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What are feelings: Just a chemical reaction?

  1. Jan 7, 2008 #1
    There was a thread about this topic in 2004 which I wanted to write into but it's locked.

    So, let me start this new thread and put my thought on this...

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    What do we mean when we say that we think with our minds and feel with our hearts?


    Can't mind feel as well? Or is mind just like a computer... which "just" gathers, organizes, filters and processes information.

    So, what is that which gives our computer, our mind, feelings? Or to ask differently, what should a computer have to feel?

    Can we make a computer program which would make computer feel?

    Well, I don't think we can -- all we could do is to program computer to "pretend" that if feels. Sophisticated computer, or better to imagine, a robot (and let's say it looks just like a human being), could pretend to have feelings very similar to that of a real human being, to the point that we'd not be able to tell if it's a robot or not.

    But in truth, can a computer/robot ever truly feel? Can it feel compassion, sadness, nostalgia, love, can a robot laugh from the heart?

    Can a computer experience own existence and existence of others in depths as a human can (or as can animals, and plants too)?


    So, what's that "in us" which gives us ability to feel, to care, to appreciate, to enjoy music, landscapes, art, to love?

    Is it our heart, our soul? If so, and if soul is in all that which exists, shouldn't be soul present in computers/robots as well?


    Shouldn't be Internet self-aware already? (Whole Internet is very comparable to a human mind in terms of how fast it can process information and how much of information can it store, and in certain ways it even surpasses human mind.)


    Does this show that we indeed have something more than just body & mind, which we call heart or soul?


    Your thoughts & feelings?


    P.S. If Internet is self-aware, I invite "It" to participate in this discussion ;) Well, perhaps It just needs to figure out how to type...
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 8, 2008 #2
    Something someone (a friend of mine) wrote somewhere which I'd like to share here too:

    I agree, our (free) will is what matters, and coupled with desire it does what it does, makes us alive and keeps us alive, as you can see in my above post where I wrote:

    Then a new question follows, what's our free will? Is it simply property of soul?

    I have no idea how we could give "free will" (or soul) to a computer...

    In a way, computers can think better/faster than humans do, they can memorize MUCH better than humans (having perfect memory while we have kinda "blurry" one), and as discussed, we could try to simulate feelings of pleasure and pain by some kind of chemical reactions going on inside them... yet, that would NOT bring them to self-consciousness, less so to having free will & desires!

    And really, how in hell can some chemical reactions bring a robot to having a feeling of joy and love? You can put these chemicals in a head of a robot, but that wouldn't mean anything at all, no matter how much combinations and variants of reactions you cause! It's self-awareness of these reactions which matters!


    So, my "ultimate" question on this topic, what is that which makes us so different from a computers?

    If it's self-consciousness, soul, will, what's really that? Can it be "given" (programmed) into computers?


    You see...

    If everything in existence comes from same SOURCE (same atoms, or from God, or whatever that is), why cannot computers have self-awareness, free-will to exist, and feelings which really mean something?

    As said, computers/Internet already surpasses us in computational and memorizational abilities... so?
     
  4. Jan 8, 2008 #3
    Emotions are different states of the whole body, not just the brain. I've said this before in another thread, if you are in fear, your brain will initiate the release of adrenaline and other hormones in the blood stream to prepare you to run a marathon to escape danger. If you are in love, different chemicals will be released to prepare your body to mate, or provide vital energy/motivation necessary to raise kids. Butterflies in your stomach is a result of blood being pulled away from your stomach.

    Same with other emotions, it's just an intricate brain and body chemical reaction. So computers can't have emotions like that because they don't have a body.
     
  5. Jan 8, 2008 #4
    Emotions, as you describe them, is not what really matters IMO.

    What matters is... first, that awareness you have about yourself when you say to yourself "I am" and know it with whole your beingness, second, (free) will which you have to exist/live/reproduce, third, desire you have to experience stuff and create, fourth, feelings you have, like feelings of love, happiness, joy, and sadness and fear too sometimes.

    We cannot program that (awareness, will, desire, feelings) into computer, can we?
     
  6. Jan 8, 2008 #5
    An interesting article I found about love:

    What is love? Modern science would like you to believe that the latest answer to this timeless question is that love is a chemical reaction, which is not very romantic. Is it true though? Let us look at this more completely.

    First, we will acknowledge the current data. According to scientific research, emotions are generated during the process of meeting and falling in love because of chemical reactions that occur in our bodies. For example, whenever you first meet someone and feel attracted, your brain creates phenyl ethylamine, known as the “love drug.” Dopamine and norepinephren are two more chemicals that arise from just thinking loving thoughts about another. Those two help us to feel excited and interested enough to actually touch or kiss someone, and that sets off more chain reactions, beginning with serotonin, which produces feelings of relaxation. Now the door to trust is open.

    If you continue to snuggle with this chemically stimulating person, then oxytocin is created. Oxytocin causes us to feel connected to those we hug or touch on a regular basis, such as our spouses and family members. Vasopressin, another powerful chemical, then ties many of our feelings to memories, and these help us to stay connected to the ones we love. Vasopressin has been credited for making human beings monogamous.

    Other foods and activities can also stimulate these chemicals in our bodies, but some people tend to ignore this and try to use the chemical theory as a reason for all kinds of behaviors. For example, some people seem addicted to the stimulatory love chemicals, and they attempt to keep a constant supply by having multiple partners. This need for constant excitement is a popular excuse for those who have the urge to wander, who say that monogamy or commitment are unnatural. When the phenyl ethylamine, dopamine, and norephinephren run low because the newness of a relationship wears off, they are off to new horizons to find more.

