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Dec 13, 2011               
      

Leibniz and me on emotions



I fixed the backgrounds in
my Leibniz-section where you find a complete edition of the Monadology plus my extensive notes, and a decent extract of the Nouveaux Essays, again plus my extensive notes, remarks and comments.

To give you a taste of the latter in case you are inclined to it, here follows a chapter of it. Leibniz's text, that includes the chapter title, that is here red because it is a link, is in blue (no underlining). There is an endnote in case you want to skip it.


Book 2 chapter 20 Of modes of pleasure and pain


- Preliminaries on pain and pleasure
- Whether there are experiences of things one is indifferent to
- On the good
- On the origin of the passions
- On love and altruism
- On desire
- On Balaam's ass
On hope

- Whether the passion are based on beliefs or desires
- Whether the passions are endeavours or tendencies to act
- Whether there may be emotions without a body
- On the definition of shame
- A few more or less systematic remarks on emotion


This starts the two longest chapters, at least in the abbreviation I'm using.

Preliminaries on pain and pleasure

According to Locke, pleasure and pain are again simple ideas (by which he probably meant that we cannot define them or do without them, as they are somehow given), and his double says that

"(..) bodily sensations (..) may be either indifferent or followed pleasure or pain, these like other simple ideas cannot be described, nor their names defined." (p. 162)

Note that pain and pleasure indeed appear to be things (in a broad sense) we need to experience to understand them, and that it would be difficult to convey an idea of their feeling to one who never had these feelings.

This is all on a par with having or not having tasted a mango, say, and not different in principle from other constant conjunctions one has to take for granted and can only understand when given in experience somehow.

However, pain and pleasure differ from other qualities in being attachable to so many different things by our desires and beliefs and previous experiences, that it indeed becomes possible for one man to feel pleased about what pains another. This fact is sufficient to undermine Locke's notion that pains and pleasures are "simple" in any useful sense of that word, since they may be due to very complicated ideas and considerations, besides being themselves complex (like a piece of music may be complex, say).

Some other important points to be made about pains and pleasures are that

1. pains and pleasures are the basic motivations for most of our actions, in so far as we are conscious of the motives of our actions, for we do and avoid things because we believe that behaving thus will please us most or displease us least in some way, whereas

2. pains and pleasures are both private and, apart from instinct, abstract, since we can not feel the pain or pleasure of anyone else apart by somehow imagining that we share them to some extent - which we do seem to do from instinct and also by education.

3. However, we should distinguish between, at least, pleasures and pains attached to sensations and pleasures and pains attached to non-sensations

4. the pains and pleasures that motivate us are normally not real but anticipated and imaginary, and these imaginary anticipations have some of the felt qualities they anticipate. UP


Whether there are experiences of things one is indifferent to

Leibniz replies to Locke

"I believe that there are no perceptions which are matters of complete indifference to us; but a perception can be so described if it is not a noticeable one, for pleasure and pain appear to consist in noticeable helps and hindrances. I concede that this definition is not a nominal one, and that that cannot be given." (p. 162)

Leibniz's belief that no perception is indifferent to us can be concluded from an assumption that we only have perceptions if they do make some difference to us, which in turn may be argued by noting that nature does no things in vain, for example. However, one should take care not to exaggerate this, for many of the things we sense, at least, are sensed apparently because they may be interesting or are arriving at our senses anyway, together with what does interest us. Similarly, it seems people have fleeting thoughts and desires that just appear and disappear and are of no great felt value, pain or pleasure at all.

The helps and hindrances are a nice association, but indeed this constitutes not at all a definition of pleasures and pains, which do not "consist" in them, and might well arise, as in phantom limbs, without being or indicating any help or hindrance.

In general, pain may be associated with malfunction, in some sense, and pleasure with proper functioning, but this too seems a contingent association, although it is easy to believe evolution must have engineered those coincidences.

Another remark that should be made, also in the context of the sometimes amazing adaptation of natural capacities, especially pain does not seem to be very proportionate to its causes, in that - one example among many - a tooth-ache may be a severe pain to a not very threatening damage. UP


On the good

"PHIL : The good is that which is apt to cause or increase pleasure or diminish or cut short pain in us. Evil is apt to produce or increase any pain or diminish any pleasure in us.
THEO : That is my opinion too. The good is divided into the virtuous, the pleasing and the useful; though I believe that fundamentally something good must either be pleasing in itself or conducive to something else which can give us a pleasant feeling. That is, the good is either pleasing or useful; and virtue itself consists in a pleasure of the mind." (p. 162)

As to Locke's usage, I'd rather say the good, subjectively, is what satisfies our ends and desires, or our needs, and that such satisfaction happens to be combined with pleasure, as dissatisfaction is combined with pain. The reason I rather put it thus is that many of the things we consider good, like going regularly to the dentist, are based on rather complicated assessments of risks, pains, costs and consequences: thus we may feel pleased with ourselves when returning from the dentist, because having done so satisfies certain of our values and ends, even though the experience itself may have been quite painful, and, for all we know, completely useless. Also, of course, it often happens that things we valued highly, positively or negatively, when they come to pass do not at all result in such feelings as one anticipated. (Reality is so interesting and various that it rarely turns out to be just as it was imagined to be.)

