Your Senses, Your Emotions, Your Morality (3rd Intl. Conference on Addiction and Psychiatry)

Uploaded 9/2/2020, approx. 41 minute read

Esteemed colleagues, my name is Sam Vaknin, I am a professor of psychology in Southern Federal University in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, and I am a professor of finance and a professor of psychology in the Outreach Program of SIAS-CIAPS, Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies.

My presentation today deals with the connection between the nexus, between sensor, sensory input, emotions, cognitions, and by extension morality.

And I would like to start with time travel, going back to the 70s and 80s, when Ben Bagdikian and Alvin Toffler had written about information overload.

Information overload is a phrase coined by Toffler, he also coined the phrase of a choice.

These gentlemen were very concerned with the fact that the number of advertisements, the number of television channels, the information that is presented to us by the environment is multiplying exponentially, and they thought this would create some kind of dysfunction.

This thinking is very flawed. The amount of information in the environment is irrelevant, and it's irrelevant because the processing capacity of the brain and the filtering mechanisms embedded in the brain, they are uniform, they are constant.

And filtering relevant data from irrelevant data goes on all the time, regardless of whether one filters from 5000 advertisements or from 20 advertisements.

Our brains register 40 million bits of sensory information per second.

Most of this information is processed subconsciously or preconsciously. For every bit of information processed by our conscious brain, 5000 bits are processed by our unconscious.

So it is not a surprise that most of our processing, most of our relatedness to information, and most of the decision making, and most of the collating, most of the modeling, in short, most of our mental life, takes place exactly as Sigmund Freud has postulated 120 years ago, takes place in the unconscious.

The unconscious is where things happen. And once they happen, the unconscious informs consciousness.

95% of brain activity is unconscious, and only 5% is conscious.

And this entire thing is called selective filtering, or selective attention. There's a variety of brain structures that take place of absorbing the environment, filtering it, navigating it, channeling it's like packet switching in the brain. There's the cortex, there's the thalamus, etc, etc.

This lecture is not about brain structures.

But having said that, and having realized that we actually inhabit the Netherlands of our minds, we don't really have any interface with what we call objective ontological reality.

We obtain information from the environment, and then we channel it and funnel it into various parts of the brain, by the way, redundantly, with multiple copies, exactly like packet switching.

And then the brain reassembles this information, but it reassembles this information subject to models, mathematical models. And these mathematical models take into account past experience, take into account the laws of nature, take into account expectations, etc, etc.

These models are not necessarily real in the objective ontological physical experimentation sense of the word.

Even when we do conduct experiments in physics, there is a huge effect, huge influence of what our brains, what our eyes choose to see and absorb in process.

The outcomes, the output crucially depends not on the input, but on how the input is organized within this gigantic computer with multiple softwares and multiple apps.

There's a model for seeing, a model for smelling, a model for fleeing, a model for being frightened, a model for anxiety, there are models for everything, thousands, millions possibly, of models.

And these models are predicated not on the input, but they are predicated on what's good for survival. They are evolutionary models. So we are divorced from reality.

Anywhere between 1 and 5% of what we believe to be real is actually there. 90 to 95% of what we consider reality is actually modeling in the brain, is actually totally contained, holographic kind of representation.

We are manipulating representations and symbols.

And so it's not surprising that people, collectives and individuals disagree about so much that is psychological and mental.

I would like to read to you a passage from an introductory textbook, Psychology: an Introduction, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris, University of Michigan, Prentice Hall, 1996. It's a mind-boggling passage.

Anthropologies, says Morris, report enormous differences in the ways that different cultures categorize emotions. Some languages in fact do not have a word for emotion. Other languages differ in the number of words they have to name emotions.

While English has over 2000 words to describe emotional categories, there are only 750 such descriptive words in Taiwanese, Chinese. One tribal language has only seven words that could be translated into categories of emotion. The words used to name or to describe an emotion can influence what emotion is actually experienced.

For example, Tahitians do not have a word directly equivalent to sadness. Instead, they treat sadness as something like a physical illness.

The difference is an impact on how the emotion is experienced by Tahitians. For example, the sadness we feel over the departure of a close friend would be experienced by Tahitian as exhaustion.

Some cultures lack words for anxiety or depression or guilt. Samoans have one word encompassing love, sympathy, pity and liking altogether, which are very different emotions in our own culture.

So as you see, even language breaks down when it tries to cope and to capture our inner landscape, the psychodynamic processes that go on in our brains. And the reason is exactly what I said before, there is no strong correlation, repeat, no strong correlation between our brain's output and objective ontological reality if it exists at all.

This presentation is divided into two parts.

In the first, I survey the landscape of the discourse regarding emotions in general and sensations in particular. And this part is familiar to any student of philosophy.

