RE: MF Discussion Topic for February 2005

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sun Feb 27 2005 - 20:20:07 GMT

  • Next message: Wim Nusselder: "Re: MF Discussion Topic for February 2005"

    Sam, Wim, Matt and all focus posters:

    Sam began by saying: ..........................................The most
    important element from the article that I wanted to have established
    reasonably swiftly was the point that "emotions are active, cognitive states

    for which we are responsible, rather than irrational, physiological
    feelings that overcome us against our will". Whilst this is still contended
    in some quarters, I think it well enough established to be worth working

    dmb says:
    My impression from the article was that emotions are BOTH cognitive AND
    physiological, depending on the KIND of emotions being discussed and which
    school of thought was doing the talking. My impression was of a debate in
    which both sides make some pretty damn good points and are both at least
    partly correct.

    Sam continued:
    Nathan asked:"whether [I] can agree that emotion stems from motivation". I
    take this to correspond to the question of whether emotions are intentional
    (in the philosophical sense of 'intentional', ie they refer or are 'about
    some aspect of the world'). So my answer is definitely 'yes'. I'm quite a
    fan of Nussbaum, and her book 'Upheavals of Thought', which I read last
    year, is her main statement of 'neo-Stoicism' which sees emotions as
    intentional in just this way.

    dmb replies:
    Emotions are intentional in the sense that they are about some aspect of the
    world? Again, I have a different impression. It seems that for Nussbaum all
    emotions are about the ego of the emoter, if you will. I think she is saying
    that all emotions are egocentric. As she puts it in "Upheavels of

    "I do not go about fearing any and every catastrophe anywhere in the world,
    nor (so it seems) do I fear any and every catastrophe that I know to be bad
    in important ways. What inspires fear is the thought of damages impending
    that cut to the heart of my own cherished relationships and projects. What
    inspires grief is the death of someone beloved, someone who has been an
    important part of one's own life. This does not mean that the emotions view
    these objects simply as tools or instruments of the agent's own
    satisfaction: they may be invested with intrinsic worth or value. They may
    be loved for their own sake, and their good sought for its own sake. . . .
    [Nonetheless], the emotions are in this sense localized: they take their
    stand in my own life, and focus on the transition between light and darkness
    there, rather than on the general distribution of light and darkness in the
    universe as a whole."

    dmb continues:
    "My own cherished relationships and projects." See, this is the ego-self,
    the Ayn Randian self, that Pirsig views as a kind of fiction. I suspect that
    trying to fit such a thing into the MOQ may be one of those square peg/round
    hole things. As Maxwell pointed out, she's working within SOM here. Big
    time. At the very least we would have to make some serious adjustments to
    discuss it. I don't want to be a party-pooper, but it might even be doomed
    from the start.

    Sam agreed when Wim said:
    The idea that something should be primary to something else in the MoQ is
    for me a wrong extrapolation from Pirsig's argumentation in "Zen ...",
    'Quality first, objects and subjects derived' (yes, also by himself). The
    MoQ as elaborated in "Lila" doesn't need DQ to be primary to sq or (some
    parts of) sq to be primary to DQ. DQ and sq are a contradictory identity.

    dmb says:
    I think two different ideas are getting squished together here. When we say
    that DQ is the primary empirical reality, it is an assertion about the MOQ's
    epistemology and not about the relative value or worth of DQ. When we say DQ
    is the primary empirical reality, the word "primary" means first in a
    sequence, the most basic kind, the starting point. It does not mean DQ is
    better than sq, more important than sq or anything like that. I think we all
    can recall Pirsig's repeated insistence that both are vital and necessary.
    Seen this way, there is no conflict between the idea that DQ is primary and
    the idea that DQ and sq are "a contradictory identity".

    Matt said:
    I haven't done the research to render an understanding of what Pirsig
    identifies emotion as or whatever, but...
    ..........................what Rorty is saying is that our emotions can be
    described by two different vocabularies, and that we need both vocabularies
    in our explanations to do our emotions justice. But with Pirsig's
    conceptual apparatus, particularly the doctrine of discreteness, I think he
    forces us to say that such-and-such a phenomenon (emotions, ideas, cells) is

    the _exclusive_ property of whatever level, i.e. he's still too
    reductionistic. I'm not sure that Pirsig allows us the vocable flexibility
    we need to explain our emotions. ...But perhaps he does. Perhaps we can say
    that our hormones are biological and our intentional objects are social and
    that we can draw upon both of those kinds of explanations for a full
    explanation of emotions.

    Sam said:
    Finally, Matt's point about discrete levels, which I think is a bit of a
    kicker. ...Rushing ahead of much argument, it seems to me that emotion
    doesn't fit into any one of those four levels, but is transitive across
    them. Rather like 'person' which is a 'forest' of static patterns, emotions
    seem to similarly evade a pigeonholing. Does this make it a 'platypus' in
    the MoQ?

    dmb replies:
    You know why we need epistemological pluralism? Because people are not as
    predictable as apples, except when they are both falling from trees.
    Seriously. If some emotions are physiological and some are cognitive, then
    the problem is not with the percision of the MOQ, but with the vagueness of
    the question. I mean, how can we locate it in the MOQ before we even know
    which emotion are we talking about? As Huston Smith puts it, "Reality is
    graded, and with it, cognition." It seems to me that the kind of fear we
    might experience when a lion is giving us a dirty look as he breaks out of
    his cage is going to be entirely different from the fear might might
    experience at a job interview. We can desire enlightenment and we can desire
    a new car. We can refer to the "pain" of heartbreak or heartburn. Is it
    Pirsig's fault that we tend to use a single word to describe such different
    things? No, I think we just have to be much more specific about what we're
    asking here. If we take the idea that each level represents a different
    level of cognition, that idea that reality and cognition are both
    hierarchical or graded into levels, I think that we are in effect doing what
    Matt suggests. As he puts it, we use different vocabularies depending on
    which level where dealing with. And just based on personal experience, it
    seems quite obvious to me that some emotions are higher than others in some
    sense. Even if they give us real information, and I think that's true too,
    some of that info in coming from a low place. If Nussbaum is right, for
    example, your more successful neighbor might inspire envy or she might
    inspire hope depending on whether or not you are a creep, you know? Which is
    why you wanted that new car instead of enlightenment. Shame on you!

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