Repression/Emotionalism


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It comes with the territory, intellectuals as a whole inhabit a realm of pure ideas. That's where they are, from experience, most comfortable and in control. Rationalism can often be the result, where ideas become detached from concrete realities - problematic no less for Objectivist intellectuals, for all that rationalism is opposed by Objectivism. Emotions, others' and their own, seem messy and unpredictable to rationalists, and largely they will shun and suppress them for concerns of "emotionalism". Conversely but equally, we can see that traditional emotionalists 'lead' with their emotions, treating them as a primary, the standard by which all things are judged. They expect of others to feel the equivalent emotions, and aren't shy to demand and impose - i.e. guilt - on everybody else. As can be seen from Left politics, from Social Justice 'worriers', and so on.

I think "equally", since both approaches represent and inevitably end up some kind of a mind-body conflict. I argue that the causes of emotions are often knowable (with practise) and that they are effective aids to one's welfare as one's early warning devices. And how in fact can one 'know' the emotion happiness if not first knowing the causes of one's emotions that undermine it - fear, guilt, anxiety, hate, etc., when left unquestioned and permitted to be prolonged?

Thoughts/feelings?

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I think conversely but equally, too,  since both approaches are equally untenable if fully implemented. Category {emotionalists} and set {rationalists} overlap with category and set {Rationalists/Emotionalists}. My acquaintance with utter Rationalists is meagre, as it is with Emotionalists. I take people one at a time, and they can always wriggle out of any category I imagine encloses them. 

6 hours ago, anthony said:

Emotions, others' and their own, seem messy and unpredictable to rationalists, and largely they will shun and suppress them for concerns of "emotionalism". Conversely but equally, we can see that traditional emotionalists 'lead' with their emotions, treating them as a primary, the standard by which all things are judged. They expect of others to feel the equivalent emotions, and aren't shy to demand and impose - i.e. guilt - on everybody else.

I think I identify with a Rational set, a set that does not use emotionalist fallacies in argument. I'd like to think I was immune to emotional argument, but I am not.   Emotion can be suppressed indeed, disregarded, blocked out to some degree, but also inflamed and amplified. To what purpose is usually individual in nature.  Happy families are all the same.

 :rolleyes:

Emotions are knowable, I agree.  We must needs 'know' emotion to operate in the world. We navigate all manner of provocation and repression. We navigate attempts to guilt-trip us into behaviour marked positive, and we evade for the most part those who want us in thrall to their emotions. As we mostly avoid those without feeling for our welfare.

We try not to mistake an emotion, or to wield an inappropriate emotion on others like a proverbial club, as we learn the uses of fear and anger.  We learn to differentiate between what we feel and what we 'ought to' feel. A too-close attention to the emotional valence of ideas ('ah, Progress), or too close enmeshment with myth ('ah, Utopia'), this can be dangerous and even destructive.  Emotionalism takes emotion from boon and tool of assessment into hazard.

Emotional appeals are not in and of themselves incorrect. I think they must be firmly allied to Reason to escape the hazard of emotionalism.

Emotionalism invites moralism, another hazard zone for full-on Objectivists.  From persuasion to condemnation in sixty seconds. 

ID-GUN.png

 

I think we are both flying a route to Knowledge, Tony. 

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William, The direction to truth you are "flying" I know you undertake with full honesty, it's your approach or methodology I question. I've understood it to be empirical, and now with emotions as tools of cognition added.

Id like to back up a bit. Epistemology is the centre of any philosophy, and I take from Objectivism that any decent epistemology asks : "How does man know?". Otherwise put, how can an individual know what he knows and how certain can he be in his knowledge? Which, you realise has immense ramifications.

Most importantly, note "how?". "What?" is brought to us and explained by science which is dependent first and foremost on methodology of the "how?". The alternative is a very suspect science, indeed. That's their relationship in a nutshell: neither should replace the other, and philosophy/epistemology is primary.

Ask several people how each "knows", and the replies will likely be all over the place:

We can't know.

Our minds can't grasp reality.

There is no reality to grasp, life is all a dream.

I don't know ~anything at all~ until I physically view it myself!

I know by Divine Inspiration.