The second part contains an attempt at producing an integrative overview of the matter. I leave it to you to decide whether I succeeded or not.

Words have the power to express the speaker's emotions, but words have also the power to evoke emotions. Whether these are the same emotions or not, this is a major dispute. Whether the listener reacts exactly as the original did, whether my sadness is your sadness, when you communicate love, whether I feel it's the same, this is an open question. It is the conundrum of the intersubjective agreement. It is what empathy is supposed to provide, a bridge between two minds.

But minds are inaccessible in principle.

Words, therefore, possess a motive meaning together with a descriptive meaning. And the descriptive meaning plays a cognitive role in forming beliefs and understandings.

Our moral judgments and the responses deriving from these moral judgments, they have a strong emotional streak, an emotional aspect, an emotive element. Any religious person will tell you this.

Whether the emotive part predominates as the basis of appraisal is again debatable. Whether morality, in general, is founded on emotions. That's an open question.

Can we, for example, derive a valid, internally consistent, externally efficacious moral system? Can we derive such a system from logic only, from reason only, divorced from emotion?

Interesting question.

Reason analyzes a situation. Reason prescribes alternatives for action.

But it is considered to be static, inert, not goal-oriented. One is almost tempted to say non-teleological.

The equally necessary dynamic action-inducing component is thought, for some reason, to belong to the emotional realm.

In other words, emotions drive us to do things. Emotions are energy, kind of an encapsulation of energy.

Reason is an armchair activity. It's sitting back. It's analytical.

Thus, the language, the words used to express moral judgment supposedly actually express the speaker's emotions.

Though the aforementioned mechanism of emoting meaning is cardinal, and through this mechanism similar emotions are evoked in the ear, this mechanism moves other people to action. The mechanism of emoting meaning is critical, but is it exclusive? Is there any input to reason and logic? We'll come to it a bit later.

A distinction should be, and has been drawn, between regarding moral judgment as merely a report pertaining to the subject's emotional world and regarding moral judgment wholly as an emotive reaction.

In the first case, where it's only a report about some internal state, the whole notion, really the phenomenon of moral disagreement, is rendered incomprehensible. How could one disagree with a report about someone else's inner state?

But in the second case, when actually moral judgment is an emotive reaction. In the second case, moral judgment is reduced to the status of an exclamation, a non-propositional expression of emotive tension, a mental excretion.

And this observation was nicknamed the Boo-hurrah theory.

Either way, moral judgment is dubious.

If it pertains to someone's inner state, if it's merely a reporting of that inner state, well, it's as valid and legitimate as any other report. It is equipotent, has equal standing, and is egalitarian.

There's no superior morality and inferior morality. There's only reported morality.

But if morality is emotions, if it's another name for emotions, then it's an expression, an exclamation, an eruption, nothing more than that.

There were those who maintained that the whole issue was the result of mislabelling.

Emotions are really what we otherwise call attitudes, say these people. We approve or we disapprove of something. And that way, we feel about that something. Prescriptivist accounts displaced emotivist analysis. And this instrumentalism did not prove more helpful, I'm sorry to say, than its purist predecessors. So we are stuck in a conundrum.

Throughout this scholarly debate, philosophers did what they do best. They had ignored reality.

Moral judgments, every child knows, are not explosive. They are not inclusive events.

There's no shattered or scattered emotions strewn all over the battlefield.

Logic is definitely involved in moral judgment. And so are responses to already analyzed moral properties and circumstances. And to say otherwise is counterfactual.

Moreover, emotions themselves are judged morally as right or as wrong. If a moral judgment were really an emotion, we would need to stipulate the existence of a hyper emotion, meta emotion, to account for the moral judgment of our emotions.

And in all likelihood, we'll find ourselves in an infinite regression. There'll be meta emotion, meta meta emotion, meta meta meta emotion.

If moral judgment is a report or an exclamation, on the other hand, how are we able to distinguish it from mere rhetoric? How are we able to intelligibly account for the formation of moral standpoints by moral agents in response to an unprecedented moral challenge?

So both positions are untenable and indefensible. Moral realists criticize these largely superfluous and artificial dichotomies. Reason versus feeling, belief versus desire, emotivism and non-cognitivism versus realism. This debate has old roots.

Feeling theories such as Descartes, regarded emotions as a mental item, which requires no definition and no classification. What one could not fail to fully grasp upon having it.

In other words, if you emote, if you feel, you feel, end of story, why do we need to analyze, or capture it, or categorize it, or define it?

Descartes' approach entails the introduction of introspection as the only way to access our feelings. Introspection not in the limited sense of awareness of one's mental states, but in the broader sense of being able to internally ascertain mental states. It almost became material. Descartes kind of postulated the existence of a mental eye, a brain scan, at the very least, a kind of perception.

