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How is it possible to know that we feel emotion consciously?

  1. Oct 5, 2003 #1
    Firstly, this belongs in General Philosophy because it deals with more than the nature of consciousness.

    Now, we can all agree that we are aware of being conscious and that we FEEL emotions- they don't simply affect our behavior and psychology, but we FEEL them uniquely- this is consciousness. According to Science (and to my understanding this is essentially proven), thought occurs in the brain. Wheather or not it ALSO occurs in the "mind" (independent of the brain) and wheather or not this "mind" exists is irrelevant to our current topic- the only relevance of thought taking place in the brain is that it means that the brain performs all of our thought and controls the body.

    Since we all can claim to FEEL emotion rather than simply have it influence our actions and thoughts, we must feel it in our consciousness. Consciousness is, by its very nature, not encodable in a computer program or a physical code (If anyone has a counterexample for this, feel welcome to share it). Therefore our consciousness is not in our brain- it is somewhere else, perhaps a "soul" (although where it IS is also irrelevant to our present conversation, the only relevance is that it is NOT in the brain). Since all thought takes place and all action originates in the brain (including speech), how can consciousness be seperate from the brain? We can think about and communicate that we are conscious- so one of three things must be taking place:

    1) The consciousness is somehow communicating with the brain.
    2) The consciousness IS actually in the brain.
    3) We are not really conscious.

    Number three can be disregarded for the present- if anyone is interested in discussion on it there is a topic on the Metaphysics & Epistemology forum dealing with this.

    Number two we have already set aside- although I am reasonably sure that we have not covered the issue well enough to be sure of its impossibility. Any ideas on this are VERY welcome.

    Number one we shall look at in a bit more depth. First of all, the consciousness is either physical or aphysical. Aphysical is like the common notion of a soul- either truly aphysical or existing in another universe. Physical would be if consciousness is made up of an electromagnetic field or something we havn't yet discovered. If consciousness is physical, it must simply be affecting the brain according to the laws of physics. This seems rather unlikely.

    If consciousness is aphysical it can exist in an alternate universe of some kind or be truly aphysical, not made of matter of any type anywhere. The only way another universe could communicate with the brain is through some odd sort of portal- EXCEEDINGLY unlikely, reaching nearly to the point of impossibility. Consciousness is most likely (if it exists and is outside the brain) truly aphysical then. This could either communicate with the brain by supernaturally MOVING the electrons, proteins, etc within the brain to fit its will, or through choosing the outcome of TRULY random things. The only truly random thing known (actually it is not KNOWN as the theory is only a theory, not a fact) is quantum uncertainty. Could consciousness be affecting the brain through "rigging" quantum physics?

    All of these explanations seem very inplausable, unlikely, and simply absurd... Does anyone have any arguments for or against them, or have any other possibilities that have been overlooked?

    Overall, what opinions do you have on the topics brought up in this post?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 6, 2003 #2
    Sikz, there was quite a bit of discussion on this in the Archives (as can be seen from the thread with over 50 pages, which mainly dealt with Materialistic and Idealistic philosophies of the mind and consciousness), and I have presented something there which I will re-present here.

    You mentioned that there would have to be a "portal" (I referred to it as an "intermediary", but "portal" works fine) between the non-physical and the physical, in order for consciousness to be non-physical and yet communicate with the brain. You are absolutely right, except there cannot logically be such a portal. It cannot exist, not even in principle. The reason this is is that for there to be an intermediary between the physical and the non-physical, this intermediary could neither be physical (since, if it were physical, it would be no more useful then the already physical brain in communicating with the non-physical) nor non-physical (since it would then be no more useful in communicating with the physical brain).

    So, since we can logically rule out options 1 and 3 (btw, my congratulations on setting these out so clearly and intelligently), we must accept number 2.

    Daniel Dennett is what is called a Materialist philosopher of the mind, and he has presented a model/theory for consciousness that I have yet to find fault with and that helps explain consciousness fully without ever leaving your option number 2. He does this in a book called Consciousness Explained, and I highly recommend this book for everyone; but particularly for you, Sikz, since you seem very interested in consciousness.
  4. Oct 6, 2003 #3
    Smart people scare me...

    I haven't quite reached my Formal Operation Thinking Stage Phasishness Thingimabobber.

    I'm actually smart for my age; accelerated classes and junk, but I'm only 13; 9th grade.

    Most people claim to "feel" emotion, but isn't feeling defined as having the ability to touch a specific object?

    I think that people claim to "feel" emotion only because that is what they've heard before. It's another English language flaw. Yeah. Sure. Maybe that's it.