Leibniz's division of the good "into the virtuous, the pleasing and the useful" is sensible, but to say that "virtue itself consists in a pleasure of the mind" seems to confuse a standard of human behaviour with its supposed felt consequences ("virtue is its own reward!") in those of virtuous behaviour. I would certainly insist virtue is not so much a feeling as an ideal standard of behaviour, or else that capacity that enables us to behave that way. UP


On the origin of the passions

Next, Locke's double remarks

"From pleasure and pain come the passions. One has love for something which can produce pleasure, and the thought of sorrow and pain which anything present or absent is apt to produce is hatred." (p. 162)

I note the passions seem to be directed by thoughts of pain and pleasure, i.e. a passion can be defined as a belief that a certain desire or need we have will (not) be satisfied in certain conditions.

That is, if 'the passions' refers to the sources of our actions, it seems these consist by and large by by beliefs about the values of certain states of affairs.

However, I don't believe that "From pleasure and pain come the passions." Anybody who has ever fallen in love, especially on first sight, knows that "pleasure" or even anticipated pleasure is a strange term for that emotion. The same holds for things that strike one immediately as beautiful. In either case "pleasure" is involved in some way, but insufficient to explain the emotion, its strength, or its peculiar feeling, for the undeniable pleasures of an orgasm or a good meal are, to my mind, in my experience, something different, and, indeed, far more bodily, or, at least, far more bodily located. UP


On love and altruism

Leibniz answers by an interesting discourse on love:

"(..) love is to be disposed to take pleasure in the perfection, well-being or happiness of object of one's love. And this involves not thinking about or asking for any pleasure of one's own except what one can get from the happiness or pleasure of the loved one. On this account, whatever is incapable of pleasure or happiness is not strictly an object of love; but usage varies. Philosophers, and even theologians, distinguish two kinds of love: the love which they call 'concupiscence', which is merely the desire or the feeling we bear towards what gives pleasure to us, without our caring whether it receives any pleasure; and the love of 'benevolence', which is the feeling we have for something by whose pleasure or happiness we are pleased or made happy. The former fixes our view on our own pleasure; the latter on the pleasure of others, but as something which produces or rather constitutes our own pleasure - for if it did not reflect back on us somehow we could not care about it, since it is impossible (whatever they say) to disengage from a concern for one's own good. That is the way to understand 'disinterested' or non-mercenary love, if we are properly to grasp its nobility and yet not succumb to fantasies about it." (p. 163)

This is of course quite good. Cp. my notes (since 1969, when I found the expression "to both enjoy the pleasures both enjoy by both enjoying each other"); Plato's Phaedo; and Hazlitt's "On Self-Love and Benevolence".

Note that Leibniz is rather realistic: On the one hand, he requires "not thinking about or asking for any pleasure of one's own except what one can get from the happiness or pleasure of the loved one" yet on the other hand he insists that "it is impossible (whatever they say) to disengage from a concern for one's own good".

The last point may be doubted, not only in humans but in any animal species that takes care of its young: people and parents do sacrifice their own interests out of concern for the good of another. The fact that this concern for another is based on a feeling one has oneself proves nothing for egoism against altruism, as Hazlitt explains very well, for any concern one feels is either for another (or some thing else than oneself) or for oneself, and one may act in one's own or in another's interest from choice or compulsion (as the mothers of young rats, perhaps, who walk over electrified grids to get to them).

A point that is not made is that in humans e.g. their concupiscence for their cars or anything else that gives pleasure, tends to be answered by a positive regard for what gives pleasure, at least, and in practice in actual human relations concupiscence and benevolence (rather neatly translatable as lust and love, by the way) tend to be an intricate mix, also because of the phenomenon just mentioned: people tend to feel pleased about people who please them, irrespective of whether the latter intended that, and also irrespective of the actual intentions, which may be manipulative and egoistic, and will more easily act with some benevolence towards people that please them than to others. (Whence Chesterfield's "If you want to be pleased, please!" - which was a realistic courtier's advice to his son on how to become a social success.). UP


On desire

Next, we get a fairly long discussion of desire:

"PHIL : The uneasiness a man finds in himself upon the absence of anything whose present enjoyment carries the idea of delight in it, is what we call desire. The chief if not only spur to human industry and action is uneasiness. For whatever good is proposed, if its absence carries no displeasure or pain with it, if a man is easy and content without it, there is no desire for it nor endeavour after it; there is no more than a bare velleity, the term used to signify the lowest degree of desire. Desire is also stopped or abated by the opinion that the desired good is unattainable, to the extent that the uneasiness of the souls is cured or allayed by that consideration. (p. 164-5)

Locke forgets, or at least does not mention, interests, ends and values, and is also not clear about the distinction between natural needs and cultivated desires. In a good sense, interests, ends, values, and needs all are kinds of desires, or likes and dislikes, and these have a lot to do with beliefs about pains and pleasures given certain conditions, but not to enter into the distinctions between them (the kinds of pains and pleasures, of conditions, including beliefs about them, and of associations between these) is to leave too much confusion due to using a term for a genus that doesn't include distinctions of its species.

