Saturday, February 19, 2011

306: The Brain and Emotion

Emotions are not invented by us. They are not the product of the romantic or poetic soul nor are they the result of beautiful symphonies, which we listen to.

Emotions are biological systems, just like blood pressure or reflexes or the working of enzymes. They are not, as often is assumed, jammers or annoying obstacles that frustrate the ratio.

They are survival machines and we are going to dig into their evolutionary meaning, their material foundation - so, the brain and some molecules -

and we'll focus on their importance for human society and human cooperation.

Let's agree on one point of view: we are weird creatures. Humans are very intelligent and yet so dumb. First of all because we seriously overestimate intelligence with respect to its importance in our daily life.

Secondly because we make so little use of it and if we do, we often do it in the wrong way. Never heard that complaint: "If you know it all so well, why don't you behave accordingly!!!"

We are the only species that applies a scientific name to ourselves: homo sapiens. And in that respect we are not really modest.

The Kit fox got his scientific name Vulpes Macrotis ('macrotis' means 'big ear') due to its big ears. So those big ears are THE characteristic, which make him different from other foxes.

And here we come: homo sapiens, which is Latin for "wise man". Ok, biologically there is nothing wrong with that name. We are the only species, which makes the best of the use of intelligence, rational thinking.

But here is a danger: the danger of generalization. The special feature "reason" is generalized in such a way, that it is regarded as the only mechanism that really controls all our doings

It is a mistake, but it is a generally accepted view through history: the human being controls himself by use of his ratio, his actions are based on reasonable considerations, and his behavior is based on knowledge, analysis and synthesis.

A lot of philosophers have regarded this as quintessential of being human. With respect to historical influence Descartes (1596 - 1650) is probably one of the most important proponents of this view.

His "Cogito, ergo sum" [I think thus I am] deduces the EGO, the Self exclusively from thinking, from the Ratio, where this thinking self even became an immaterial substance alongside of the material world.

However, this view does grave injustice to us as human beings. An impoverished vision, which reduces us to calculating computers.

It is far from true that our behavior is guided by our reason. Evolutionary the development of this reason came last.

Before that we already possessed a beautiful collection of mechanisms, which helped us survive and helped us to become social beings.

And these mechanisms are exactly those features, which are regarded as jammers and obstacles for what many philosophers held the highest: the ratio.

In an other lecture I already mentioned Plato (427 - 347 BC) who describes in the Phaedrus the soul as a chariot, pulled by two horses:

a splendid white horse (willpower and perseverance ) and a lumpish dark one (emotions). The charioteer (the ratio) had to spend almost all his energy on keeping that dark one in line with the white horse.

In other words, the Greek were convinced that when emotions take over the chariot will crash. And not only the old Greek thought so.

Even today a lot of people think,that when emotions take control things will run out of control.

Let me finish with one observation confirmed by research. If you are negotiating with others, the best way to convince them is not to come up again with a new set of reasonable arguments, but by showing your emotions.

[Main source: De Brein machine, Mark Nelissen (2008)]

