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Are emotions physical? Is imagination tangible?

  1. Nov 29, 2007 #1
    Are emotions a product of biochemical releases? Is imagination a product of thought? Are thoughts and consciousness the same thing?

    I am trying to figure out if there is such a thing as "the absence of material"

    I was under the impression that there is no perfect vacuum whereby one can find no material... if there were such a vacuum wouldn't even the surrounding borders be material?

    I am trying to determine if emotions, imagination, thoughts or concsciousness fall into the category of "absence of material"

    I hope I'm making sense...

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 1, 2007 #2

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    Emotions, imagination, thoughts, and consciousness are things that don't take up space. They have no extension in the three dimensional world. To talk about "perfect vacuums" doesn't seem to apply here because then we're talking about three dimensional areas of space (even if they contain nothing).

    I humbly defer to any physicists who want to chime in here.
  4. Dec 1, 2007 #3
    You are saying that emotions, thoughts, consciousness are not material because they do not take up sapce? So asking if their non-existence applies to an "absence of material" is moot?

    Aren't emotions, thoughts, consciousness products of brain activity? Isn't this energy? Doesn't that take up space? Or is that too huge a leap?

  5. Dec 1, 2007 #4


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    Hi Asia,
    I philosophy of mind, we talk about the various phenomena of consciousness such as emotions, experience, thoughts, etc... as being "supervenient on the physical". "Supervenient on the physical" is just a fancy way of saying that these phenomena are produced by some physical interactions. This entry in Wikipedia is applicable:
    Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supervenience

    Virtually all scientists would also claim this to be true since naturalists want to have some kind of natural, as opposed to a supernatural, explanation of conscious phenomena.
  6. Dec 1, 2007 #5
    Emotions, experience, thoughts, imagination etc. are human representations of biological and physiological events and structures in the material brain.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2007
  7. Dec 1, 2007 #6
    Well that explains a whole lot of.. Nothing.

    What is a representation might be the best question to your statement.
  8. Dec 1, 2007 #7
    Well, yes, it needs energy for neurons to work... It isn't energy itself
  9. Dec 2, 2007 #8


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    Yes, 100%. There's really no more mystery around emotions these days, otherwise scientists wouldn't be able to figure out which drugs should be able to control them.
    Wikipedia has an entire section on neurotransmitters, what they do, what drugs affect them, how these relate to diseases, etc.

    Most/all of what you experience could be described as having a bunch of chemicals shuffle around in your brain. Even the process of dying, with the bright light and long hallway, can be explained by chemical processes. If you wanted to, you could say the experience itself is in a vacuum and takes no space, but the chemicals causing that experience do in fact take up space.
  10. Dec 2, 2007 #9
    "Emotion" is a sound that human vocal cords makes to describe the results of certain biological and physiological events and structures in the material brain.
  11. Dec 2, 2007 #10

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    That sounds more like an "expression" of an emotion. I can experience an emotion without making any sound at all.
  12. Dec 4, 2007 #11
    Please bear with me... I know my initial question may be a bit disjointed.. but I was studying two different subjects and I'm trying to find the link...

    1. Is there such a thing as "absence of material"? and that thought led me to think of quarks and such which led me to ponder about things that we know are real but cannot be defined such as:

    2. Can emotions, thoughts, imagination etc.. be defined as "material"?

    I think what I am getting so far is

    1. Emotions are products of an energy source.... and that source is a chemical reaction in the brain? or some other source of energy????

    Any thoughts on the possibility of creating a perfect vacuum wherein there is an absence of material?

  13. Dec 4, 2007 #12
    I would say no. What you are describing are processes. An emotion is a process, like a program being run on a computer. Its material component would be the neurons that are basically its hardware (and programming). We can call an emotion a 'thing', but that is more a linguistic technique that allows us to deal with the process as a unit, and to assign the process attributes.

    With regards to your 'absence of material' comments. I don't think you should really be equivocating aspects of consciousness and matter. They are different in complicated ways.

    If you are interested in the more philosophical, as opposed to scientific, understanding of nothing, you should read J.P. Sartre's Being and Nothingness. Its delightfully confusing.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2007
  14. Dec 5, 2007 #13
  15. Dec 5, 2007 #14
    Yes, emotions and even ideas are simply chemical reactions...we have a funny tendency to place them into some unknown dimension separate from the physical universe; just a response to the physical universe. While this is partly true, they are also part of the physical universe...so consciousness takes up space, is a response to environment, and is part of the environment (as modern brain science shows)
  16. Dec 5, 2007 #15
    But even in software, the matrices of ones and zeros exist materially somehow in the hardware you describe. Emotions are likewise physical...yes a process but a physical one which does take up space.

    Feel free to debunk!!! (also stands for my previous reply)
  17. Dec 5, 2007 #16

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    "Modern brain science" does not show or suggest anything about consciousness taking up space. You are confusing causes and effects.
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