Rebirth of Reason

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Wednesday, January 12, 2005 - 7:47pmSanction this postReply
I am interested in theories of emotion, and found this on the OWL list:

The Objectivist theory of emotions says that
emotions are the product of subconscious value
judgments. But those values need not be
consciously identified and adopted at any point.
The organism must simply subconsciously evaluate
something to be a threat or a benefit or whatever.
[Diana Mertz Hsieh, 11 April 2002]

If this is an accurate -- if brief -- precis, does this theory conflict with Paul Ekman's "basic emotions"?

I have not yet found any discussion of Ekman's (or Plutchik's) theories in relation to Objectivism. I welcome any pointers or comments.


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Thursday, January 13, 2005 - 7:15amSanction this postReply
Emotions are a consequentalness, an outgrowth of the pain/pleasure mechanism of primitive organisms.  When the evolving complexity of action/reaction turned into a concentration of nerves, with a central organizing spot called a brain, the emotive responses resulted, specializing according to the particulars of the varients of degrees, mostly of avoidance of pain, as that ensured greater chances of survival - the pleasuring aspect being developed in varients later, as desired but not as desired as aspects of survival  pain avoidance was..

When the organizating of the brain reached the point of evolving choice as an additive to furthering survival, then the matter of what the emoting referred to came into being - that is, the emotions were there [all higher animals have it to varying degrees of differenciations], but what one, foir instance, feared would depend on the cognitive evaluating of the circumstances in which the issue of fear arose.  Keep in mind, too, that this is in context - the level of cognitiveness varies much between, for instance, primitive ancestors and today, and say, even between primitive thinking of today and those who make much conscious usage of it.

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Thursday, January 13, 2005 - 9:50amSanction this postReply
Hi William,

Here's my understanding of Ekman and Plutchik. Ekman argues that there're several  basic emotions (like anger, fear, joy, and sorrow), as evinced by different facial expressions that people in all cultures have. Plutchik argues that these several emotions are basic in that each results in a behavior that would greatly aids in survival. Let me know if I've missed something here.

I think Ekman is compatable with O'ism in that Rand asserted that there're two basic emotions: joy and suffering. (Virtue of Selfishness, pg 27). Ekman didn't contradict this; he just expanded on it. It would seem that Rand would also accept that these emotions are universal among humans.

But I'm not sure about Plutchik. I think Plutchik might be implying that emotions cause human behavior. I think O'ists resist emotions as the cause of anything. It would seem they view emotions as mere effects and nothing more. But perhaps O'ists will agree with Plutchik in terms of how humans evolved. I think O'ists think that humans evolved first with a pain-pleasure mechanism, then with a suffering-joy mechanism (as informed by the latter mechanism), then with a volitional mechanism (as informed by the latter two), thus pushing both pain-pleasure and joy-suffering from the human cockpit. I don't think Plutchik contradicts this.

As for why O'ists seldom talk (productively) of scientists who study emotion -- or scientists who study anything for that matter -- that in itself is worth a new thread.


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