He also seems to forget the joys and fears of anticipation and the regrets of remorse, and the pride taken in past virtuous actions, and also the fact that relief of pain may feel like joy, just as disappointment of an anticipated joy may be painful.

Leibniz answers by preferring the word "disquiet" over the word "unease", and continues with

"I would prefer to say that a desire in itself involves only a disposition to suffering, a preparation for it, rather than suffering itself." (p.164)

This is relevant for Buddhists, who claim that desire ('craving') itself is the root of suffering, and also makes implicitly two important points about some desires, viz.

1 that they are based on fairly abstract ideas: if we think about what we desire, we tend to think only or mostly about its desirable qualities, and

2. that there is a difference between desires that depend on our values, and are cultivated and acquired, and desires that depend on our natural needs.

Leibniz expands his ideas thus:

"(..) nature has given us the spurs of desire in the form of rudiments or elements of suffering, semi-suffering one might say, or (to put it extravagantly just for the sake of emphasis) of minute sufferings of which we cannot be aware. (..)
In fact, without these semi-sufferings there would be no pleasure at all, nor any way of being aware that something is helping and relieving us by removing obstacles which stand between us and our ease. These imperceptible little urges which keep us constantly in suspense are confused stimuli, so that we often do not know what we lack. With inclinations and passions, on the other hand, we at least know what we want (..)
(..) we are never indifferent, even when we appear to be most so, as for instance over whether to turn left or right at the end of a lane. For the choice that we make arises from these insensible stimuli (..) (p. 165-6)

The notion of semi-suffering is a useful one, but it seems better to use another term, based on an important distinction: imaginary pleasures and pains, as opposed to actual pleasures and pains, and to assume that every thing we may think of is associated in diverse ways with expectations of various pleasures and pains that are or may be associated with it, some or many of which may be so minute, diffuse or confused, or depend on such remote associations, that indeed we cannot disentangle why we do have the actual feelings we have about something.

That we are in fact never indifferent is an assumption (and not quite the same as Leibniz's earlier claim about perceptions): it is at least logically possible that the sums of pains and pleasures we associate with something cancel out, both consciously and unconsciously, though Leibniz would be right in replying that, if so, this will not last long, if we continue to live.

Also, it seems to me Leibniz is not inkeeping with subjective facts: much deliberation is in fact due to people not being able to make up their minds this way or that, sometimes for quite good reasons, as either way may be dangerous and either, so far as we know, equally (im)probable of success. Indeed, this is why people (and animals) hesitate. UP


On Balaam's ass

By the way, an answer of mine to the problem of Balaam's ass - caught between two equally attractive bales of hay, starving of hunger - is that the ass may be indifferent to either bale, but cannot be indifferent to being indifferent to either one, since then he will starve. (This is reminiscent of truth and paradox, in that several levels of response are distinguished.) UP


On hope

"PHIL : Hope is the contentment of the soul which thinks of a probable future enjoyment of a thing which is apt to delight it." (p. 167)

See Np 164-5. Also, Locke is not realistic c.q. not adequate to the subjective facts: People can "hope against all hope", or at least hope against all belief and with little or no contentment whatsoever. Indeed, if something is important to someone he may keep hoping it might happen as long as he does not believe it cannot possibly happen: one's hopes are less dependent on the probabilities one believes they have, if one doesn't believe they are impossible, then on one's desires about them. UP


Whether the passion are based on beliefs or desires

Leibniz remarks that

"The Stoics took passions to be beliefs: thus for them hope was belief in a future good, and fear the belief in a future evil. But I would rather say that the passions are not contentments or displeasures or beliefs, but endeavours - or rather modifications of endeavour - which arise from beliefs or opinions and are accompanied by pleasure or displeasure." (p. 167)

I like the Stoical approach, as testified by my LPA, if the Stoics did also assume that the good and evil they speak of are respectively desired and not desired.

In any case, passions, desires, needs and ends are similar, and in Np 162 I said "a passion can be defined as a belief that a certain desire or need we have will (not) be satisfied in certain conditions". This does not exclude that these passions may be small, nor that a single thing may be the object of opposing strong passions, nor that what moves us is something like the weighted sums of our passions about things, which may consist of far more or far smaller passions than we can consciously discern.