But of course, immediately others had denied its similarity to central perception. They said emotional perception is not the same as central perception. These people prefer to treat introspection as a modus of memory, recollection through retrospection as an internal way of ascertaining past mental events, remembrance of things past. And this approach relied on the impossibility of having a thought simultaneously with another thought, whose subject was the first thought.

All these lexicographic storms did not serve either to elucidate the complex issue of introspection or to solve the critical questions.

How can we be sure that what we introspect is not false? If accessible only to introspection, how do we learn to speak of emotions uniformly? How do we unreflectively assume knowledge of other people's emotions? How come we are sometimes forced to unearth or deduce our own emotions? How is it possible to mistake our emotions, to have one emotion without actually feeling it? Are all these failures of the machinery of introspection explainable? Or do they undermine the very concept of introspection, or at the very least, the exclusivity of introspection as an access mechanism?

The proto-psychologists James and Lange have separately proposed that emotions are the experiencing of physical responses to external stimuli. Emotions are mental representations of totally corporeal, bodily reactions. Sadness, they suggested, is what we call the feeling of trying.

This was phenomenological materialism at its worst. To have full-blown emotions, not merely detached observations, one needed to experience palpable bodily symptoms. It's like if you don't have bodily symptoms, you don't have feelings.

The James-Lange theory apparently did not believe that a quadriplegic, for example, can have emotions, since a quadriplegic definitely experiences no bodily sensations. You see how reductive and absurd this theory is.

Sensationalism, another form of fanatic empiricism. Sensationalism stated that all our knowledge derived from sensations, from sensa, from sense data. There is no clear answer to the question, how do these sensors, how does this sensory data, how do they get coupled with interpretations, with judgments? Why do we invariably link one set of sensory data to a specific emotion or cognition or judgment?

Kant postulated the existence of a manifold of sets, the data supplied to the mind through sensation. In the critique of pure reason, Kant claimed that these data were presented to the mind in accordance with these already preconceived forms, sensibilities like space or time.

But to experience means to unify these data, to cohere them somehow. Even Kant admitted that this is brought about by the synthetic activity of imagination as guided by understanding.

And today we call these theories of mind, theories of the world or brain models.

Not only was this a deviation from materialism, it was also not very instructive.

When Kant talks about imagination, what material is imagination made of? And how does it help us to understand anything? And when we introduce a term that is equally ill-defined, so I'm not very impressed with Kant's work in this particular respect.

The problem was partly a problem of communication.

Emotions are qualia, qualities as they appear to our consciousness. In many respects, emotions are like sense data, which brought about the aforementioned confusion. Both sensa, sensory data, and emotions are presented to the mind. They're not the same. The fact that they are both presented to the mind doesn't render them one and the same.

As opposed to sensa, which are particular, qualia are universal. They are subjective qualities of our conscious experience.

It is impossible to ascertain or to analyze the subjective components of phenomena in physical objective terms. It's impossible to communicate them.

Subjective phenomena are not communicable, and they are not understandable by all rational individuals, independent of their sensory equipment. So there's a confusion here, confusion between subjective and objective, between qualia and data, between senses and emotions. And the subjective dimension is comprehensible only to conscious beings of a certain type with the right sensory faculties.

I think this is the source of the confusion. The belief that we have a monopoly because we are the only ones to have the right senses.

The problems of absent qualia and of inverted qualia, they're real, they're serious, but they're not relevant to this more limited discussion. Absent qualia, for example, can a zombie or can a machine pass for a human being despite the fact that it has no experiences? It's a kind of a variant of the Turing test.

Inverted qualia, what we both call red, might have been called green by you if you had my internal experience, when seeing what we call red. In other words, labeling of the same phenomena is not guaranteed by sharing the same internal experience.

So there are problems with qualia. Qualia is not a panacea, it's not a perfect solution. But these problems are not relevant here.

They belong in the realm of private language.

Wittgenstein demonstrated that a language cannot contain elements which it would be logically impossible for anyone but its speaker to learn or to understand.

Therefore, it cannot have elements, words, whose meaning is the result of representing objects accessible only to the speaker. For instance, his emotions.

One can use a language either correctly or incorrectly. The speaker must have at its disposal a decision procedure which will allow him to decide whether his usage is correct or not.

This is not possible with a private language because it cannot be compared to anything.

We can have an emotion for months. We can have an emotion going on for years. Depression, for example. Sadness goes on for years. Even when and if our bodies change dramatically.

These theories could not explain on what grounds do we judge emotions as appropriate or perverse, justified, amoral, rational, irrational, realistic, fantastic. If emotions were nothing but involuntary reactions, contingent upon external events, devoid of context, then how come we perceive drug-induced anxiety or intestinal spasms in a detached way?

