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[Xmca-l] Re: Questioning universal core emotions

You are very confused, David. My apologies for any contribution I have made to that. Firstly, tinnitus. Tinnitus is a condition of the audial nerves and although it can be acute and transitory, the case I have is permanent. My audial nerves are always in this condition. This is a physiological fact. But my consciousness of it, including my feeling of it and even the sensation of ringing in the ears is dependent on other aspects of my consciousness, i.e., my attention. Consciousness is different and distinct from physiological conditions. I cannot abolish the ringing. It is always there, but I can ignore it so that it does not exist /within my consciousness/. This is, I know, something which the advocates of "embedded consciousness" and "thoroughgoing materialism" and all the enemies of "Cartesianism" deny. But I experience it every day.

Secondly, torture. Torture is /an activity/ in which one or a number of people engage when they purposively inflict pain on another person. This usually involves inflicting physiological effects on the subject. These are facts, objective existences, which cannot be overcome by interpretation, either of the subject or paricipants, or by George Bush or right-wing journalists. But the consciousness arising from this activity in both subject and torturer is dependent on their overall psychological condition, their consciousness. As Franz Fanon has shown it is often the torturer who goes insane and the subject who flourishes. But I am sure in all case, the subject experiences sensations of pain (unlike my experience with tinnitus). But this will have /very different qualities/ according to how it is interpreted. I am sure that living there in Korea you have had plenty of opportunity to observe how the experience of pain can be "overcome" and under appropriate conditions, and up to a point, even be enjoyable. If you are not a martial arts practicioner, just have a good stretch for example.

The point is that consciousness arises from the activity of the subject, not physiology as such, even if this distinction is often immaterial. That is why Marx said, in the very first words of "marxism": "The main defect of all hitherto-existing materialism - that of Feuerbach included - is that the Object, actuality, sensuousness, are conceived only in the form of the object, or of contemplation, but not as human sensuous activity, practice, not subjectively. Hence it happened that the active side, in opposition to materialism, was developed by idealism - but only abstractly, since, of course, idealism does not know real, sensuous activity as such. " and it is in that sense, that I am happy to wear the label of "idealist."

*Andy Blunden*

David Kellogg wrote:

Sorry--I'm not following. You are saying that your tintinnatus only exists when you are interpreting it, yes? And the same thing goes for, say, Smetana's tintinnatus, which appears, without his knowledge, in many of his operas and which eventually drove him mad?

What about torture? You are arguing that torture only exists when we interpret it as torture? I can tell you--from some first hand observations made in the early eighties--that it ain't so.

David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

On 7 May 2014 10:35, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

    David, I have tinnitus. That is, 24/7 there is a ringing in my
    ear. You could ask me any moment if it is there and I would have
    to confirm, I hear it. (I hear it now, as I write). But 99.99% of
    the time "it does not exist for me." Obviously what is happening
    on my auditory nerves is the same all the time, but according to
    whether my attention is on it, it exists or doesn't, for me.
    (Thank Christ! Some people find it hard to ignore and go into
    therapy to learn how to ignore it).
    You call that idealism? OK. Then I am happy to wear the label.

    And on the matter of emotion and feeling. I was just following
    Manfred Holodynski's usage of these terms.
    Admittedly, different writers use "feeling" and "emotion" in
    opposite senses. "Expression" is something else again.
    *Andy Blunden*
    http://home.mira.net/~andy/ <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy/>

    David Kellogg wrote:

        I think that Barrett is taking an easy pot-shot at the founding
        fathers--Titchener, James, and Wundt--who believed in six
        irreducible emotions and who set out to isolate them in
        laboratories and
        describe them in minute detail. But as Mike says, I think the
        problem is
        methodological, or even definitional.

        And to me the real problem is not the word "sensation", or
        "feeling", or
        "emotion". I am perfectly willing to accept that for example
        pain is a
        biological universal (something we share with other species,
        in fact), and
        that "sensation" is somewhat less so, at least biologically
        (although I
        think Andy's idea that nothing remains when we abstract away the
        interpretation of sensation is almost chemically pure
        idealism, on a par
        with his statement that material reality is "what is given to
        us"). I agree
        with Elinami: there are higher emotions which are highly
        mediated by
        language (Elinami reminds me of this by including a snippet of
        Fet that I
        once translated into English at the bottom of her email, and
        when I read it
        I experience almost the exact feeling I had while translating
        it, including
        a certain dissatisfaction with the facile sing-song of the
        second line).
        But I am not at all sure that the fact of language mediation
        means that
        they are somehow more subjective and less universal.

        For most people, as soon as we say something is mediated by
        language, this
        implies that it cannot be universal. For example, even I find
        shaking my head when I read that Barrett and her group went
        through several
        translators in the course of their fieldwork. If you are using a
        translator, and you are doing linguistic research, in what
        sense are you
        doing fieldwork? (I know, in the sense that you are in the
        field and you
        can tell what people are feeling by their intonation--but of
        course that's
        exactly what this fieldwork is trying to disprove!)

        Vygotsky says (in Lecture Number Two of his "Lectures on
        Pedology", which
        we are currently translating) that what distinguishes speech
        from every
        other sound in nature is signifying. That seems rather banal
        until you put
        it in context. We know that children often assume that animals
        that make
        noises are "talking" to each other, and even Binet and Ribot
        believed that
        if somehow we knew the grammar and vocabulary then we could do
        as Doctor
        Doolittle did (or perhaps do as Doctor Ouch did in Chukovsky's
        version of
        the story for Russian children) and "talk to the animals".