It is also consistent with the thesis that the capacity to feel pains and pleasures is primitively given (with life, say, as part of the conditions for a nervous system to make choices to keep a body alive and fit).

The term "desire" can be eliminated up to a point, for one can say: a feeling is a belief that one does have, did have or will have a kind of pain or pleasure when having a kind of experience. However, I wrote "up to a point", because one also needs to do justice to the fact that people strive towards what pleases them and from what displeases them. (Incidentally, the term "desire" does connote striving which connotes a future state, or perhaps a present state, and so is not quite apt when one considers the feelings of pleasure and displeasure one has about one's past acts, which nevertheless may give rise to strong feelings.) UP


Whether the passions are endeavours or tendencies to act

I disagree with Leibniz that the passions are endeavours or modifications thereof: one may have passions without corresponding endeavours, and not because the passion is weak, but because one sees nothing one can do to bring their end closer to satisfaction. This doesn't exclude at all one may have a strong passion, and will start acting on it tomorrow, or anytime one believes one's acts may help satisfy it. (Indeed, what's called nervousness seems to depend on passions that one does not know at the moment how to act out.)

By the way, according to Frijda, an emotion is a tendency to act, which not only is close to a pleonasm, but also monumentally silly, and confuses a contingent relation between some emotions and some actions with all emotions. What about shyness? Shame? Guilt? Grief? Benevolent love? Listening to music? Watching television? Seeing the sun go down? Joy upon comprehending a theorem? Being bored? Feeling tired and satisfied? The pleasure of orgasm? The pain of tiredness or muscular pain?

What Frijda seems to speak of are only such emotions as fall within the scope of a behaviorist, or of a computer, and are like reflexes, and even then he completely misses the fact that an emotion is given as a state of affection by imagined or real pains or pleasures, or rather (usually) imagined or real events that (would) give us, we believe, pains or pleasures, that one indeed has to do something about if they are strong, but which are, except in the cases of reflexes, not necessarily connected to any specific repertoire of acts, and, if they are, normally only by education, from toilet-training to university. (How much time people spend in day-dreaming, which is mostly merely imagining what is pleasurable to them! Indeed, it seems a fair and safe guess to me that the majority of human pleasures are those people have when fantasizing - there is more imaginary and vicarious pleasure than consumated pleasure, and actual consumated pleasure tends to feel different from its anticipation.)

Thus, there's much sense in saying an emotion is a belief about the pains and pleasures assiocated with a belief, and such a belief may be given as immediate as the belief that someone else is standing on one's toes and that it hurts is given, which also happens to be a belief one can rapidly test (verify or falsify), unlike very many others. (Again, it is a safe guess that the majority of the beliefs people have are not, as such, testable or tested in a rigorous way if testable.)

The reason for the lack of necessary connection between emotions and acts, apart from reflexes, is quite simply that an emotion normally may be satisfied in many different kinds of ways, which one must learn, and may relearn (set up a different repertoire of acts to satisfy a desire or need).

Indeed, one point of being human is that one's emotions and one's acts are educated and civilized, in the sense that the relations between emotions and acts are more remote and complicated than for animals.

The reason to introduce Frijda is that I know him superficially and he wrote recently a book about the emotions, and that the underlying point about the proper definition of emotions is important, also for understanding Leibniz's entelechies. But more of this in the next chapter. UP


Whether there may be emotions without a body

Locke proposes definitions of despair and anger to which Leibniz has sensible corrections, which show Leibniz was a sensible, subtle and sensitive man, and apparently more so than Locke, though Locke was a doctor of medicine, whose double is made to say

"In many persons most of the passions act on the body and cause various changes in it, which are not always sensible." (p. 168)

Presumably "sensible" means "perceivable to others". In this context, one important issue is whether there are any emotions without a body c.q. whether all emotions are (aspects of) bodily states.

One answer is: No, as emotions depends on ideas and ideas may be of ends. On the other hand, one would assume that an activated end or emotion has a bodily component or else it would not be felt (and merely be understood, without contributing motive c.q. desire to do something).

Note that a complicating factor here is that the brain is a part of the body, and what one feels as effecting one's body is in fact, so far as we know, a series of events in one's motor cortex etc.

My guess is that each and every emotion, as defined above i.e. as a belief about imagined or real events that (would) give us, we believe, pains or pleasures, is a qualification of bodily states (for and as rendered by our brain), which themselves are naturally associated with amounts of pain and pleasure to indicate their functionality. And this qualification, if not of a reflexive nature, has been learned.