So and so says so, therefore I know it is true.

Scientists and researchers have proven it.

I know because I feel it.

I intuit it.

It goes on, in many mixtures of skepticism, authority, subjectivity, mysticism, science/scientism, empiricism and rationalism, and of course "emotionalism".

(As I ask the odd empirical-minded person I've argued with: But is your life an experiment taking place in a lab? Why do you need fields of science to "know"? How do you know you even exist?).

Returning to emotionality.

How do we "know" emotions?

By experiencing them, individually. (And although to a much lesser degree and rife with fallibility, I think it includes observing others' emotions too).

The 'mechanism' of emotions is secondary to experience, I maintain. Way back, before anything was known about areas of the brain, neuroscience, brain chemistry etc., we know from history (and art, literature, poetry) and can surmise the rest about prehistory, that all humans also experienced a complex range of emotions. They showed themselves in human conflicts and romantic tales, to name just a few. Those billions didn't have to know -even - the names of emotions, in order to feel them as major emotions and in all their nuances. They certainly didn't have to know about seratonin and dopamine reacting in their brains and the actions of synapses - or Emotion Charts contrived by researchers. But they sure "knew" emotion.

So now from the sciences we understand much more about the "what" of those brain mechanisms, and that's valuable. And again, what sets off that 'mechanical' (OK - electro-chemical) process in the brain? Do the brain chemicals boil and the neurons buzz at random times and by arbitrary means, all by themselves?

I repeat, there has to be a causation. Something in reality, perceived, integrated and evaluated by a mind.

 

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12 minutes ago, RobinReborn said:

Unfortunately I find it difficult to have this conversation without a concise definition of what an Emotion is.

 

Rand herself wrote several which appear to be in conflict with each other:

 

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/emotions.html

Can you point out the several definitions of emotion that seem to be in conflict? Maybe I'm too stupid to notice.

 

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That's a useful reference to remind us RR.

I think she boils it down here: ""What do I feel?"" -- ""Why do I feel it?""

Identification and causality (which amount to the same, identity), therefore 'knowable' emotions. Except I don't notice anything contradictory as you remark.

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When I hear or see someone in effect saying or acting out that his "emotions are tools of cognition", it's always related to only pleasant feelings. They select solely the positive emotions about themselves (and others):  I enjoy this, so it must be good for me, or "feel" somebody is good so he must be good. (Plainly, both are not necessarily true anyway). I want to remind him or her that angry, spiteful, hate-driven people are equally using their emotions as cognitive substitutes. You can't cherry pick - emotion is emotion.

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Emotions are not tools of cognition

 

 

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But one way or the other, your computer gives you print-outs, daily and hourly, in the form of emotionswhich are lightning-like estimates of the things around you, calculated according to your values.

 

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There can be no causeless love or any sort of causeless emotion. An emotion is a response to a fact of reality, an estimate dictated by your standards.

 

By my definitions of the words cognition and tools, the last two quotes are claiming that emotions are tools are cognition (there is no definition of either cognition or tools on the Ayn Rand Lexicon).

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9 minutes ago, RobinReborn said:

By my definitions of the words cognition and tools, the last two quotes are claiming that emotions are tools are cognition (there is no definition of either cognition or tools on the Ayn Rand Lexicon).

Imagine a tiger is approaching you and you are out in the open, unprotected, and you are in mortal danger. You experience fear. Is this fear a tool of cognition? No. The fear does not tell you that it is a tiger and that a tiger is a dangerous animal and you are unprotected. The fear is a response to this knowledge.

 

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53 minutes ago, jts said:

 The fear is a response to this knowledge.

 

jts - yes - it is true of Rand's theory I think to say that one's cognition (identification, integration, conceptualizing and evaluating) has already been done by one 'in advance' of that moment. You know what 'a tiger' (or, anything: E.g., an idea like Communism) is, and what its nature represents - and you have established what your values are (your safety and life, above all). The emotion you experience simply puts them together in a flash, and in this situation tells you to get the hell out of there..

I have a small doubt of her use of "automated" (which is only valid for feeling emotion by subconscious association, many times from childhood experiences) and if it includes what I'd call 'self-automated'. Which she is explicit about, and I suppose answers me.