Not the same way that we experience emotions. There's a clear distinction.

We experience many bodily effects, many processes in the body, very, very differently to emotions, and we make this distinction very clearly. Putting the emphasis on sorts of behavior as the behavior is due shifts the focus to the public shared aspect of emotions.

But it again fails to account for the private, pronounced dimension. In other words, if we say emotion is behavior, or if we judge the existence of emotion, we ascertain the existence of emotion by observing behavior.

What have we done with that? We have simply relabeled emotions. We call them behaviors. So there's no insight here, no added value, because this kind of approach doesn't cope with the private and very distinct and powerful dimension of emotions.

Anyone who has experienced emotions can't compare this experience to any other experience.

It is possible, after all, to experience emotions without expressing them, in other words, without behaving. Additionally, the repertoire of emotions available to us is much larger than the repertoire of behaviors.


I started by saying that English has 2,000 words to describe emotions.

Many of these emotions, there's no corresponding behavior. Emotions are subtler than actions and cannot be fully conveyed by actions.

We find that even human language is inadequate, an inadequate conduit for these complex phenomena.

And to say that emotions are cognitions, which is the current thinking, well, possibly true, but it's to say nothing.

We understand cognition even less than we understand emotions. We understand the mechanisms of cognition, but we don't understand what is cognition.

In many ways, we know a lot more about emotions than about cognitions. To say that emotions are caused by cognitions, to say that emotions cause cognitions, emotivism, to say that emotions are part of a motivational process, it doesn't answer the question, what are emotions?

Emotions do cause us to apprehend and to perceive things in a certain way. Emotions cause us to act accordingly, but what are emotions?

Granted, they're strong, perhaps necessary connections between emotions and knowledge. And in this respect, emotions are ways of perceiving the world and interacting with the world.

Perhaps emotions are even rational strategies of adaptation and survival and not random, stochastic, isolated, interpsychic events.

Perhaps Plato was wrong in saying that emotions conflict with reason and thus obscure the right way of apprehending reality.

Perhaps he is right. Fears do become phobias. Emotions do depend on one's experience and character, as opposed to reason and logic.

So even Plato's maxims, thousands of years ago, are still open to question.

As we have it in psychoanalysis, emotions may be reactions to the unconscious rather than to the world.

And yet again, Sartre may be right in saying that emotions are modus vivendi, the way we live the world, our perceptions, coupled with our bodily reactions. Sartre wrote, we live the world as though the relations between things were governed not by deterministic processes, but by magic, magical thinking.

Even a rationally grounded emotion, fear, for example, fear is rational when you're faced with a tiger, fear generates flight from a source of danger, it's rational. Even this kind of emotion is really a magical transformation, the exact elimination of the source of fear.

Emotions sometimes mislead as well. People may perceive the same, analyze the same, evaluate the situation the same way, respond along the same vein, and yet have different emotional reactions.

It doesn't seem necessary, even if it were sufficient, to postulate the existence of a preferred cognition. There are no cognitions that enjoy an overcoat of emotions. There's no emotion cognition.

Actually, it's considered a pathology. Thinking via your emotions, cognitive emoting or emotional cognition, these are kinds of pathologies. Either all cognitions generate emotions or no cognition generates emotions.

But you see, we are still in the labyrinth.

What are emotions?

We all possess some kind of sense awareness, a perception of objects and states, or things by central means.

Even a dumb, deaf and blind person still possesses proper reception, perceiving the position and notion of his limbs, his body. Sense awareness does not include introspection because the subject of introspection is supposed to be mental, unreal states.

Still, if mental states are a misnomer, and really we are dealing with internal physiological states, then introspection should form an important part of sense awareness.

In other words, if emotions, if what we call emotions, are actually internal body processes, then the senses should apply to them as well. And the process that the senses apply to these bodily processes should be called introspection.

But if emotions are not merely bodily processes, there is a problem with introspection.

Specialized organs mediate the impact of external objects upon our senses and distinctive types of experience arise as a result of this mediation.

There is no such thing in introspection. Perception is thought to be composed of the sensory phase, its subjective aspect, and then of a conceptual phase, the modern building, the theoretical building.

Clearly sensations come before thoughts. Sensations come, precede beliefs and the formation of beliefs. Suffice it to observe children and animals to be convinced that a sentient being does not necessarily have to have beliefs.

You can survive in the world without having beliefs or values. You can have schemas, which are composed only of cognitions and emotions and senses. One can employ the sense modalities or even have sensory-like phenomena, hunger, thirst, pain, sexual arousal. And in parallel, one can engage in introspection because all these have an introspective dimension. It is inevitable.