A recent finding of psychology, that a number of basic human emotions like fear, joy, surprise and disgust can be read from the face through all human cultures and races is interesting. Leibniz would have liked it, and says

"If men were more thorough in observing the overt movements which accompany the passions, it would be hard to disguise them." (p. 168)

It is a problem to learn by what signs to recognize them. Some facial features are natural signs, some conventional. Also, many passions, especially those motivated by complicated beliefs and desires, are not in any obvious or necessary 1-1 way connected to overt behaviour. UP


On the definition of shame

A final example of Leibniz's greater sensibility concerns yet another definition of a passion of Locke's that Leibniz corrects:

"PHIL : (..) shame (..) is a disquiet of the soul which one feels upon the thought of having done something which is indecent or will lessen the esteem which others have for us (..)
THEO : (..) As for shame, it is worth thinking about the fact that modest people sometimes feel agitations like those of shame merely upon witnessing an indecent action." (p. 168)

Indeed, and in my terms here shame involves a value, which is a generalized desire: aD[(xeC)(Ax ==> Bx)] i.e. a desires all persons in condition C to be B if they are A.

Moreover, this is an important point for social animals, whose sociality depends to a large extent on understanding and sharing each others' emotions, which, therefore must often be vicarious, i.e. result from imaginary place-taking: how one would feel oneself if one were to be in the state another appears to be in. UP


A few more or less systematic remarks on emotion

This list of remarks is taken from previous remarks.

0. To explain the actions of a body an entelechy is supposed necessary, i.e. a planning entity that coordinates the acts of the body.

Making plans can be construed as acquiring beliefs about how feelings can be realized by bodily acts. I do not insist on the term "entelechy". Note there is a wide range from simple concrete expectations connected to reflexes and fantastical ideas connected to values. Also, as "entelechy" is used in (0) no assumption is made that it is mental not material: the "entelechy" of a computer is the program it runs.

1. Experience is given as sensations, feelings, memories, and fantasies, and each is given as such: informing about the environment, one's body, what happened in the past, and about what might, would or could (not) happen.

Note that feelings, as the term is used, are (aspects of) bodily states, and that fantasies have no inherent limit other than set by the capacity to fantasize: one can imagine impossible objects etc.

2. Sensations and memories are supposed to represent the present and the past; fantasies are not supposed to represent the present or the past.
A represents B iff there is a set of rules which, when applied to A, provide information about B.

Fantasies of course may represent, and of many fantasies we have we do suppose they represent, but such fantasies are positive beliefs rather than mere fantasies. The set of rules must, at least, exist in the sense that someone has somehow articulated them in some sense. (There is a sense in which the structured collection of books in my room can be decoded to provide information about the forms of life in Alpha Centauri, but that's merely fantasy: for A to represent B the rules by which A does represent B must have been articulated.)

3. Each conscious experience is conscious because it has attached to it a positive or negative degree of feeling. This is one's personal appreciation of the experience. It is a bodily state.

So experiences do not become conscious if they are not felt: if nothing about something evokes positive or negative values, it is not noticed. (This is both a convenient and a natural postulate.)

That feelings are (aspects of) bodily states is an interesting point that militates against the joys of disembodied souls: to have feelings is to have a body (the brain of which is disposed positively or negatively to some bodily states).

4. Nearly all feelings are composites of feelings. The easiest way to think of these composites is as weighted sums of feelings.

The composites I think of can be conceived of as coming into existence by summing the feelings of the discriminated parts of what one has feelings about, together with their relative importance.

This makes it possible to analyse more complex emotions (the very great majority), like shame, guilt, grief, benevolent love, listening to music, watching television, seeing the sun go down, joy upon comprehending a theorem, being bored, feeling tired and satisfied.

One general point is that these, like nearly any feeling a person has once it is no mere baby, are complex, and depend on many earlier feelings - of which they are, in a sound sense, reworkings, revisions and reintegrations.

5. A judgement that a given experience is a sensation, feeling, memory or fantasy is an act that depends on earlier judgements, as they are now present to one.

The main points are that judgements, though they can be expressed by the beliefs they originate or create, are themselves not beliefs but acts, and that these acts depend on the present experience of past beliefs and desires. The reason it is an act is that it makes a change: to judge is to change one's memories - say one adds a new belief or alters/qualifies an existing one (deletes it or changes its sign or changes its probability, or also, next to values, changes its expression, for example by adopting a new definition of an old term).

6. An end or desire is a belief about how certain experiences can be had.

An emotion is given as (usually) imagined or real events that (would) give us, we believe, pains or pleasures, that one indeed has to do something about if they are strong, but which are, except in the cases of reflexes, NOT necessarily connected to any specific repertoire of acts, and, if they are, normally only by education, from toilet-training to university.

Thus, there's much sense in saying an emotion is a belief about the pains and pleasures associated with a belief, that may be given, as immediate as the belief that someone else is standing on one's toes and that it hurts, which also happens to be a belief one can rapidly test (verify or falsify).