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I primarily turn to Nathaniel Branden's The Psychology of Self-Esteem for the concepts of the subconscious, automatizations, emotions.  This is from Chapter 5 - Emotions, starting on page 66 in the paperback I have (italics are preserved from the text):

The subconscious is the sum of mental contents and processes that are outside of or below awareness.  Man's subconscious performs two basic tasks which are crucial to his intellectual development and efficient functioning.  The subconscious operates as a storehouse of past knowledge, observations, and conclusions (it is obviously impossible for man to keep all of this knowledge in focal awareness); and it operates, in effect, as an electronic computer, performing super-rapid integrations of sensory and ideational material.  Thus, his past knowledge (provided it has been properly assimilated) can be instantly available to man, while his conscious mind is left free to deal with the new.

This is the pattern of all human learning.  Once, a man needed his full mental attention to learn to walk; then the knowledge became automatized--and he was free to pursue new skills.  Once, a man needed his full mental attention to learn to speak; then the knowledge became automatized--and he was enabled to go forward to higher levels of accomplishment.  Man moves from knowledge to more advanced knowledge, automatizing his identifications and discoveries as he proceeds--turning his brain into an ever more effacious instrument, if and to the extent that he continues the growth process.

Man is a self-programmer.  Just as this principle operates in regard to his cognitive development, so it operates in regard to his value development.  As he acquires vales and dis-values, these, too, become automatized; he is not obliged, in every situation he encounters, to recall all of his values to his conscious mind in order to form an estimate.  In response to his perception of some aspect of reality, his subconscious is triggered into a lightning-like process of integration and appraisal.  For example, if an experienced motorist perceives an oncoming truck veering toward a collision, he does not need a new act of conscious reasoning in order to grasp the fact of danger; faster than any thought could take shape in the words, he registers the significance of what he perceives, his foot flies to the brake or his hands swiftly turn the wheel.

One of the forms in which these lightning-like appraisals present themselves to man's conscious mind is his emotions.

His emotional capacity is man's automatic barometer of what is for him or against him (within the context of his knowledge and values).  The relationship of value-judgments to emotions is that of cause to effect.  An emotion is a value-response.  It is the automatic psychological result (involving both mental and somatic features) of a super-rapid, subconscious appraisal.

An emotion is the psychosomatic form in which man experiences his estimate of the beneficial or harmful relationship of some aspect of reality to himself.

The sequence of psychological events is: from perception to evaluation to emotional response.  On the level of immediate awareness, however, the sequence is: from perception to emotion.  A person may or may not be consciously aware of the intervening value-judgment.  A separate act of focused awareness may be required to grasp it, because of the extreme rapidity of the sequence.  That a personal may fail to identify either the judgment or the factors involved in it, that he may be conscious only of the perception and of his emotional response, is the fact which makes possible men's confusion about the nature and source of emotions.

On that last paragraph, in OPAR Peikoff elaborates more on the psychological events, from OPAR pages 155-156:

There are four steps in the generation of an emotion: perception (or imagination), identification, evaluation, response.  Normally, only the first and last of these are conscious. The two intellectual steps, identification and evaluation, occur as a rule without the need of conscious awareness and with lightning-like rapidity.

Though I don't consider Peikoff to be an authority on psychology, I agree with this elaboration.

 

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2 hours ago, jts said:

Imagine a tiger is approaching you and you are out in the open, unprotected, and you are in mortal danger. You experience fear. Is this fear a tool of cognition? No. The fear does not tell you that it is a tiger and that a tiger is a dangerous animal and you are unprotected. The fear is a response to this knowledge.

 

 

Good example, but let's give it some context.  There are no tigers near where I live, I would not randomly visit an area where there were tigers without preparing myself for them.  I would learn to look for signs of tigers (they mark their territory with urine and scratching trees), and I would feel fear when I saw those signs...

 

Also, from a biological perspective, fear usually creates a fight or flight response (stimulating adrenaline).  This is a cognitive tool, it reduces your potential actions into just two possible actions.