Sensations are about how objects feel like, how they sound, how they smell, how they are seen to us. Sensations belong in one sense to the objects with which they are identified.

There is no sensation without objects.

But in a deeper, more fundamental sense, sensations have intrinsic introspective qualities.

And this is how we are able to tell them apart.

The difference between sensations and propositional attitudes is made very clear this way.

Thoughts, beliefs, judgments, and knowledge differ only with respect to their content. They deal with propositions, the proposition that is believed, the proposition that is judged, that is known.

They don't deal with these propositional attitudes. They don't deal with an intrinsic quality, with a feeling.

Sensations are exactly the opposite of propositional attitudes actually. Differently felt sensations may relate to the same content.

Thoughts can also be classified in terms of intentionality. Thoughts are about something.

Sensations can be classified only in terms of their intrinsic character. Sensations are distinct from discursive events such as reasoning, knowing, thinking, or remembering. And they do not depend upon the subject's intellectual endowments, like his power to conceptualize.

And in this sense, sensations are mentally primitive. And they probably take place at a level of the psyche where reason and thought have no recourse.

So you see, there's a god-awful mess. There's a chaos, definitional, linguistic, taxonomic, lexical chaos between all these things. The epistemological status of sensations is much less clear, and that perhaps is the source of the problem.

That's the crux of the matter. When we say an object, we are aware of a visual sensation in addition to being aware of the object.

And that raises a series of questions. Perhaps we are only aware of the sensation. Wherefrom we infer the existence of an object, perhaps we only construct the object mentally, indirectly?

This is what the representative theory tries to persuade us.

This theory says that the brain, when it encounters visual stimuli emanating from a real external object, it reconstructs the object. Our visual sensation is just a reconstruction. It's a mental exercise. It's not real. The naive realists say that one is only aware of the external object, and that it is a sensation that is modeled and inferred and theoretical.

So these are two schools. Representative theory: the object is real, but its representation is a mental process.

The naive realist is we are aware of the object, and we model the sensation.

We are representative theory. We are aware of the sensation, and we model the object.

Naive realists: we are aware of the object and model the sensation. This is a less tenable theory, in my view, naive realism, because it fails to explain how do we directly know the character of the pertinent sensation if, you know, only the object is real.

Be the case, as it may, what is indisputable is that sensation is either an experience or a faculty of having experiences.

In the first case, if it's an experience, we have to introduce the idea of sense data, sensor, the objects of experience, as distinct from the sensation, the experience itself.

But if sensation is an experience, and experience is divided into two parts, objects and experience, isn't this separation artificial at best? Can sense data exist without sensation? Is sensation a mere construct of the language? Is it an internal accusative? Is to have a sensation equal to strike a blow, as some dictionaries of philosophy would have?

Moreover, sensations must be had by subjects.

Are sensations objects? If you have a sensation, do you have it the same way you have your smartphone? Are sensations properties of the subjects that have them? Must they intrude upon the subject's consciousness in order to exist? Or can they exist in the psychic background, for instance, when the subject is asleep or distracted? Are sensations mere representations of real events? So is pain a representation of injury? Are sensations located, localized? Do we know if sensations when no external object can be correlated with them, or when we deal with the obscure, loose, general?

Some sensations relate to specific instances, but other sensations relate to kinds of experiences, categories of experiences. So in theory, the same sensation can be experienced by several people. It would be the same kind of experience, though of course different instances of the same kind.

And finally, there are the oddball sensations, which are neither entirely bodily nor entirely mental. Sensations of, for example, being watched or followed.

These are examples of sensations where both components are clearly intertwined, the body and the mind.

Feeling is a hyper-concept which is made of both sensation and emotion. It describes the ways in which we experience both our world and ourselves. It coincides with sensations whenever it has a bodily component.

But it is sufficiently flexible to cover emotions and attitudes or opinions without that element.

Attaching names to phenomena never helps in the long run. That's my belief, and in the really important matter of understanding things.

We tend to confuse labeling with understanding. If we have a handle, if we have a name, if we have a word, that's it, we did our job.

That's wrong. To identify feelings, let alone to describe them, is not an easy task.

It is difficult to distinguish among feelings without resorting to a detailed description of causes, inclinations and dispositions. In addition, the relationship between feeling and emotions is far from clear, far from well established.

Can we emote without feeling? Can we explain emotions, consciousness, even simple pleasure, in terms of feeling? Is feeling a practical method? Can it be used to learn about the world or other people? How do we know about our own feelings? How our feelings mediate to us, let alone to others?

Instead of throwing light on the subject, the dual concepts of feeling and sensation seem to confound matter even further to make an even bigger mess.

