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Conspiracy of the Intellectuals

  1. Aug 5, 2008 #1
    Conspiracy of the “Intellectuals”

    Conspiracy of the “Intellectuals”

    I claim that most twentieth century intellectuals engaged, most probably unwittingly, in a cabal to accentuate reason and to denigrate emotion for the purpose of accentuating human “god-like” characteristics and denigrating human “animal like” characteristics.

    Damasio informs me that “Philosophy…has not trusted emotion and has largely relegated it to the dismissible realms of animal and flesh. For a time, science fared better, but then it, too, missed its opportunity.”

    Darwin, William James, and Freud gave emotion a privileged place in the nineteenth and very early twentieth century scientific arena. Yet twentieth century neuroscience and first generation cognitive science has, until recently, allowed “Darwin’s work on the emotions vanished from site, James’s proposal was attacked unfairly and dismissed summarily, and Freud’s influence went elsewhere. Throughout most of the twentieth century, emotion was not trusted in the laboratory.”

    What is emotion and can it be dismissed?

    Emotion guides the life of an organism. Emotion is the automatic unconscious initiation of biological forces that are designed to perform a complicated pattern of chemical and neural regulatory responses that will aid the organism to survive.

    The denigration of emotion has seriously affected the life of the human organism.

    The first function of emotion is to initiate a primary response such as anger, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise, or disgust; a secondary response such as embarrassment, jealousy, guilt, or pride; background responses such as malaise, calm, or tension. These emotional responses, to which we have given various labels, are demonstrated in all living creatures to a degree dependent upon the creature’s particular characteristic.

    The human species, unlike most if not all non human animals, has evolved with a characteristic we label the ego, which allows the human species to create a delay of immediate emotional response permitting some time for contemplation before response.

    What dangers do you think has resulted to human survival as a result of this cabal?

    Quotes from “The Feeling of what Happens” by Antonio Damasio
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 5, 2008 #2


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    Re: Conspiracy of the “Intellectuals”

    Coberst, can you be clearer on which parts of your post are your own thoughts and which are interspersed quotes from the book?

    I haven't read the book, but have just read half a dozen reviews of the book and no conspiracy or "cabal" to which you have alluded was ever mentioned.
  4. Aug 5, 2008 #3
    Re: Conspiracy of the “Intellectuals”

    Emotion may not have much to do with self-knowledge. Spock suppressed his emotions; the Jedi suppressed however both emotions and the surroundings. Emotion may have more rhetorical appeal and found more often discussed in politics and literature.
  5. Aug 5, 2008 #4


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    Re: Conspiracy of the “Intellectuals”

    What about 18th century intellectuals like Voltaire, David Hume & Adam Smith?

    Or 17th Century Intellectuals like Descartes or Newton?

    How about Aristotle or Plato?

    Why start with the 20th century? this conspiracy obviously goes back to the ancient Greeks
  6. Aug 6, 2008 #5
    Re: Conspiracy of the “Intellectuals”

    I follow standard practice of using quotation marks "" when I use someone elses words.
  7. Aug 6, 2008 #6
    Re: Conspiracy of the “Intellectuals”

    Or is it the other way around. Emotion and instincts are becoming no longer necessary to survive due to the advancements made in human society. (By necessary I mean, not 100% of survival ability) I would say our "civilization" provides us with a means to circumvent living dependent on emotion and instincts.
    Unfortunately this does lead to the false belief that something not needed is something not useful.
    Emotions and instincts are arguably useful, but not nearly as much as reason and logic in advancing society. And to add to the problem, emotion/instinct and reason/logic are often at odds with each other.
    So why should an "intellectual" choose the path that has a history of being unsuccessful over a path that has a history of working out to the betterment of humanity? It seems like the people being labeled "intellectuals" are those that have the ability/willpower to ignore the option that usually ends up being useless and selfish, for the one that succeeds :)
  8. Aug 6, 2008 #7
    Re: Conspiracy of the “Intellectuals”

    And therein lay the problem. Your views are the views of the vast majority that have been shown to be incorrect by SGCS (Second Generation Cognitive Science) among other intellectual disciplines. Our culture is under the influence of erroneous beliefs. Damasio, among others have shown the fallacy of objectivism and positivism.