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1 hour ago, RobinReborn said:

 

Good example, but let's give it some context.  There are no tigers near where I live, I would not randomly visit an area where there were tigers without preparing myself for them.  I would learn to look for signs of tigers (they mark their territory with urine and scratching trees), and I would feel fear when I saw those signs...

 

Also, from a biological perspective, fear usually creates a fight or flight response (stimulating adrenaline).  This is a cognitive tool, it reduces your potential actions into just two possible actions.

Fear doesn't have to be obeyed. Lots of times you have to get past your fear (apprehension, timidity, nervousness, etc.) to accomplish something. And that goes to show it isn't a cognitive tool, only an indicator.

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20 hours ago, RobinReborn said:

I suppose you could modify the quote to be "Emotions are not reliable tools of cognition" you can certainly use them, but they may not work for their intended purpose.

Of perception - maybe - but not of cognition. Certainly this isn't anything to be ambivalent and compromise about. The "intended purpose" of the emotional mechanism - I guess, refined throughout man's evolution - is only a *consequence*. (Of some existent-in-reality, one's chosen values, and one's cognition).  Emotions are strong automatic signals connected to your motor, a prompt, instantly telling you its state of health. But "connected" only, not the motor itself. Reversing the process or trying to, would be like short-circuiting your engine.

For example. The effective "pursuit" of happiness is an individual setting up conditions internally and externally for that state. Happiness too, is an emotional consequent (absent of other clashing emotions: guilt and fear, for a big pair). Pursuing happiness as an end in itself (as a primary, an abstract "ideal" and commonly requiring possessions/status to fulfill) is also causal reversal and mostly doesn't succeed.

Your "use them", as far as uncomfortable emotions spurring you into action, then paying close attention to their causes and whether the type of emotion you feel is fitting to your conscious standards goes, I agree with.

 

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15 hours ago, RobinReborn said:

Good example, but let's give it some context.  There are no tigers near where I live, I would not randomly visit an area where there were tigers without preparing myself for them.  I would learn to look for signs of tigers (they mark their territory with urine and scratching trees), and I would feel fear when I saw those signs...

Emotions are not tools of cognition. Context does not matter.

Emotions can be objects of cognition, which is something different. You can be aware of having an emotion. You can be aware of the cause of the emotion.

 

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This is a great discussion.

 

I've had trouble finding a concrete boundary between emotions and thoughts.  I do introspect and ask myself why I feel certain emotions, and sometimes I try to change my emotional reactions to thing.  Emotions are useful in that they occur over shorter time intervals than thoughts.  Hypothetically you could rationally think through any problem and come up with the best response.  In practice, the amount of time you have to solve a problem is always limited, and an emotional response can be as good or better than rational thought over a short period.  (You can read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell or Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman for more information about this, I know it may seem jarring to some but there's scientific evidence that emotional gut reactions are better than rational intellectual analysis for some decisions.)

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To what jts said, emotions can be identified, conceptualized, and brought into the realm of logic.  Thinking about emotions is important.

Robin to your last post, I'd say emotion as a form of judgment can be hazardous, as judgment is properly a cognitive process.  Emotions should result from rational judgment, not be in place of it as a means to action... but as indicated, often times a judgment has to be quickly made so the decision becomes an estimate.  But when this happens an abeyance can be placed, so that later one can come back and think conceptually about it when one has the time.  This way, one is still being committed to reason (and not succumbing to emotionalism).

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4 hours ago, RobinReborn said:

This is a great discussion.

 

I've had trouble finding a concrete boundary between emotions and thoughts.  I do introspect and ask myself why I feel certain emotions, and sometimes I try to change my emotional reactions to thing.  Emotions are useful in that they occur over shorter time intervals than thoughts.  Hypothetically you could rationally think through any problem and come up with the best response.  In practice, the amount of time you have to solve a problem is always limited, and an emotional response can be as good or better than rational thought over a short period.  (You can read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell or Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman for more information about this, I know it may seem jarring to some but there's scientific evidence that emotional gut reactions are better than rational intellectual analysis for some decisions.)

Could emotions be a cognitive 'short-hand'? Depending on how much they're aligned with your principles and thought, I can't see why not. Though always advisedly: to keep in mind they don't replace cognition, and in even a mostly rational person, not always accurate.