So what I am aiming at are postulates that entail that any belief in anything has an associated probability or truth-value and an associated emotional value, that in turn may be complex (ethical, bodily). Here ethical values are defined in terms of generalized desires about human beings, their acts and qualities, and their societies, while bodily values are defined in terms of resulting bodily pleasures and pains. And thus in the end there is something like (a)(p)(Ex)(y)(aB(pr(p)=x & va(p)=y) - every belief has a cognitive and emotional value, say. And indeed the emotional value may be sub-divided into a general human one and a personal one.

Leibniz remarks that

"The Stoics took passions to be beliefs: thus for them hope was belief in a future good, and fear the belief in a future evil. But I would rather say that the passions are not contentments or displeasures or beliefs, but endeavours - or rather modifications of endeavour - which arise from beliefs or opinions and are accompanied by pleasure or displeasure." (p. 167)

I like the Stoical approach, as testified by my LPA, if the Stoics did also assume that the good and evil they speak of are respectively desired and not desired.

It is also consistent with the thesis that the capacity to feel pains and pleasures is primitively given (with life, say, as part of the conditions for a nervous system to make choices to keep a body alive and fit).

7. The positive and negative values correspond to pleasures and pains, but in general anything carries a rich mixture of feelings with it that is personal: pain and pleasure differ from other qualities in being attachable to very many different things by our desires and beliefs and previous experiences, so that it indeed becomes possible for one man to feel pleased about what pains another.

There is a connection to action in that people tend to try to realize what they have positive feelings about and to avoid or undo what they have negative feelings about, but since any complex object comes generally with many different kinds of feelings there is no direct or necessary link between acts and feelings beyond the level of reflexes.

8. Pain and pleasure do seem to be basics in any feeling, but they are mixed with further appreciations that tend to colour them in ways appropriate to the objects that are supposed to cause the pains or pleasures.

In general, pain may be associated with malfunction, in some sense, and pleasure with proper functioning, but this too seems a contingent association, although it is easy to believe evolution must have engineered those coincidences.

And the point of (8) is that although it seems that the pleasures of sex, food and art, say, have a common root in all being species of pleasure, the further feelings - mixtures of qualities and emotions, say - set up the appreciations as we feel them.

A further point that is important is that evolution seems to have engineered its creatures such that it feels pleasant to live if one is not in pain or trouble: as if being alive, like virtue, carries its own reward, or, somewhat more precisely, as if an organ that is not malfunctioning rewards its owner by giving it some modicum of pleasure (that tells its owner that the organ is not malfunctioning, and is subjectively given as a feeling of energy and ability).

9. The good, subjectively, is what satisfies our ends and desires, or our needs, and such satisfaction happens to be combined with pleasure, as dissatisfaction is combined with pain.

Virtue is not so much a feeling as an ideal standard of behaviour, or else that capacity that enables us to behave that way.

There is no point to define the good objectively before defining it subjectively. One may say it is good, objectively, to be rational and reasonable, but part of the reason for saying so is that being rational and reasonable gives oneself and others the best chances for satisfying our ends and desires, which is an idea that is learned and presupposes a subjective good.

10. A passion can be defined as a belief that a certain desire or need we have will (not) be satisfied in certain conditions.

This is like the Stoical approach, which I like, as testified by my LPA, if the Stoics did also assume that the good and evil they speak of are respectively desired and not desired.

That a passion can be defined as a belief that a certain desire or need we have will (not) be satisfied in certain conditions, does not exclude that these passions may be small, nor that a single thing may be the object of opposing strong passions, nor that what moves us is something like the weighted sums of our passions about things.

11. The term "desire" can be eliminated up to a point, for one can say: a feeling is a belief that one does have, did have or will have a kind of pain or pleasure when having a kind of experience.

This is related to the fact that the passions seem to be directed by thoughts of pain and pleasure. However, I wrote "up to a point", because one also needs to do justice to the fact that people strive towards what pleases them and from what displeases them. (Incidentally, the term "desire" does connote striving which connotes a future state, and so is not quite apt when one considers the feelings of pleasure and displeasure one has about one's past acts, which nevertheless may give rise to strong feelings. There is, therefore, space and use for a term like "appreciation", for one's appreciations of one's past life are quite important for humans, and are not themselves desires.)

I disagree with Leibniz that the passions are endeavours or modifications thereof: one may have passions without corresponding endeavours, and not because the passion is weak, but because one sees nothing one can do to bring it closer to satisfaction. This doesn't exclude at all one may have a strong passion, and starts acting on it tomorrow, or anytime one believes one's acts may help satisfy it.

It is also consistent with the thesis that the capacity to feel pains and pleasures is primitively given (with life, say, as part of the conditions for a nervous system to make choices to keep a body alive and fit).

