Author Topic: Why emotions?  (Read 1415 times)

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Offline Azdgari

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Re: Why emotions?
« Reply #29 on: April 16, 2013, 08:20:39 PM »
Emotions are what motivate us and cause us to seek goals.  Without goals, rationality has nothing upon which to function.  We would be dead.
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Offline natlegend

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Re: Why emotions?
« Reply #30 on: April 16, 2013, 08:31:39 PM »
But a rational goal would be to survive, and propagate the species. It would also be rational to seek ways to make our lives more comfortable, something that may have happened sooner if we didn't have the irrational cry of emotional theists trying (and sometimes succeeding) to stop us. For example, IVF was rallied against as unnatural when it first emerged, but is now commonplace. You may argue that being unable to have a child but desiring one is an emotional response, but I would counter by saying that it is an instinctual response - I must pass my genetic material, I must continue the species.
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Offline Azdgari

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Re: Why emotions?
« Reply #31 on: April 16, 2013, 08:53:34 PM »
But a rational goal would be to survive, and propagate the species. ...

What makes that a rational goal?

EDIT:  For that matter, what criteria do you use to determine whether any goal is "rational"?
« Last Edit: April 16, 2013, 08:57:22 PM by Azdgari »
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Offline natlegend

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Re: Why emotions?
« Reply #32 on: April 17, 2013, 12:22:45 AM »
Y'know, I wrote the original post when I was feeling rather down, so I must admit that I'm starting to get in over my head here now. I guess I would use the animal kingdom as a benchmark for rational, emotionless survival. The urge to mate is hardwired into them, and us as well. Why? I don't know. A bull on a farm is hardly going to give a rats ares about what happens when he dies, whether his genetic material has been passed on, and yet, stick him in front of a cow when they're all in season and away he goes.

Why did humans evolve emotions? I don't know. But I believe[1] there must have been some point, right near the start of the first neanderthals, where these prototype 'humans' didn't have emotions. Or that if they did, they were entirely unlike the ones we have now.
 1. Oh no! I used the word 'believe'. But I've already said "I don't know" so please don't crucify me
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Offline Azdgari

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Re: Why emotions?
« Reply #33 on: April 17, 2013, 12:39:45 AM »
Survival is certainly hardwired into us.  But lots of things can be hardwired into organisms.  Or into other kinds of machines, for that matter.  How does that make it rational?
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Offline natlegend

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Re: Why emotions?
« Reply #34 on: April 17, 2013, 01:50:37 AM »
Okay obviously I'm misusing the word 'rational'.
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Offline Azdgari

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Re: Why emotions?
« Reply #35 on: April 17, 2013, 02:07:05 AM »
Perhaps.  I did find it curious that you were pointing to our deepest, most automatic instincts as the most "rational" motivations we have  ;)
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Offline penfold

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Re: Why emotions?
« Reply #36 on: April 17, 2013, 04:17:57 AM »
But Penfold, your whole island/bomb premise depends on the inability for either party to lie. How is it irrational to lie, when the outcome may be a release from slavery and certain doom?

The rule against no lying was simply to make the analysis clear. In fact it does not matter.

Let us say you rationally choose to lie to me and adopt a 'fake' emotional strategy. If I am unconvinced by your lie I will enslave you anyway. However let us suppose your lie convinces me, and I assume that you will act emotionally and disobey my orders thus guaranteeing both our deaths - in this case you escape your slavery.

However in order to have done this you need to have had the option of adopting a 'fake' emotional strategy; and that is all I need to justify the claim that sometimes emotional strategies result in better outcomes than rational ones. If we accepted your initial premise that we should 'get rid' of emotion then this strategy would not have been open to you. If you could only be rational and never emotional then your slavery is guaranteed. Only by having the option to act emotionally (ether honestly, or by faking it) can you escape slavery.