    I would say that morality is the art and science of effective communal relationship. The American culture has made morality a Sunday-School project, we have given over to religion the development of this art and science and as a result morality in our world has been an abject failure, our wars are proof of that, I think.

    I think that as a result of our cultural dismissal of emotion and our failure to appreciate our embodied cognition we have been unable to create a domain of knowledge centered on developing a communication rationale that would allow us to have a much better moral atmosphere which might allow us to prevent our self destruction.

    We have failed to develop a rational moral structure commensurate with that of our instrumental rational structure. Thereby we have created a technological structure far too sophisticated for our moral structure to control. We are very sophisticated in matters of technology and lack a commensurate sophistication in matters of morality. Our problem is that we do not “know how to get along” at the level in which we can create the means for preventing our self destruction.
  9. Aug 6, 2008 #8


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    Re: Conspiracy of the “Intellectuals”

    So are you saying its the intellectuals responsibility to set the moral standard for the rest of society? If you are then I think in many ways they do. Most live very peaceful lives and never commit any crime or act that goes against the wider society in which they live. Many are pro-active in voicing their opinions over things they think are wrong.
  10. Aug 6, 2008 #9


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    Re: Conspiracy of the “Intellectuals”

    I find this a highly bizarre statement. We are *overwhelmed* with emotion, emotional reactions, etc... It is the entire drive of Western culture, which is highly non-rational. Almost everything that has any "power of decision" in Western culture is driven by feelings and emotions, not by rational argumentation. It is in fact *very hard* to have a rational decision taken in the West, because of constant interference due to emotion and feelings.
    You can see this in very many aspects of our society. Look at publicity: do they try to have a rational argument ? No, publicity plays with emotions and feelings (be happy, love, show off to the neighbors, desire for the girl on the car hoot, ...). Rarely you see a truly rational argument.
    Other example: politics. What's important in order to get elected ? Intelligence ? Rationality ? Or rather emotional drives like "being from the same clan", "admiring", "being sexy", "making good impression", "I like him/her"... ?
    Human resources: what makes you get a job ? True, some competence. But the key factors are very often: inter-human relationship, motivation, ambition, spontaneity and a whole lot of unwritten rules that make that you seduce the jury or you don't. Very very rarely these decisions are taken on a rational basis, where the most rational argument with a candidate determines who's simply rationally the best at the job.
    How do traders decide to buy or not ? Ok, they use some numerical models to give them some hints, but it is very often in the end a "matter of feeling".

    So I really don't see this argument - 95% of Western society is emotion and feeling based. It's maybe just a feeling on your side :smile:
  11. Aug 6, 2008 #10
    Re: Conspiracy of the “Intellectuals”

    These statements show an ignorance of the history of philosophy; Plato and Aristotle certainly tried "to accentuate reason and to denigrate emotion for the purpose of accentuating human “god-like” characteristics and denigrating human “animal like” characteristics." They even used similar terminology!

    Now the animal-side of these arguments is being defended using modern biology, which fails because biology is accidental, not optimal. In theory we should be able to improve upon nature using our rationality.
  12. Aug 6, 2008 #11
    Re: Conspiracy of the “Intellectuals”

    I am saying that our society should be making an effort to understand the art and science of morality and should be educating young people in that knowledge just as we do with mathematics and history or any other intellectual discipline.
  13. Aug 6, 2008 #12
    Re: Conspiracy of the “Intellectuals”

    SGCS (Second Generation Cognitive Science) informs me, as does other intellectual disciplines, that emotion and reason cannot be separated. We are a single unit we are not a material body with a spirit mind. Our society and all of Western culture has lived a philosophy and a human science that is in fact alien to what we are. Thus, we alienate our self within our own culture.
  14. Aug 6, 2008 #13
    Re: Conspiracy of the “Intellectuals”

    I semi-agree. I would not say "We are very sophisticated in matters of technology and lack a commensurate sophistication in matters of morality."

    I would say "Those that develop the technology have a fairly sophisticated sense of morality; while those that access and utilize said technology are the ones who lack proper moral practices."

    It would be a good debate over whether it is the designers' responsibility for releasing a new technology that, while in general would advance society and the human condition, could also be used to destroy/hurt/oppress.
    Its like, do you stop a child from running around the house saying "Don't, you'll get hurt" or do you let them run, fall, and scrape their knee, and from then on they won't run. They know the consequences. Unfortunately they could also crack their skull. (brings to mind nuclear weapons).

