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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.
  22. Oct 9, 2003 #21
    And yet what we're really talking about here is the difference between what is concrete and what is abstract or, that which we can experience through our five "physical senses," and that which we cannot. So in this sense the non-physical does exist, in terms of "the abstract."

    Similarly, as I have mentioned before, you can make the comparison between the physical and non-physical in terms of radio receiver. Where the radio itself represents the physical, and the radio waves it picks up -- which, permeate everything, as perhaps consciousness does? -- reperesents the non-physical. Doesn't that at the very least suggest the possibility that information and/or communication can be sent and received from "remote" sources?
  23. Oct 10, 2003 #22
    Mentat, et al, as long as you insist that only the material exists and only the material can and does effect the material then you are limited to never finding a logical reasonable solution to the above and related philosophic problems.
    Thought and intent is not physical or material but abstract and subjective. Whether thought is a product of the physical brain or of the immaterial mind it exists and effects the physical brain and body and through the body anything and everything it touches. This is shown to be true with every thought and intent that we have and act on. How it does this I don't know; but, it is obvious that it does.
    To deny this is true is to deny the reality of life. To artificially cling relentlessly to an artificial philosopy proven to be absurd with its own words is absurdity in itself. You can not prove or disprove anything with a faulty logic or reasoning system. Its like trying to do math with only half of the numbers and wondering why it never works out right.
    Without going into the spiritual realm of the soul and only sticking to the subjective and material realms we can only say that the subjective not only effects the objective but in the case of our bodies controls the objective. The only why that I can think that it can do this is to allow thought to have or be a force and or have energy as in an electromagnetic field or gravitational force. This energy or force would then be able to effect and control the physical
    realm within our bodies.
    I know that love is more than just an emotion. I know that love has both energy and force and can and does effect not only our bodies within but other bodies external to ourselves. Love can be felt, detected and responded to by another outside of ourself. There are numerous thing such as love that can do this. Laughter is one such that is infectous and has positive influence on others. It is all but irresistable as is love. These are just two of the most obvious examples that exist.
    We have gone over all of this a number of time and you deny all of it
    every time. Denying the intuitive and physically obvious in order to elude having to deny your absurd premise of materialism is simply illogical in suport of the illogic. There is no way an intelligent discussion can be had nor any way to come to an intelligent logical reasonable conclusion.
  24. Oct 10, 2003 #23


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    Bald assertion of ones personal feelings does not a logical argument make.
  25. Oct 10, 2003 #24

    Science cannot answer "why" questions. Philosophy can, but science is the branch of philosophy that I am using in my materialist postulations, and it is limited to "how", "what", "which", "when", and "where" questions.

    The point is that the same parts that are active when experiencing something from external stimulus are necessary for experiencing them from internal stimulus (by the memory and pattern-recognition parts of the brain), which makes the job not discovering what causes subjective experience when there is no external stimulus, but discovering what causes subjective experience when there is. This point is dealt with by an explanation of the evolution of consciousness (which Dennett takes a stab at in his book - which I still highly recommend).
  26. Oct 10, 2003 #25
    But there is nothing we are not conscious of through one of our five physical sense (or reproduced from previous stimulations, recorded in memory). To assume that there are other other things is up to you, but it is not logical to assume that these other things interact with the brain at any time.

    Why should this be the case, when radio waves really are physical?

    "From 'remote' sources"?
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