A great value of emotions is in their raw honesty - an emotion can sometimes expose something about ourselves that is hard to face (unless you are one who doesn't fear truth). E.g. How could someone whom one thinks of and calls a good friend, and who gains success/wealth in some way, provoke feelings of resentment and envy and the like in one, instead of the unadulterated pleasure one ~should~ feel for a friend's achievement? It's a sign that something's out of whack. Somewhere, that guy is faking it. (The example is not uncommon).

To change emotional responses into better integrated ones, isn't immediately done. But very doable - while it clearly can't be forced. One can't command oneself to change negative feelings to joyful emotions, for a simple fr'instance. You (not "you" specifically) have to go back to the roots and review your convictions and values and ask yourself if they are for real, and modify them.

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On 11/13/2016 at 11:42 AM, william.scherk said:

Emotions are knowable, I agree.  We must needs 'know' emotion to operate in the world. We navigate all manner of provocation and repression. We navigate attempts to guilt-trip us into behaviour marked positive, and we evade for the most part those who want us in thrall to their emotions. As we mostly avoid those without feeling for our welfare.

We try not to mistake an emotion, or to wield an inappropriate emotion on others like a proverbial club, as we learn the uses of fear and anger.  We learn to differentiate between what we feel and what we 'ought to' feel.

So? So what?

On 11/18/2016 at 3:07 PM, RobinReborn said:

I suppose you could modify the quote to be "Emotions are not reliable tools of cognition" you can certainly use them, but they may not work for their intended purpose.

Imagine it this way:  what happens to a person's decision-making abilities if these often-unreliable 'tools' are entirely absent?  I mention Antonio Damasio's insights -- perhaps too many times (current count 22), but his work with "Elliot" and other cases of brain disease or injury pointed to the necessary part of emotions in making even the most ordinary decisions.

Since decision-making is a cognitive process, to know that 'missing emotion' cripples a person, this is the strongest suggestion that Emotions are human Tools in Cognition, tools that once lost cannot be replaced by reason.

Rather than rewrite the same material here, I include some earlier quotes ... to serve as Food for Thought: I add emphasis here and there.

A

On 10/3/2012 at 8:27 PM, william.scherk said:

Without emotion, how can one make decisions? Without that evaluator automatically operating, giving physical reactions to the data, how can one make fully informed choices?

In several striking cases, Damasio has featured the severe cognitive effects of having emotions 'removed.' Tony, can you imagine how crippled cognition might be without the input of emotion, in terms of analysis and judgement? Can you imagine a morality without emotion?

I really think there is no more emotional animal than humankind. Hands down. The sketchiness of Objectivish thought on emotion is disappointing sometimes. What we know about emotion from Objectivism, in other words, is not enough to understand emotion in its fullest, and to more fully understand how deeply implicated emotion is in so much of what we call 'cognition.' The more we understand from the sciences about the peculiarities of our faculties, the more we can rationally deal with them.

Knock out the ability to feel emotion, and the human becomes [less capable] of decision-making. A part of the machinery of the human that is absolutely necessary for rational cognition, emotion.

B

On 10/7/2012 at 3:58 PM, william.scherk said:
On 10/4/2012 at 2:26 PM, blackhorse said:
Emotions are not primary tools of cognition or for making rational decisions, they are the reward or consequence of a persons value system.

This is stated many times, and I still do not fully understand it. I have asked before if anyone can imagine making a rational decision without emotion, and I noted Damasio's work on emotional deficits (in the consciousness thread).

Blackhorse, have you read anything of Damasio's work with 'Elliot'? (first in book form in Descarte's Error)

C

On 10/7/2012 at 3:58 PM, william.scherk said:

Damasio began studying other patients with similar brain damage. These all appeared intelligent and showed no deficits on any conventional cognitive tests. And yet they all suffered from the same profound flaw: because they didn't experience emotion, they had tremendous difficulty making decisions.

 

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Korben, I can't believe I somehow missed your entry from Nathaniel's PoSE, one which I've heard is considered by some on OL his best work. I've read or own three of his (which are hard to top in excellence) but not this one.

