being a member of it. As you mention, there are lots of categories like this, and not only because of theoretical controversy or ignorance!

Can people be held responsible for their emotions? Or, why can't people be held

Can people be held responsible for their emotions? Or, why can't people be held responsible for their emotions?

I agree that the idea of being held responsible for our emotions ispuzzling. It seems that in order to be responsible for X, it has tohave been up to me whether to X. Actions seem to be good candidates forresponsibility, since they seem to be something over which I havecontrol– when someone annoys me, I can choose whether to utter somecaustic remark or instead bite my tongue. But what about my feelingannoyed in the first place– do I have any choice about that? And ifnot, then can I really be held responsible for this emotional reaction?

Aristotle is very helpful on this point. While it is true that on theparticular occasion on which you feel the emotion, you can’t help butfeel it, you are nonetheless responsible for your emotion since youwere responsible for becoming the sort of person who feels this sort ofemotion. Being susceptible to bad emotional responses (i.e., having a badcharacter) is, on Aristotle’s view, like being sick.

"For neither does a sick person recover his health [simply by wishing];nonetheless, he is sick voluntarily, by living incontinently anddisobeying the doctors, if that was how it happened. At that time,then, he was free not to be sick, though no longer free once he has lethimself go, just as it was up to someone to throw a stone, since theprinciple was up to him, though he can no longer take it back once hehas thrown it. Similarly, then, the person who is [now] unjust orintemperate was originally free not to acquire this character, so thathe has it voluntarily, though once he has acquired the character, he isno longer free not to have it [now]” (Nicomachean Ethics III 5, 1114a12-23).

Aristotlebelieves that we can train our emotional responses by forcing ourselvesto act in the right way. Even if our emotions rebel at first, we willeventually come to take pleasure in the right actions. Contemporaryphilosopher Daniel Dennett suggests another strategy for taking controlover our emotions:

"Suppose I know that if I eversee a voluptuous woman walking unescorted in a deserted place I willprobably be overcome by lust and rape her. So I educate myself aboutthe horrors of rape from the woman’s point of view, and enliven mysense of the brutality of the crime so dramatically that if I happen toencounter such a woman in such straits, I am unable to do the awfulthing that I would have done otherwise" (Elbow Room, p. 134).

As Dennett assumes here, we can control at least the forceof some of our bad emotional reactions through education. Since, dearreader, you are one of the fortunate for whom being more or lesseducated is up to you, you can be rightly held responsible for many ofyour emotional responses.

Today I had a big fight with my sister. We were both sulking, upset and angry. I

Today I had a big fight with my sister. We were both sulking, upset and angry. I told my father that I was really hurt and he said that it is not worth being hurt when there are people right now in Israel, Lebanon, Sudan, the Congo and elsewhere who have lost their homes, family members and futures in the blink of an eye. And that if you told those people that there were two girls in New Jersey who got to go to school every day, who had a comfortable house, an intact family and never had to worry about food or money or safety, they would think it was ridiculous how sad and hurt and angry we were being. I understand my dad's point. He is saying firstly that we should be grateful for what we have and not bitter about the small things that are not going well. And secondly that we should think of our problems in perspective in terms of what the rest of humanity may suffer. But can the above idea ever really act as consolation, or should it? It seems that you can't put emotions in perspective - does the...

What is it to keep one's emotional reactions in proportion? There is a philosophical issue here that seems worth raising: emotional reactions are not simply sensational reactions to the world, they can be cognitive reactions too. Emotions can sometimes tell you things about the world that one's beliefs aren't registering. Perhaps your upset about the argument with your sister contained a cognitive response that was appropriate to the scale of the argument with your sister, in which case the emotional content in itself should not be changed by the thought that there are many situations in this world that would be infinitely more upsetting and difficult to bear. The advice that one should keep one's emotional responses in proportion - making sure the cognitive content is correct, if you like - might sometimes require one to let it go, but equally it might require one to stand by the upset and conclude that the argument one had this morning was indeed really upsetting. If so, one needs some other way forward than remembering how much worse things could be - talking it over with one's sister or whatever, explaining why one was so hurt, asking if she felt the same, and so on. Keeping emotions proportionate to the facts cuts both ways.

Why can't I remove my emotions (such as falling in love) by rationality?

Why can't I remove my emotions (such as falling in love) by rationality?

The relationship between reason and the emotions is one that has been wondered about for a very long time--going back to our most ancient literature, including the Old Testament and Homer's Iliad. I doubt that I will be able to resolve this one for you, but I do have a suggestion to make.

I'm not sure this is a philosophical question, but I also think that you (or most people) can do what you say you can't do. If you think that you are feeling a certain emotion that is not compatible with a rational assessment of things--for example, you feel as if you are falling in love with some movie star whom you will not likely ever meet--then there are various rational steps you can take to get rid of the emotion. Ever heard the one about taking a cold shower?

OK, maybe it is not as simple as that, but we certainly can look for things that will divert our attention from an emotion, or will use the energies of the emotion in different ways (and thus serving to deflect it, as part of a strategy of extirpating it altogether). Simply reminding ourselves of the irrationality of some feelings we may have will help us to get rid of them (or transform them into something else). There can also be rational strategies for getting help--if an emotion is especially troublesome, it is rational to seek assistance from professionals who can work with you on why you may be feeling some things that seem very irrational to you. Understanding the source of an emotion is also a potent tool for restoring us to a reasonable life.

Can any piece of artwork ever be bad if it stems from real emotion that the

Can any piece of artwork ever be bad if it stems from real emotion that the artist feels?

Yes! Even if we agreed that a 'real emotion' was a necessary feature of all art (and that's a big 'if'), it might not be the only feature. For example, the emotion would still need to be well expressed or communicated; the product might need to avoid being banal or commonplace; we might think it needs also to show or teach us something.

I would like to add that, supposing art does have something to do with emotion, there is still much to recommend Wordsworth's notion that poetry at least should have its origin in 'emotion recollected in tranquility'.

What does philosophy have to say about the role of emotion relative to ethics?

What does philosophy have to say about the role of emotion relative to ethics? It seems clear that emotion cannot be relied upon to produce consistently accurate ethical judgments, yet it also seems that emotion is a motivator for people's actions (which must be considered in the context of ethics). Further, emotion seems to be used as an "acid test" of sorts for ethical judgments (i.e. things that are ethical should "feel" or "seem" right). These are three examples of the way emotion and ethics interact, but I'm interested in perspectives on what their relationship should be, in the interest of making optimal ethical choices.

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