    Main point : Is it, or is it not in the hands of the designers of technology to consider what an immoral society might do with it. If so, what is the limit? (You can kill with a pencil).
  15. Aug 6, 2008 #14


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    Re: Conspiracy of the “Intellectuals”

    I might have some respect for SGCS (whatever that is) if it led to scientific statements, which of course this is not. It is simply an opinion on a philosophical issue. You create a strawman of western culture then attack it with an unprovable proposition
  16. Aug 11, 2008 #15
    Re: Conspiracy of the “Intellectuals”

    I agree with you 100%. Look at BB9 voting and those crowds outside screaming for instance. :tongue:
  17. Aug 11, 2008 #16
    Re: Conspiracy of the “Intellectuals”


    I am of the opinion that it is the lowly biological origins of our species that has allowed for such widespread failure in the matters of human solidarity, morality, and ethics, tolerance especially.

    Emotions are a fickle thing indeed. On one hand they cannot be trusted, yet on the other are indispensable to human experience. Emotions are powerful, yet unsophisticated and irrational, often not even requiring the use of the frontal lobes. They are a basic physiological function originating deep in some of the oldest parts of the middle and lower brain.

    So I think a choice is at hand: What is the most successful way to achieve the desired results (assumably, advancing the current average state of morality)? What facilities of the brain should one rely on? Where can morality and the like most successfully be derived from? Should the environmentally subjective archaic unconscious electro-chemical swaying of the mind be trusted to provide the best results? I think not.

    Chimpanzees have quite similar emotional facilities to our species, yet show little to no sense of the basic morals that would seem to us self evident under any social setting. I think it is quite obvious that our sense of morality/ethics arises from the higher brain functions, the frontal lobes and the pre-frontal cortex, foresight is key to morality. This is also precisely the same areas in which our ability think in a rational logical manner arises, I do not believe it to be a mild coincidence.

    I would definitely disagree with you here. Many people are able to completely remove emotional response from consciousness. In its most extreme forms this can be described as psycho or sociopathic behaviour, those suffering from forms of mental retardation such as asperger syndrome are said to experience similar modes of thought. But I think a more mild form of this kind of behaviour is often experienced by many people in daily life, without the major loss of social or inter/intrapersonal facilities.

    I will agree that we are indeed not rational animals. And to pretend otherwise is irrational in itself. However, if one is of the opinion that rationality can provide the means to achieve a more stable, functional, and permanent social structure in which us sapiens can thrive and advance, than the archaic and irrational traits of our minds must be at the very least understood and consistently kept in the conscious mind.

    It is unnatural to ignore the irrationality of our minds, yet I think it is wise, sapient you might say, to become aware of this inherent irrationality and strive to work around our failings.
  18. Aug 12, 2008 #17


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    Re: Conspiracy of the “Intellectuals”

    Reason and emotion seem inseparable because they rely on one another to exist. Emotion provides the reasoning to attack. Reason provides the motive and evocation for emotion. Both are based only on what appears to be the "correct" or "moral" thing to do. Who has written the laws and the regulations of this "science of morality"? And what is their authority in relation to the masses?

    Reason is based on survival instinct as are the emotions. So many atrocities have been committed in the name of corrupt reasoning. You only have to look at the morals of a racist, the emotions of an isolationist and the reasoning of a paranoid state to see the flaws of all three concepts.

    However, the best and prime example of well thought out reasoning, ethics and suppression of emotion (self-control) can easily be observed in the workings of automotive traffic. No where else will you find the majority of individuals obeying signs, logic and etiquette in such harmony, with no priests and very little presence of authority. Just the simple knowledge that it is in the individuals interest, as well as everyone else's, to obey the reasoning and controlled logic of the driver's handbook. It wasn't written by desert tribes 5000 years ago and it wasn't concocted by a group of moralists or ethics advisors. It is simply a set of physical rules that fit the circumstances of traffic. And, I propose, it is a model for the construction of an ethical and highly rational civilization.
  19. Aug 12, 2008 #18
    Re: Conspiracy of the “Intellectuals”


    We cannot disassociate our self from our body. This is the fallacy within our Western philosophy. We cannot separate reason from emotion. We can sometimes attempt with some success in trying to control our emotional responses, but when much of this is beyond consciousness we have no control.

