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Mind-Body Philosophy: Part 14- Emotions: Where Mind and Body Meet

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By Frank Simons

Are emotions aspects of mind that produce a bodily reaction? Alternatively, are they bodily phenomena that produce a mental reaction? The answer turns out to be more complicated than either of these options is. As a phenomenon where mind and body meet, emotions allow us to trace some of the complex details of mind-body interactions. That’s what we’ll examine in this lecture.

Many researchers think we have multiple emotions: distinct modular systems of emotional processing, reflecting distinct patterns. They propose a set of six primary emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust. Others add acceptance and expectancy to the six. More complex emotions, such as pride and disappointment, are seen as a mixture of these primary emotions.

On the other side of the fence are researchers who think of emotions in terms of a single multi-dimensional psychological space. Wilhelm Wundt proposed all emotions could be mapped in three dimensions: pleasurable or unpleasable, arousing or subduing, and strain and relaxation. Another three-dimensional model uses pleasure, arousal, and dominance. Whether in terms of multiple primary emotions or in terms of dimensions in a field, most theorists recognize our emotions are a complex mixture of simpler elements. We feel guilty pleasure; we feel affections tainted by minor irritation, annoyance tempered by pity.

The standard picture of emotional processing incorporates bits and pieces of the entire history we have traced. A stimulus, such as a charging dog, is directed to the sensory thalamus. From there it goes to the amygdala, identified as the emotional instigator, and to the prefrontal cortex, where emotions are felt for the first time, interpreted, and perhaps a response shaped or inhibited. Signals are sent back to the amygdala, reinforcing or correcting action. In the contemporary picture, it is in the cortex rather than the amygdala the emotion is felt. Antonio Damasio reports on a patient called Elliot, in whom that route to the cortex was lost. Without felt emotion, Elliot was lost. He performed normally on intelligence tests, but could no longer make decisions. Without emotion, he could not evaluate alternative courses of action. There is now a wide consensus that rationality requires an emotional component.

Professor Patrick Grim, as Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, has provided his students with invaluable insights into issues of philosophy, artificial intelligence, theoretical biology, and other fields. Professor Grim was awarded the university’s Presidential and Chancellor’s awards for teaching excellence and was elected to the Academy of Teachers and Scholars.

There will be an opportunity for discussion following the video. Presentations of the Center are offered without charge. Donations are gratefully accepted.

 

Video Presentation

Mind-Body Philosophy: Part 14- Emotions: Where Mind and Body Meet

Thu, Apr 12, 5:30pm

Meditation Center

Callejón Blanco 4

Free, Donations accepted

 

 

 

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