A more basic level needs to be approached, and I suggest that it is sense data or sensor.

Sense data are entities, and they are cyclically defined. The existence of these entities depends upon being sensed by a sensor equipped with sensors.

Yet sense data define the senses to a large extent.

Imagine trying to define the sense of vision without visuals, it can't be.

Ostensibly, sense data are entities, though they are subjective.

Allegedly, sense data possess the properties that we perceive in an external object if it is there, or if it appears to have them.

In other words, though the external object is perceived, what we really get in touch with directly, what we apprehend without mediation, these are the subjective sensors.

We never get in touch with the object. We get in touch with the sensor, with the sensory data, and we assume that it is emanating from the object.

That is also not true. It is an interplay between our mind and the object. What is probably perceived is merely inferred, merely deduced from the sense data.

In short, all our so-called empirical knowledge rests upon our acquaintance with sensa. Every perception has its basis pure experience.

But the same can be said about memory, imagination, dreams, hallucinations.

Sensation, as opposed to all these, is supposed to be error-free, not subject to filtering or to interpretation, not be selective, to be special, as a special status. Sensation is supposed to be infallible, direct, immediate. It is an awareness of the existence of entities, existence of objects, of ideas, of impressions of other people, perceptions, even other sensations.

Russell and Moore said that sensa, sense data, have all and only the properties that they appear to have and can only be sensed by one subject.

But these all are idealistic renditions of senses, sensations, and sensa.

In practice, as anyone would tell you, it's notoriously difficult to reach a consensus regarding the description of sense data or to base any meaningful, let alone useful knowledge of the physical world based on sense data.

There is a great variance in the conception of sensa.

Berkeley, ever the incorrigible practical Britain, said that sense data exists only if and when sensed or perceived by us. Nay, their very existence is their being perceived or sensed by us.

Some senses are public or part of larger assemblages of sensa. Their interaction with the other sensa, with parts of objects, with surfaces of objects, may distort the inventory of their properties.

These sensa may seem to lack properties that they do possess, or to possess properties that can be discovered only upon close inspection, not immediately evident.

Some sense data are intrinsically vague. For example, what is a striped pajama? How many stripes does it contain? We do not know. It is sufficient to note, to visually sense, that the pajama has stripes all over.

Some philosophers say that if sense data can be sensed, then they possibly exist.

These sensa are called the sensibilia, plural of sensibili.

Even when not actually perceived, even when not actually sensed, objects consist of sensibilia.

This makes sense data hard to differentiate. They overlap, and where one begins may be the end of another.

Nor is it possible to say if sensa are changeable because we do not really know what sensa are. Are sensory data objects? Are these substances, entities, qualities, events, what?

Other philosophers suggest that sensing is an act directed at the objects called sense data.

Others widely dispute this artificial separation. To see red is simply to see in a certain manner, that is to see redly.

What's the evidence?

An important facet of emotions is that they can generate direct behavior. They can treat a complex change of actions, not always beneficial to the individual.

Yerkes and Dodson observed that the more complex a task is, the more emotional arousal interferes with performance.

In other words, emotions can motivate. If these were their only function, we might have determined that emotions are a subcategory of motivations.

Some cultures do not have a word for emotions. Other cultures equate emotions with physical sensations, a la James Lange, who said that external stimuli cause bodily changes which result in emotions, or are interpreted as such by the person affected.

Cannon and Bard differed only in saying that both emotions and bodily responses were simultaneous.

An even more far-fetched approach, cognitive theories, was that situations in our environment foster in us a general state of arousal. We receive clues from the environment as to what we should call the general state. For instance, it was demonstrated that facial expressions can induce emotions, apart from any cognition.

A big part of the problem is that there is no accurate way to verbally communicate emotions.

People are either unaware of their feelings, or they try to falsify their magnitude, minimize them, exaggerate them. Facial expressions, bodily language, seem to be both inborn and universal. Children born deaf and blind use facial expressions. They must be serving some adaptive, survival strategy of functioning.

So can we base universal objective theory on facial expressions?

Darwin said that emotions have an evolutionary history. It can be traced across cultures as part of our biological heritage.

Maybe so, I don't know. But the bodily vocabulary is not flexible enough to capture the full range of emotional subtleties that humans are capable of. It's pretty useless as a language.

Another non-verbal mode of communication is known also as part of bodily language, the way we move, the distance we maintain from other people, personal or private territory. These also express emotions. Very crass, very raw, but they do.

So if we want to limit ourselves to a language that can capture the most basic, primordial, rudimentary, proto-emotions, body language is good enough.

But that's not the human existence. That's not the human experience.

So some say, OK, forget body language. Let's talk about behavior. There is overt behavior. It is determined by culture, by upbringing, by personal inclination, by temperament, and so on.