    Unconscious thought forms 95% of all thought

    In the 1970s a new body of empirical research began to introduce findings that questioned the traditional Anglo-American cognitive paradigm of AI (Artificial Intelligence), i.e. symbol manipulation.

    This research indicates that the neurological structures associated with sensorimotor activity are mapped directly to the higher cortical brain structures to form the foundation for subjective conceptualization in the human brain. In other words, our abstract ideas are constructed with copies of sensorimotor neurological structures as a foundation. “It is the rule of thumb among cognitive scientists that unconscious thought is 95 percent of all thought—and that may be a serious underestimate.”

    Categorization, the first level of abstraction from “Reality” is our first level of conceptualization and thus of knowing. Seeing is a process that includes categorization, we see something as an interaction between the seer and what is seen. “Seeing typically involves categorization.”

    Our categories are what we consider to be real in the world: tree, rock, animal…Our concepts are what we use to structure our reasoning about these categories. Concepts are neural structures that are the fundamental means by which we reason about categories.

    Human categories, the stuff of experience, are reasoned about in many different ways. These differing ways of reasoning, these different conceptualizations, are called prototypes and represent the second level of conceptualization

    Typical-case prototype conceptualization modes are “used in drawing inferences about category members in the absence of any special contextual information. Ideal-case prototypes allow us to evaluate category members relative to some conceptual standard…Social stereotypes are used to make snap judgments…Salient exemplars (well-known examples) are used for making probability judgments…Reasoning with prototypes is, indeed, so common that it is inconceivable that we could function for long without them.”

    When we conceptualize categories in this fashion we often envision them using spatial metaphors. Spatial relation metaphors form the heart of our ability to perceive, conceive, and to move about in space. We unconsciously form spatial relation contexts for entities: ‘in’, ‘on’, ‘about’, ‘across from’ some other entity are common relationships that make it possible for us to function in our normal manner.

    When we perceive a black cat and do not wish to cross its path our imagination conceives container shapes such that we do not penetrate the container space occupied by the cat at some time in its journey. We function in space and the container schema is a normal means we have for reasoning about action in space. Such imaginings are not conscious but most of our perception and conception is an automatic unconscious force for functioning in the world.

    Our manner of using language to explain experience provides us with an insight into our cognitive structuring process. Perceptual cues are mapped onto cognitive spaces wherein a representation of the experience is structured onto our spatial-relation contour. There is no direct connection between perception and language.

    The claim of cognitive science is “that the very properties of concepts are created as a result of the way the brain and the body are structured and the way they function in interpersonal relations and in the physical world.”

    Quotes from “Philosophy in the Flesh” by Lakoff and Johnson
  20. Aug 12, 2008 #19
    Re: Conspiracy of the “Intellectuals”

    I in no way meant to say that one can become separate from one's body. I am sorry if I was not clear on the point.

    Emotional response is not enacted in the same manner as some of the more autonomous functions of the body (i.e. heartbeat, breathing, etc.), therefore, one can take a consciously active role to examine, rationalize, expel, and or dismiss one's own emotional reactions.

    So my point being, extreme forms of disassociation with key emotional functions of the brain (empathy and such) can be terrible; but a conscious effort can be made to ignore and or control emotional responses for the sake of rationalization.

    The fact that the majority of cognition is of an unconscious nature only serves to bolster my own position. I am calling for a conscious effort to lower the percentage of unconscious thought in order to gleam as much pre-frontal rational conscious control of behaviour and thought as possible. A realization of and action on this fact.

    This is all quite fascinating material, but I fail to see the relevance to the specific arguments.
  21. Aug 12, 2008 #20
    Re: Conspiracy of the “Intellectuals”

    I would second your proposal.

    It seems to me that we all exist in the same physical reality. The same basic limitations apply to each individual. Without the poison of social barbarism and/or mental insanity we would all inherently agree and/or sympathize with the various goals of each other's existence. It would follow from that we could come to a consensus on a basic set of self imposed parameters in order to insure the best possible chance of reaching those goals. So from such a very basic set of mutual agreements and self imposed parameters, the human race could devise a stable and prosperous continually advancing society.

    None of the above would ever arise from emotional impulses. Our slight ability to reason and think in sequential logical manner will save the human race, not our many ugly base unthinking emotional reactions.
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