Thanks.

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As far as I know, Branden was first ('Benefits and Hazards' essay) to demonstrate that repressed emotions sometimes resulted from Objectivist study. He mentioned in part the (seeming) unemotionality of Rand's fictional characters, idolized and copied by young readers'. And too, the non-independent behaviour of some he saw imitating Rand's emotional tastes in music.

Ironically, I see that Peikoff later on agreed with him, from a more philosophical standing; in his very good Understanding Objectivism lectures, he made a strong point of the pitfalls of O'ists' rationalistic over-deduction from first principles, insufficient induction from observation - and subsequently, stifling of their emotions. I'd summarize simplistically that along with real facts, real human emotions their own and others', are unknowable, unpredictable and disturbing for rationalists' lofty ideas, and always to be mistrusted. (As emotion often stands with people, the perception is not completely wrong).

It is absorbing, the comparisons of where empiricists and rationalists differ and are the same, on emotion. (I simplify that, broadly, an empiricist fails to conceptualize while the rationalist fails to concretize). The empiricist mostly discounts (what I think of as) 'personal knowledge' and relies on the source of scientifically validated facts and theories as knowledge. Interestingly, often in accompaniment with that, is his/her belief in emotions as his insight into other people - and in others, are where his main concerns lie.

He/she is at their best when showing a human "sensitivity" (really, simply heightened awareness) and sympathy/empathy but will often slide into emotionalism: in effect, identifying and judging people, issues, situations (artworks...) and so on, predominantly by way of an emotional 'connection'. "What you feel is what it is". Except that it's unusual to hear them say the words "identity" and "judgment"(especially) uncritically.

As I see it, both broad groups make the same error. Neither recognizes that emotions are "knowable" entities - from where they originate in reality, and how each person subconsciously or consciously ultimately makes his own. Emotionality has identity. 

As opposed to rationalists, emotions are *telling*, efficacious and of crucial purpose and reward for one's own sake - also of course in part-understanding and appreciation of other people. Above all, they generally enrich our lives. Dr. Spocks, we aren't.

Contra emotionalists, emotion isn't a quasi-mystical faculty of insight and is no substitute for objective identification and evaluation. Or concept creation.

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16 hours ago, william.scherk said:

So? So what?

Imagine it this way:  what happens to a person's decision-making abilities if these often-unreliable 'tools' are entirely absent?  I mention Antonio Damasio's insights -- perhaps too many times (current count 22), but his work with "Elliot" and other cases of brain disease or injury pointed to the necessary part of emotions in making even the most ordinary decisions.

Since decision-making is a cognitive process, to know that 'missing emotion' cripples a person, this is the strongest suggestion that Emotions are human Tools in Cognition, tools that once lost cannot be replaced by reason.

 

I'm vaguely familiar with Damasio's work, but I'm not sure how much it applies in this case.  The Amygdala is the part of the brain which plays a role in decision making and emotions.  Damaged/malformed Amygdalas can lead to criminality.

 

To use an analogy, a person with strong muscles and a weak heart probably can't become a great athlete, but they still have strong muscles and can potentially be a good athlete in limited respects.  An intelligent person with a damaged Amygdala might make bad decisions, but they are still intelligent, if they have the right guidance they can contribute to society.

 

I think the important question is what is the connection between emotions and the values we choose in life.

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39 minutes ago, RobinReborn said:

I'm vaguely familiar with Damasio's work, but I'm not sure how much it applies in this case.  The Amygdala is the part of the brain which plays a role in decision making and emotions.  Damaged/malformed Amygdalas can lead to criminality.

 

To use an analogy, a person with strong muscles and a weak heart probably can't become a great athlete, but they still have strong muscles and can potentially be a good athlete in limited respects.  An intelligent person with a damaged Amygdala might make bad decisions, but they are still intelligent, if they have the right guidance they can contribute to society.

 

I think the important question is what is the connection between emotions and the values we choose in life.

Emotions make us change our mental states but they do not guarantee we end up with sound judgments.  Emotions are no substitute for reason, but emotions will get us thinking and acting. Hume made the point that humans are ruled by passion and only sometimes guided by reason.  

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