For instance, women are more likely to express emotion than men. When they encounter a person in distress, and we say that women are more empathic, both sexes, however, experience the same level of physiological arousal in such an encounter. Men and women also label their emotions differently. So they have the same bodily experience, but they externalize it differently, and they label it differently. What men call anger, women call hurt or sadness.

Men are four times more likely than women to resort to violence. Women, more often than not, will internalize aggression and become depressed.

Efforts at reconciling all these data were made in the early 80s. It was hypothesized that the interpretation of emotional states is a two-faced process. People respond to emotional arousal by quickly surveying and appraising, introspectively, their own feelings.

Then they proceed to search for environmental cues to support the results of this first phase.

So there's a first phase of assessment, appraisal.

People feel something, you know, they have some emotional arousal and say, what is it that I'm feeling? It must be this and this. And then they go out to the environment and they try to find supporting cues. They develop confirmation bias. People tend to pay more attention to internal cues that agree with external cues. And put more plainly, people feel what they expect to feel.

There's emotional confirmation bias. Several psychologists have shown that feelings precede cognition in infants. Animals also probably react before they think, if they think.

Does this mean that the affective system reacts instantaneously without any of the appraisal and survey processes that were postulated?

If this were the case, then we are merely playing with words. We invent explanations to label our feelings after we fully experience our feelings.

Emotions, therefore, can be had without any cognitive intervention or input.

Emotions provoke unlearned bodily patterns, such as the aforementioned facial expressions and body language. And this vocabulary of expressions and postures is not even conscious.

When information about these reactions reaches the brain, it assigns to them the appropriate emotion or word for emotion. And thus, affect creates emotion, not vice versa.

We are taught that first we emote. First we experience emotion, and then there's affect.

And many psychologists think it's the other way around. First we behave. First we do things. First we experience things.

And then we ask ourselves, what is it that has happened to us? What just happened?

We say, ah, well, I must have been sad. I must have been happy. I must have fallen in love. I must have been infatuated.

Sometimes we hide our emotions in order to preserve our self-image or not to incur society's wrath and sanctions. Sometimes we are not aware of our emotions.

As a result, we deny them or diminish them.

The use of one word to denote the whole process was a source of misunderstanding and futile disputations. I think that's a major problem.

Emotions, feelings, are processes. They're not events. They're not objects.

And I would like from now on to use the term emotive cycle to indicate that it's spread across time.

The genesis of the emotive cycle lies in the acquisition of emotional data. In most cases, these are made up of sense data mixed with data related to spontaneous internal events.

Even when no access to sense data, to sensa, is available, the stream of internally generated data is never interrupted. And this is easily demonstrated in experiments involving sensory deprivation or with people who are naturally sensorially deprived, blind, deaf, dumb.

The spontaneous generation of internal data and the emotional reactions to internal data are always there, even in these extreme conditions. It is true that even under severe sensory deprivation, the promoting person reconstructs or evokes past sensory data. A case of pure, total and permanent sensory deprivation is impossible.

But there are important philosophical and psychological differences between real life sense data and the representations of sense data in the mind.

Only in grave pathologies, this distinction is blurred: in psychotic states, when experiencing phantom pains following the amputation of a limb or when we have drug-induced images and after images.

In these states, psychosis, phantom pains following amputation, drug-induced visions, in these states, we tend to confuse sense data with the representations of sense data. Auditory, visual, olfactory and other hallucinations are breakdowns of normal functioning.

Normally, people are well aware of and strongly maintain the distinction between objective external sense data and the internally generated representations of past sense data.

The emotional data are perceived by the emoter as stimuli.

The external objective component is to be compared to internally maintained databases of previous such stimuli.

The internally generated spontaneous or associative data have to be reflected upon.

So simultaneously, there are two processes. External sense data comes in and is classified, compared, categorized and incorporated in working models, working hypotheses. And the internal data generated by internal processes, associations, etc., this internal data is reflected upon introspection.

Both needs lead to introspective, inwardly directed activity. And the product of introspection is the formation of qualia. This whole process is unconscious or subconscious. If the person is subject to functioning, psychological defense mechanisms, repression, suppression, denial, projection, projective identification, qualia formation will be followed by immediate action.

The subject, not having had any conscious experience, will not be aware of any connection between his actions and preceding events, sense data, internal data and the introspective phase. He will be at a loss to explain his behavior. He will describe himself as acting out because the whole process did not go, did not transition through his consciousness.

To further strengthen this argument, we may recall that hypnotized and anesthetized subjects are not likely to act at all, even in the presence of external objective sensa. Hypnotized people are likely to react to sensa introduced to their consciousness by the hypnotist and which had no existence, whether internal or external, prior to the hypnotist's suggestion.