The Discussion

[13:20] herman Bergson: Thank you...
[13:20] BALDUR Joubert: where did you get the idea that "emotions are survival MACHINES" ISN'T RATHER ratio which act like a machine..input output
[13:21] Mick Nerido: Which emotions ?
[13:21] herman Bergson: That I will explain in the next lectures Baldur :-)
[13:22] BALDUR Joubert: lol.. i'm always a step ahead it seems.. but i'll be patient:)
[13:22] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:22] herman Bergson: The emotions I am thinking of are basic ones like : fear, joy, grief, anger, wondering, disgust, shame, guild and pride
[13:22] herman Bergson: I'll discuss them all in the coming lectures and their meaning form an evolutionary perspective
[13:23] BALDUR Joubert: they all come independent of ratio..and ratio is used to give an explanation afterwards
[13:23] Mick Nerido: That means emotions are more powerful than reason
[13:23] herman Bergson: To some extend you are quite right Baldur....
[13:24] herman Bergson: That is an observation of neurosciences indeed
[13:24] herman Bergson: You could say that Mick, yes
[13:25] herman Bergson: I hope that will become clear in the next lectures
[13:25] oola Neruda: in ways i feel there is as much truth to be found in emotions as in the rational mind... and the german expressionists and abstract expressionists are only a few of the many examples in art... in music it is probably inescapable
[13:26] Mick Nerido: Like in follow your instincts?
[13:26] herman Bergson: What is important to keep in mind for the future is that we gonna discuss the BIOLOGY of the emotions I mentioned...
[13:27] herman Bergson: We dont call it instincts Mick, humans call it intuition ^_^
[13:27] Mick Nerido: lol
[13:27] herman Bergson: But in fact it is the same thing, yes
[13:27] herman Bergson: As I explained in the last lecture...
[13:27] oola Neruda: i believe nietzche leaned toward favoring the emotions over the rational]
[13:28] herman Bergson: the brain is a huge machine operating beyond our control to some extend...
[13:29] BALDUR Joubert: most of our brain operates without us controling..breathing heartbeat..digestion ..mimics..
[13:29] herman Bergson: that is only the top of the iceberg Baldur ^_^
[13:29] BALDUR Joubert: lol.. tight
[13:29] BALDUR Joubert: right
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:30] Mick Nerido: The emotions are like automatic pilot
[13:30] BALDUR Joubert: so what could be interesting is to understand the interactions of emotions and reason in our brain
[13:30] herman Bergson: There you have a good point Mick, because that is how they operate indeed.
[13:31] herman Bergson: They are prior to reason..
[13:31] herman Bergson: When you see a spider you don't start analyzing the situation like..
[13:31] herman Bergson: is is a dangerous spider or it fast or slow..
[13:31] herman Bergson: you just run :-)
[13:32] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): /
[13:32] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): run?
[13:32] herman Bergson: and the basic emotion that is is control is fear...
[13:32] BALDUR Joubert: lol..unless spiders are your field of study:)
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:32] herman Bergson: Yes Baldur...
[13:32] herman Bergson: saw a guy on TV in a talk show...specialist on spiders...
[13:32] Zinzi Serevi: or when you want to be a brave mother
[13:32] Mick Nerido: The rational mind can overcome emotions like fear of fire as in a fireman
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: question is why is some people so terrified of mice that they jump up on a chair and screams
[13:32] Kyra Neutron: strange humans...cats don't run when they see a spider, they just eat it..
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: heheh
[13:33] herman Bergson: had some examples with him...big ones...
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: mice are not dangerous
[13:33] BALDUR Joubert: same with mice kyra:)
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: I think they are cute
[13:33] herman Bergson: conclusion...creepy fellow
[13:33] Kyra Neutron: and with reptiles baldur :)
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: as long they don't crawl from the stinky sewers
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: eeew
[13:33] herman Bergson: Well Kyra ...that is half true I would say....
[13:33] BALDUR Joubert: many keep reptiles in their homes....
[13:34] herman Bergson: here in Europe there are no dangerous spiders...
[13:34] Kyra Neutron: smart thing to do, keep them safe ;)
[13:34] herman Bergson: but I am sure there are situations where the larger animal runs when it sees a certain spider
[13:34] Kyra Neutron: actually what was my point was that; your primitive brain tells you to "run"
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: hm some spiders esp exotic ones like black widow are deadly dangerous things
[13:35] herman Bergson: True Kyra
[13:35] herman Bergson: We have inherited this from our ancestors through evolution
[13:35] Kyra Neutron: looks at baldur and thinks of his reptile...