Thus my conclusion, it seems to me, stands: it would be irrational to get rid of emotions.
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Offline penfold

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Re: Why emotions?
« Reply #37 on: April 17, 2013, 04:26:53 AM »
Perhaps.  I did find it curious that you were pointing to our deepest, most automatic instincts as the most "rational" motivations we have  ;)

This is a nice point, but I think your claim that there are no rational goals is too reductive. For example let us say I have the non-rational aim of buying my wife some flowers. This would rationally necessitate that I survive long enough to do so; in this sense I would argue that self-preservation is a rational aim (in most cases at least; there may be cases, such as suicide, where one can rationally act to attain the non-rational aim of self-destruction, but these would, hopefully, be exceptional cases).

I would go even further and argue that it is, in most cases, we can derive rational to aim to be happy; and even further a rational aim to seek the best outcome. This may well be a semantic argument (you seem to want to define 'rational' in terms of formal logic - ie without any set aims; where as I, and I assume natlegend, want to define 'rational' in behavioural terms - ie containing certain axiomatic aims), but I think your definition is far too narrow.
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away." - P.K.D.

Offline Hierophant

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Re: Why emotions?
« Reply #38 on: April 17, 2013, 04:32:45 AM »
First, has anyone defined what "rationality" means? Frankly to me it seems more and more like a charged word we use to designate our reasoning as good and others' as bad.

Second, it's been demonstrated that people who lack certain ranges of emotions (such as sociopaths and people who suffer damage in their ventromedial prefontal cortex) act in ways we would call abnormal or illogical.

As someone already pointed out, emotions are integral to our decision-making. The real question is not emotions versus "rationality," but emotions AND "rationality" versus exterior determinisms (like religion).

Offline Razel

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Re: Why emotions?
« Reply #39 on: April 17, 2013, 04:54:07 AM »
First, has anyone defined what "rationality" means? Frankly to me it seems more and more like a charged word we use to designate our reasoning as good and others' as bad.

Rationality is a method of thinking related to how we achieve an objective.  There are no inherently rational objectives because rationality is only involved in how to achieve your objectives, not how to determine them.

Although, rationality can be used to choose which objectives you should achieve so that you can accomplish another objective.  If your objective is to survive, then you can rationally choose objectives such as "get food and water" in order to accomplish this.

Offline Hierophant

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Re: Why emotions?
« Reply #40 on: April 17, 2013, 04:57:45 AM »
Instrumental value then? Okay, I understand. But then it doesn't seem that emotions and rationality are the same kind of thing at all, so how can we compare them? Emotions are the result of a process of evolution, which automatically precludes any sort of teleology from entering the picture.

Offline Azdgari

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Re: Why emotions?
« Reply #41 on: April 17, 2013, 05:17:02 AM »
This is a nice point, but I think your claim that there are no rational goals is too reductive. For example let us say I have the non-rational aim of buying my wife some flowers. This would rationally necessitate that I survive long enough to do so; in this sense I would argue that self-preservation is a rational aim (in most cases at least; there may be cases, such as suicide, where one can rationally act to attain the non-rational aim of self-destruction, but these would, hopefully, be exceptional cases).

So a goal is rational if it is required in order to accomplish another held goal, according to what you've just said.  I agree that once the initial goal is held, its ideal requirements if one is to follow through on it are objective.  Sometimes, to accomplish goals, sacrificing one's own life is the most effective method.  And I don't just mean for suicide bombers.  To best attain some goals, putting one's own life at great risk or even to certain death is the most effective method.  By your own reasoning here, that would make self-preservation irrational with respect to those goals.  I agree.  There is nothing inherently rational or irrational about the goal of self-preservation.  It happens that it ends up being the rational choice with respect to far more goals than those for which it ends up being the irrational choice.  But that's a matter of our circumstances.

I would go even further and argue that it is, in most cases, we can derive rational to aim to be happy; and even further a rational aim to seek the best outcome.

"Staying happy" is just as a-rational[1] as "self-preservation" per the above.  As for "the best outcome", that's putting the cart before the horse.  Best outcome with respect to what goal?

This may well be a semantic argument (you seem to want to define 'rational' in terms of formal logic - ie without any set aims; where as I, and I assume natlegend, want to define 'rational' in behavioural terms - ie containing certain axiomatic aims), but I think your definition is far too narrow.

Far too narrow for what?
 1. As in, not inherently rational or irrational
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