    Others may use the chemical theory to explain why some people stay in relationships that are bad for them. Perhaps they have become addicted to the “holding on” chemicals, oxytocin and vasopressin, and cannot bear to part with the source of their drugs.

    If chemicals are the sole cause of those behaviors though, then why do a majority of people maintain and cherish long term, and even life-long, love relationships? Many folks achieve renewed excitement from exercise, hobbies, and of course chocolate, which is a known source of phenyl ethylamine. They choose to commit to love partners, even though staying in a long-term relationship is hard work. It requires adjusting to habits that will never match your expectations perfectly. It involves learning patience, dealing with disappointment, and coping with a cycle of emotions that range from sorrow to gratitude, and from lust to nurturing comfort.

    The chemical theory also fails to explain why parents continue to love their children long after they have left the home and are no longer around to stimulate the production of oxytocin or vasopressin. It does not explain why committed couples maintain mutual admiration, respect, and desire for one another during long cycles of abstinence or separation that occur due to illness, career changes, and other circumstances.

    Love is a feeling, certainly, and chemicals may contribute to that feeling, but like all emotions, that aspect of love comes and goes. Love that becomes a constant is a state-of-mind and heart. It survives because we nurture it, and plant the seeds of the relationship in our soul.

    Choosing to love someone is what keeps us in love, even though we know that at various times we may become angry, sad and frustrated towards our loved one. Choosing to love is what makes us stick around until the next wave of desire or tenderness brings us into one another’s arms again. Choosing to love is remembering the good times in the middle of the bad times.

    Chemicals cannot make our choices. We choose to open our hearts or not everyday, and this freedom of choice is what makes us human, and fully capable of rising above chemical reactions in order to make spiritual decisions of the heart.
     
  7. Jan 8, 2008 #6
    What separates us from a computer is that we can parallel process things enormously good, and we have sentience, consciousness etc.

    Furthermore, we respond to the term "you" as referring to yourself. A computer can be made to respond to the term as well, but then it is responding not because it understands that someone is communicating with it.

    From what I can tell, you are trying to use arguments from emotion to argue against scientific evidence, which puts your argumentation of shaky ground from the start, I'm afraid.

    Computers are not skilled enough yet.

    For the same reasons as we continue to eat food, even those we know chemicals are the sole cause of our hunger and need to eat. The short answer is that we are addicted to love. It is basically the same reasons we make friends and are reciprocally altruistic.

    Memory.

    Modern science rejects the notion of a soul, if by soul, you mean Cartesian dualism. Argument from development, argument from brain damage and argument from split-brain patients pretty much annihilates Cartesian dualism.

    Furthermore, I argue that the term "soul" is cognitively meaningless, since no primary attributes can be assigned to it and you can only use negative arguments about what a "soul" is not, but that says nothing about what the term "soul" means. If by soul, you refer to the material characters of people, then the soul is simply material, and is a romantic, albeit misguided, euphemism for the brain.

    The soul-makes-love theory cannot even begin to explain anything, if we do not know that the term "soul" is referring to. What is the soul? How does it interact with the brain? Where did it come from? What does it consist of? Why does it interact with the brain? Questions that you theory cannot possibly answer?

    Ultimately, I think your idea rests on an irrational fear of reductionism. Here is an example to help you understand:

    You listen to Bach. You like Bach. Then you realize that what you're hearing is the oscillation of air molecules from a speaker, which is a recording of other sound waves coming from hammers hitting piano wire, because black blobs of ink rearranged a person's nervous system to hit the keys. Then you listen to Bach again. You still like Bach and his music is not ugly because of it. You might even like Bach more now that you know the scientific facts behind it.

    "Spiritual"? What is "spiritual"? Can you assign a positive primary attribute to it?

    Seems like Cartesian dualism again. You are the biological settings in your brain. Those curve the external world around you. Libertarian free will is an unnecessary myth, to be honest. With compatibilism, we can be free in all the ways that matter, and be morally responsible. What makes use humans is not libertarian free will, what makes us human are our genes and the settings of our brain.

    It is not the case that mind =/= brain; but that mind = brain.

    You can rise above chemical reactions, but that require stronger chemical reactions triggered by the positive feedback loop of sensory data.
     
  8. Jan 22, 2008 #7
    I believe this means that we sometimes make rational, logical choices, and we sometimes make emotional (and what may on the surface appear to be irrational or illogical) choices. We say that the rational and logical choices are made by the mind, and the emotional ones by the heart (but this is of course just poetic licence).

    By "feel", I assume you mean emotional feelings in the sense of pleasure, pain, desire, wanting, frustration, happiness, loneliness, anger, etc etc?

    To do this, it would need to have "internal states" that it could associate with each of these emotional states, and these internal states would have to be invoked (triggered) under suitable conditions.

    Given also the right configuration of hardware, in principle yes.

    Why do you think it could only "pretend" to feel? What is to prevent it from truly feeling?

    Given the right combination of hardware and software, I believe yes.

    Given the right combination of hardware and software, I believe yes.

    We each have "internal states" that we associate with each of these emotional states, and these internal states are invoked (triggered) under suitable conditions.

    Soul is just another name for a certain collection of emotional and physiological states

    It does not possess the programming required to be self aware - yet.
     
  9. Jan 22, 2008 #8
    I can answer the question much more simply:

    Love is the point of emotional connection which leads to the happiness of another being essential to one's own well-being (Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land)
     
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