[13:35] BALDUR Joubert: don't agree kyra..our so called cultural brains tell us to run cause we lost contact with nature
[13:36] herman Bergson: no Baldur I dont agree.....
[13:36] BALDUR Joubert: why
[13:36] herman Bergson: Here you put the ratio on top of everything again..
[13:36] Mick Nerido: Most people don't keep spiders as pets
[13:36] BALDUR Joubert: no.. i put the emotions on top..
[13:37] BALDUR Joubert: look at egyptian deities..
[13:37] oola Neruda: i agree with Baldur... that we have lost touch with nature... and we fear what we do not know
[13:37] herman Bergson: those are two different things oola...
[13:37] herman Bergson: every organism fears what it doesn't know....response is FEAR....
[13:38] BALDUR Joubert: our relation to nature is basically emotional..
[13:38] herman Bergson: I don't know what Nature means...
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: whats around us in general
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: the environment
[13:38] BALDUR Joubert: smile.. all we can see and hear around us which is not human..
[13:38] herman Bergson: we ARE part of organisms...not apart of nature
[13:39] Mick Nerido: Nature is the natural world, mother earth
[13:39] Kyra Neutron: and we lost the contact with the mother nature...we call for your pagans back to work..heal our our eyes..
[13:39] BALDUR Joubert: being part does not mean we experience our surrounding as different from us
[13:39] herman Bergson: so it is us included
[13:39] Kyra Neutron yawns
[13:39] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): what else could we fear but the unknown or the unwelcome potential outcome?
[13:40] Kyra Neutron: it was quite interesting for a first time and i apoligize for my bad behaviour from all
[13:40] BALDUR Joubert: why pagans kyea
[13:40] Kyra Neutron: hope to see you again.
[13:40] herman Bergson: you're always welcome Kyra
[13:40] Bejiita Imako: cu Kyra
[13:40] herman Bergson: But I guess it is your bedtime
[13:40] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): bye Kira
[13:40] Kyra Neutron: ty herman and others , haha yes :)
[13:41] Anja Tigerfish: •´¨*•.¸.♥ Bye Bye ♥.¸.•*¨`•
[13:41] Zinzi Serevi: bye Kyra
[13:41] Ciska Riverstone: cu kyra
[13:41] Anja Tigerfish: Namaarie
[13:41] BALDUR Joubert: she doesn'tl ike reptiles
[13:41] Anja Tigerfish: oooooo
[13:41] BALDUR Joubert: grin.. may be cause she was sitting next to me:)
[13:42] herman Bergson: aww...poor're still human…don't worry
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: hhee
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:42] BALDUR Joubert: lol..i know you have a picture of me where i don't look so human
[13:42] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): you may have a point Baldur
[13:42] herman Bergson: Well...I guess that I have layed out our road for the next lectures....
[13:43] herman Bergson: We'll study the evolutionary and biological basis of emotions.
[13:43] Zinzi Serevi: bye bye all and thanks Herman
[13:43] Anja Tigerfish: •´¨*•.¸.♥ Bye Bye ♥.¸.•*¨`•
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: bye Zinzi
[13:44] Mick Nerido: An emotional thank you!
[13:44] Anja Tigerfish: Namaarie
[13:44] herman Bergson: Next lecture I'll show you the difference between the concepts of emotins and feelings
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: ah ok
[13:44] herman Bergson: Thank you for the nice discussion again....
[13:44] Alarice von Doobie (alarice.beaumont): bye to everyone :-) see you
[13:44] herman Bergson: class dismissed ^_^
[13:44] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): Thank you Herman
[13:44] Ciska Riverstone: Bye all - thankyou herman cu
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: interesting topic Herman
[13:44] bergfrau Apfelbaum: ty herman & Class :-))
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:44] bergfrau Apfelbaum: byebye all!
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: cu soon again ㋡
[13:45] BALDUR Joubert: welldone hermaN..
[13:45] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): I must run.....goodbye all
[13:45] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): thank you's very interesting
[13:45] Anja Tigerfish: •´¨*•.¸.♥ Bye Bye ♥.¸.•*¨`•
[13:45] herman Bergson: Thank you Baldur
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: cu Ari
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: and all othersw
[13:45] Anja Tigerfish: Tschüss machs gut bis zum nächsten Mal
[13:45] Anja Tigerfish: bye
[13:45] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): tschuess Anja
[13:45] herman Bergson: Bye Anja
[13:45] Anja Tigerfish: *-*rOfl*-*
[13:45] Anja Tigerfish: *-*r0fl*-*
[13:45] Anja Tigerfish: bye
[13:45] Anja Tigerfish: *LOLO*
[13:46] Anja Tigerfish: ㋡ babble babble babble babble ㋡
[13:46] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): bye bye all:) have a good night
[13:47] herman Bergson: Bye Beertje :-)
[13:48] herman Bergson: Hey Druth....didnt see you..sorry
[13:48] BALDUR Joubert: neither did i ..hi druth:)

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