    Whoa... There's a character limit... cool....
  5. Oct 7, 2003 #4
    "Since we all can claim to FEEL emotion rather than simply have it influence our actions and thoughts..."-Sikz

    What is the difference between feeling emotions and emotions affecting thought?
  6. Oct 7, 2003 #5
    what about a lie detector?
  7. Oct 7, 2003 #6


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    If you feel an emotion, you subjectively experience it-- it has a definite 'feeling' about it, like anger, or joy. But for something to affect a thought in general does not require that one have direct conscious experience of it. Such an affect may be inferred by observing changes in thought patterns, but logical inference is not the same thing at all as direct conscious perception.
  8. Oct 8, 2003 #7
    As Mentat pointed out, this discussion started with an illogical premise, so any conclusions will be almost certainly flawed.
  9. Oct 8, 2003 #8
    Except that this is a philosophy forum. And the point here is to actually explain and discuss why this is so. Not just claim it so.

    Besides, I though sikz was more presenting the options than starting with a premise.
  10. Oct 8, 2003 #9
    We really should be careful about putting "labels" on things we don't understand, especially when it comes to consciousness and whether or not we have a soul. Whether it's physical or "non-physical" or, any other label we choose to ascribe, really has no bearing on the matter, if in fact the phenomenon exists. Perhaps we should approach it more from the standpoint of the phenomenon itself, and what it entails, rather than classify it in such a way that it doesn't bear any further consideration?
  11. Oct 8, 2003 #10


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    As far as Mentat's thing about the logical impossibility of physical/non-physical interactions goes, I have posted a straightforward thought experiment showing how it is possible for something "physical" to interact with something "non-physical" here:

    Last edited: Oct 8, 2003
  12. Oct 8, 2003 #11
    Also, couldn't there be some sort of "material" that interacts with BOTH, and thus that could act as the "portal"?
  13. Oct 8, 2003 #12


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    This is indeed the basic premise of the Matrix-esque thought experiment inspired by Chalmers; in this case, the thing that acts as an intermediary between "physical" and "non-physical" is the computers which generate the secondary "physical" reality in the minds of people hooked up to it. Please see the link above.
  14. Oct 8, 2003 #13
    Ah, yes I read the thought expirement before I made my previous post, I just didn't see that the expirement rendered the post repetitive...
  15. Oct 9, 2003 #14
    Welcome to the PFs, gcn_zelda! :smile:

    I am just a couple of years older than you (15)...it's kind of nice (for me, at least) to find other young people here.

    Anyway, as to your point about "feeling", there are more than one definition of that word, but even without this being the case, every "emotion" that one feels can be explained Materialistically...as a product of physical interactions in their bodies which would thus be literally "felt".
  16. Oct 9, 2003 #15
    Believe me, this was my initial, secondary, and subsequent approach for quite some time, but I have run into the logical impossibility of a non-physical "thing" interacting with a physical "thing" too many times, and no one (so far) has been able to explain it away.
  17. Oct 9, 2003 #16
    My good buddy, hypnagogue, with a new counter! I will be going to that thread immediately...

    [edit]to change a word
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2003
  18. Oct 9, 2003 #17


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    I would like to qualify this by saying that we can drum up any number of correlations between physical changes in the body and emotion, but we don't necessarily understand how we consciously feel these things. That is, we can identify 'causes' but as of yet we cannot explain the underlying agency of these causes to produce conscious perceptions.
  19. Oct 9, 2003 #18
    You forget the intentional stance, good buddy. I made sure to mention in my post that the Materialistic viewpoint is that "feeling" is not a product of physical interactions, but the physical interactions themselves. Looking for "something more" is merely a human tendency, it is not a logical or scientific necessity.
  20. Oct 9, 2003 #19
    Fliption, I believe Zero was referring to Sikz having seperated "mind" from "brain" off-hand, when he (Zero) referred to the "flawed premise". Anyway, I don't just "claim" that this is wrong, I have presented logical barriers to it's being right (on other threads which you participated in), and no one has been able to combat them yet. That doesn't mean that I'm "right" either, but "right" doesn't exist in logic or philosophy and thus is not a concern of mine. If my argument holds as "valid", against all other arguments, that's enough for me.
  21. Oct 9, 2003 #20


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    Hm, we always seem to run up against the same walls. :smile: Saying that the physical interactions themselves are the feeling does still not explain why this is so. There is not even really a theory of what physical interactions feel like what sorts of feelings, beyond any correlations we have mapped out in the specific instance of the human body/brain-- and even these are tenuous since it's not clear what parts of these physical interactions are necessary for feeling, what parts are sufficient for feeling, and what parts are superfluous.
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