12. Lust is interest in one's own pleasures; love interest in the pleasures of another.

Leibniz puts it thus:

"Philosophers, and even theologians, distinguish two kinds of love: the love which they call 'concupiscence', which is merely the desire or the feeling we bear towards what gives pleasure to us, without our caring whether it receives any pleasure; and the love of 'benevolence', which is the feeling we have for something by whose pleasure or happiness we are pleased or made happy.
The former fixes our view on our own pleasure; the latter on the pleasure of others, but as something which produces or rather constitutes our own pleasure - for if it did not reflect back on us somehow we could not care about it, since it is impossible (whatever they say) to disengage from a concern for one's own good. That is the way to understand 'disinterested' or non-mercenary love, if we are properly to grasp its nobility and yet not succumb to fantasies about it." (p. 163)

In any case, the distinction is important, and depends in the end on the person the concern is for.

13. There is a kind of itch to act, but it should not be confused with desires, for we act from interests, ends, values, needs or likes and dislikes, and these all have a lot to do with beliefs about pains and pleasures given certain conditions, but do not enter into the distinctions between them (the kinds of pains and pleasures, of conditions, including beliefs about them, and of associations between these).

I'd suppose the itch to act is felt, roughly, in proportion to the strength of feeling involved, but is otherwise a feeling itself, related to - an awareness of - preparing oneself for action, increased bloodpressure etc.

One good illustration of the itch is a cat that prepares to attack a bird: the cat can be seen to be a while between wanting to pounce and preparing for the best moment and position to pounce from.

But one may have strong desires - say, for the law to be maintained, or human rights respected, or people to be not tortured - one does not feel as itches, and also does not act upon for long times, without the desires thereby being less strong.

14. Two important points about desires are:

1. that they are based on fairly abstract ideas: if we think about what we desire, we tend to think only or mostly about its desirable qualities and

2. that there is a difference between desires that depend on our values, and are cultivated and acquired, and desires that depend on our natural needs.

The first point is important re human psychology, and may be restated as: humans in general only think consciously about what concerns or interests them. It is important psychologically and practically, for it enables people to "forget" - not think - about the less pleasant aspects of what they wish and strive for.

The second point involves the fact that virtually any human natural need is overlaid with acquired repertoires of satisfying and dealing with them.

15. Deliberations and desires are intimately related.

Most of what people do depends on considerations of imaginary pleasures and pains, as opposed to actual pleasures and pains, and I assume that every thing we may think of is associated in diverse ways with expectations of various pleasures and pains that are or may be associated with it, some or many of which may be so minute, diffuse or confused, or depend on such remote associations, that indeed we cannot disentagle why we do have the actual feelings we have about something.

That we are in fact never indifferent is an assumption (and not quite the same as Leibniz's earlier claim about perceptions): it is at least logically possible that the sums of pains and pleasures we associate with something cancel out, both consciously and unconsciously, though Leibniz would be right in replying that, if so, this will not last long, if we continue to live.

Also, it seems to me Leibniz is not inkeeping with subjective facts: much deliberation is in fact due to people not being able to make up their minds this way or that, sometimes for quite good reasons, as either way may be dangerous and either, so far as we know, equally (im)probable of success. And this explains hesitations and some kinds of nervousness (when we cannot make up our mind or have a strong feeling we do not know how to deal with).

By the way, an answer of mine to the problem of Balaam's ass - caught between two equally attractive bales of hay, starving of hunger - is that the ass may be indifferent to either bale, but cannot be indifferent to being indifferent to either one, since then he will starve. (This is reminiscent of truth and paradox, in that several levels of response are distinguished.)

16. There's much sense in saying an emotion is a belief about the pains and pleasures associated with a belief, that may be given, as immediate as the belief that someone else is standing on one's toes and that it hurts, which also happens to be a belief one can rapidly test (verify or falsify).

An emotion is given as a state of affection by imagined or real pains or pleasures, or rather (usually) imagined or real events that (would) give us, we believe, pains or pleasures, that one indeed has to do something about if they are strong, but which are, except in the cases of reflexes, NOT necessarily connected to any specific repertoire of acts, and, if they are, normally only by education, from toilet-training to university.

Formally, one may say aB(va(p)=x) =df emotion(a,p,x): an emotion is a - possibly very complicated - appreciation of some supposed fact. And such values are primitive or derived, and if derived by assumptions of other values and principles like "what entails a highly valuable fact is cet par highly valuable" or "what entails a highly valuable fact has as value its own value plus that of the values of the facts entails" or "the value of p (if q) is the sum of the values of the facts it entails (if q)".

The reason for the lack of necessary connection between emotions and acts, apart from reflexes, is quite simply that an emotion normally may be satisfied in many different kinds of ways, which one must learn, and may relearn (set up a different repertoire of acts to satisfy a desire or need).

Indeed, one point of being human is that one's emotions and one's acts are educated and civilized, in the sense that they are more remote and distinct than for hon-human animals.

17. One important issue is whether there are any emotions without a body c.q. whether all emotions are (aspects of) bodily states.