It seems that feeling, sensation and emoting exist only if they pass through consciousness.

This is true even where no data of any kind are available, such as in the case of phantom pains of long amputated limbs. But such bypasses of consciousness are the less common cases.

More commonly, qualia formation is followed by feeling and sensation.

These are fully conscious. They lead to the triple processes of surveying appraisal/evaluation and judgment formation.

When repeated often enough, judgments of similar data coalesce to form attitudes or opinions.

The patterns of interactions of opinions and attitudes with our thoughts, with our cognitions and knowledge, within our conscious and unconscious strata, these patterns give rise to what we call our personality.

These patterns are relatively rigid and rarely influenced by the outside world. When maladaptive and dysfunctional, we talk about personality disorders.

Judgments contain, therefore, strong emotional, cognitive and attitudinal elements which team up to create motivation.

The latter leads to action. Motivation leads to action, which both completes one emotional cycle and starts another.

Actions are also sense data, and motivations are internal data, which together form a new chunk of emotional data.

And so emotional cycles can be divided into Phrastic nuclei and Neustic clouds. This is a metaphor from physics. Frastic and neustic.

The frastic nucleus is the content of the emotion. It's subject matter. It incorporates the phases of introspection, feeling, sensation and judgment formation.

The neustic cloud involves the ends of the cycle, which interface with the world. This interface includes the emotional data on one hand, the resulting action on the other.

We started by saying that the emotional cycle is set in motion by emotional data, which in turn are composed of sense data and internally generated data.

But the composition of the emotional data is of prime importance in determining the nature of the resulting emotion and of the following action.

If more sense data than internal data are involved, and the component of internal data is weak in comparison, it is never absent, we are likely to experience transitive emotions. The latter are emotions which involve observation and revolve around objects. In short, these are the outgoing emotions that motivate us to act to change our environment.

Yet if the emotional cycle is set in motion by emotional data, which are composed mainly of internal spontaneously generated data, we end up with reflexive emotions. These are the emotions that involve reflection and revolve around the self, for example, autoerotic emotions.

It is here that the source of psychopathology should be sought in this imbalance between external objective sense data and the echoes reverberating in our mind.

One last comment about Descartes, evil demon, and evolution.

Descartes invoked this evil demon in an attempt to prove that we cannot decisively tell whether our perceptions, sense data or sensa reflect reality, or perhaps are the outcomes of a malevolent intervention by a fiend. There is no test that can inform us unequivocally whether we are in a demon-induced dream state or not, he insisted in his meditations.

In the modern rendition of this, there is no way of telling whether we are inside a computer simulation, like in the matrix, or whether we are in reality.

One counter-argument is that had our senses and brains deceived us, had they been so susceptible to external manipulation, we would have long ago perished. Natural selection favors individuals whose grasp on reality is firm and who are therefore able to render accurate predictions regarding the threats and the rewards in their environment.

But this counter-argument to Descartes is open to attack on two vectors, two levels.

First of all, the evil demon may well be applying natural selection in his dealings with human beings. In other words, this devil may be selecting for traits in his prey, in his victims, conducive to his deception. In this case, individuals who respond well to the virtual reality that this demon conjures up, will tend to survive. People who function well in the simulation will tend to thrive and propagate, reproduce, they will have children. Others will be allowed or even encouraged to perish, rebels in Zion, in the movie The Matrix.

And the second counter-argument is an ability to perceive reality in a manner that enhances our chances to survive.

It is not necessarily the same as an ability to perceive the world as it really is. Who said that perceiving the world as it really is is conducive to survival? I can tell from experience in therapy that many people are driven to suicide when they are exposed to reality and to the truth.

On the contrary, the need to filter out, to filter away loads of irrelevant information, hurtful information, painful information, traumatic information, this need almost guarantees a skewed and biased view of reality.

In a way, natural selection and its evolutionary pressures are a latter-day version of Descartes' evil demon because it too, natural selection, feeds us with information intended to manipulate us and to yield behavioral choices and outcomes in line with its agenda.

Its agenda is passing on the genes, the selfish gene, tokens. The agenda of natural selection is survival, and we are manipulated to see the world in a way that is conducive to survival, not as it really is.

Emotions, sensations, cognitions, motivations, attitudes, are they all facets of the same thing? Or are they separate entities integrated only in our mind?

This debate is very, very far from all, and the reason it's far from all is because our language breaks down when we try to discuss, meaningfully, internal experiences. One could even reach a conclusion after hundreds of years that internal experiences are incommunicable and that any communication about internal experiences is gibberish.

Sorry to have wasted your time, and see you in the next conference. Thank you, be well, and stay safe everyone.

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