One answer is: No, as emotions depends on ideas and ideas may be of ends. On the other hand, one would assume that an activated end or emotion has a bodily component or else it would not be felt (and merely be understood, without contributing motive c.q. desire to do something).

Note that a complicating factor here is that the brain is a part of the body, and what one feels as effecting one's body is in fact, so far as we know, a series of events in one's motor cortex etc.

My guess is that each and every emotion, as defined above i.e. as a belief about imagined or real events that (would) give us, we believe, pains or pleasures, is a qualification of bodily states (for and as rendered by our brain), which themselves are naturally associated with amounts of pain and pleasure to indicate their functionability. And this qualification, if not of a reflexive nature, has been learned.

18. A recent finding of psychology, that a number of basic human emotions like fear and joy and disgust can be read from the face through all human cultures and races is interesting.

Leibniz would have liked it, and says

"If men were more thorough in observing the overt movements which accompany the passions, it would be hard to disguise them." (p. 168)

It is a problem to learn by what signs to recognize them. Some facial features are natural signs, some conventional. Also, many passions, especially those motivated by complicated beliefs and desires, are not in any obvious or necessary 1-1 way connected to overt behaviour.

19. One good way to think about moral and esthetical values is as generalized desires: aD[(xeC)(Ax ==> Bx)] i.e. a desires all persons in condition C to be B if they are A.

Moreover, this is an important point for social animals, whose sociality depends to a large extent on understanding and sharing each others' emotions, which, therefore must often be vicarious, i.e. result from imaginary place-taking: how one would feel oneself if one were to be in the state another appears to be in.

And defining desires in terms of beliefs and values: aDp iff aB(p iff val(a,p)>0). Incidentally, this definition has the nice consequence that what has va(a,q)=0 is desired. UP


Endnote: The above is just one chapter. There is a lot more in my Leibniz-section in the same style. Also, you got a fairly long Nederlog today, after several days of short ones, and a philosophical one too. (See my Why philosophy is important for some reasons why I think the above is of some importance.)

Incidentally, the Leibniz-section is very probably the oldest part currently on my site. I wrote it in 1994 or 1995, and put it on line in 1996, I think, because I liked it, and because I thought at the time it is one of the - many - things on my site I should be able to get a Ph.D. on.

Meanwhile, it seems that, like much on my site, others got Ph.D.'s on stuff that I wrote (*), and I don't get any Ph.D. because I was honest in Holland about the Dutch degeneracies in education and with regards to drugs, for which reasons I also can get no help whatsoever, since decades. See ME in Amsterdam if you read Dutch - and the reason this isn't publicly discussed in Holland is that Dutch journalists are since decades hand in glove with Dutch politicians and bureaucrats, and that discussing my case fairly and publicly in court would enormously damage especially the very powerful very drugscorrupt Dutch Labour Party, leading members of hich have now for decades functioned as the very willing corrupt protectors and executioners of the drugs mafia. But yes... most of the Dutch don't care, as long as illegal drugs are cheap and easily obtainable, and they themselves are left in peace.

"So it goes...": The bastards prosper, while the democratic dumb poor majority applauds.

And a last remark on the Leibniz-section: It still needs some straightening out and correcting, but as I found again today, this is more problematic than it should be, because the html has gone through at least four different editors over the past 15 years. Then again, it is quite good as is, and it has been praised by those who should know. Also, like all of my philosophy section, it is an example of a new way of doing philosophy, using hypertext, that should be practised on a much larger scale, and would be practised on a much larger scale if there were more competent philosophers: Provide an edition of a philosophical classic and write extensive notes to it, linked to the text in the original with URLs.

This is not something that is appropriate for sciences and scientists, but it is for philosophy and philosophers, where the main works are the classical texts. But it is true that it is much more profitable and a whole lot easier to write brief essay-like pieces of jargon for a philosophical journal, that then ends up behind a pay wall, and will be read by no one but one's own kind of pseudo-intellectuals that these days prosper as academic philosophers.


(*) To the extent that a guy in Mexico wrote me some years ago - anonymously of course, and I suppose as a sadistic joke: didn't reply either when I replied - that his promotion committee had not accepted all my arguments, so shame on me.
 


P.S.
Corrections, if any are necessary, have to be made later.
 

 

As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):
1.  Anthony Komaroff Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)
2.  Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT: 
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
3.  Hillary Johnson The Why
4.  Consensus of M.D.s Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5.  Eleanor Stein Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)
6.  William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7.  Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8.  Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
9.
 Maarten Maartensz
ME in Amsterdam - surviving in Amsterdam with ME (Dutch)
10.
 Maarten Maartensz Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Short descriptions of the above:                

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:

7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.
9. I tell my story of surviving (so far) in Amsterdam/ with ME.
10. The directory on my site about ME.



See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources
The last has many files, all on my site to keep them accessible.
 


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