        It wasn't until Wittgenstein that anybody made the point that
        if a lion
        could talk we would simply not be able to understand it,
        because we would
        not be able to grasp the experiences to which the lion's
        speech referred
        (e.g. when the lion refers to your or me, his "meaning"
        probably includes
        an attractive meaty odor). One of the less pleasant features
        of the
        domestic life of the lion is that after giving birth to cubs,
        the lioness
        has to keep the the male lion from devouring the cubs. We may
        share pain
        with lions, but we do not share emotions.

        For Vygotsky--who was working in the great tradition of
        Spinoza and
        Vico--the fact of signifying did not mean that language was
        "subjective" and thus not even potentially universal. Quite
        the contrary. I
        think that for Vygotsky signifying is even more objective
        than, say,
        seeing. This isn't simply because unlike seeing (and unlike pain),
        signifying MUST be shared. As Halliday says, what
        distinguishes language as
        language is that language does not contain the conditions for
        its own
        understanding; unlike a scream of pain or a giggle of laughter
        or a sob of
        unhappiness, the social relations by which language functions
        as language
        are quite external to it, like money (what makes gold a metal
        is in the
        gold, but what makes gold money is not, as we can clearly see
        in the
        example of paper money).

        To me, what this suggests is that higher emotions are not,
        less universal than lower ones. On the contrary--as the
        example of Himba
        ancestor worship indicates--it suggests that higher emotions
        are actually
        more universal, precisely because they are intrinsically
        sharable. It seems
        that all human cultures treat ancestors as important in some
        way (and no
        lions do; lionesses also have to guard against hungry
        grandmothers). So I
        think reverence for ancestors, like language, may be a
        precondition for
        culture. Together with language, it is rather like the other great
        bifurcations in phylogenesis: inanimate-animate, vegetable-animal,
        nonarticulate animal-articulate animal. Each great bifurcation
        is messy,
        non-empirical, but ultimately quite universal as far as the branch
        concerned goes in time and in space. It is, of course, true
        that there is
        no universal language, but that is simply our way of ensuring
        that language
        is universally human.

        David Kellogg
        Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

        On 7 May 2014 07:15, Greg Thompson <greg.a.thompson@gmail.com
        <mailto:greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>> wrote:

            and speaking to my previous point about problems with
            methods for studying
            this kind of thing, consider the following from the Psy
            Science piece that
            Mike forwarded:

            "Himba participants appeared to have a cultural tendency
            to describe
            vocalizations in behavioral terms initially; that is, on
            most trials, they
            first identified the action instead of making a
            mental-state inference….
            For example, instead of describing a vocalization as
            fearful, they often
            used a term that translates to 'scream.'" (p. 913).



            On Tue, May 6, 2014 at 3:03 PM, mike cole
            <lchcmike@gmail.com <mailto:lchcmike@gmail.com>> wrote:

                Hi Ed.

                I started the trouble here by posting the following
                story which purported
                to report on the work of Lisa Barrett.

                That post started a discussion that began with
                methodology and appears to
                have morphed into personal views of the matter.

                I promised in the original post to find the article
                referred to in the
                story, but got caught up in other matters and let it
                go. I should have
                so BEFORE I posted the story, which was, in my view
                now, misleading with
                respect, at least, to this published paper. The paper
                in Emotion has not
                appeared so far as I can tell.

                Back to methodology?

                On Tue, May 6, 2014 at 1:19 PM, Ed Wall
                <ewall@umich.edu <mailto:ewall@umich.edu>> wrote:

                    Perhaps of interest is Amelie Rorty's edited
                    volume Explaining
                    In any case, emotion is a large category as is

                    In any case, I admit to some confusion. Is the
                    ongoing conversation
                    'expressing' emotion or about 'feellng' or,
                    perhaps, 'experiencing'
                    Ed Wall

                    On May 6, 2014, at  2:28 PM, Elinami Swai wrote:

                        I believe that pain, just like feeling is
                        universal. But I also
                        believe that emotion (which we can also call
                        expression) is learned
                        and thus may differ from one individual to
                        another. We make
                        interpretations of emotion and expression from
                        our own points of
                        On 5/6/14, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net
                        <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:
                            David, although I am sure that sensations
                            cannot be taken as
                            either, since it is unlikely that there is
                            anything remaining after
                            interprettion of the "sensation" is
                            abstracted. However, it is
                            nonetheless a different claim to say that
                            human sensation is not
                            universal, as to say human emotion (by
                            which is meant I think
                            is not universal. Let's suppose all are
                            experiencing pain: they are
                            clearly feeling different about it.

                            Or was that your point?


                            *Andy Blunden*

                            David Kellogg wrote:
                                Suppose I put together a set of
                                pictures of people undergoing
                                which some people appeared to be
                                experiencing the torture
                                with resignation, still others with
                                agony, and some with something
                                appears to be laughter.

                                I think I could probably crop the
                                photographs and pose questions in
                                way that I could very convincingly
                                demonstrate that pain is not a
                                human sensation. Not only that, I
                                could probably put together a
                                exercise that would come to the same

                                David Kellogg
                                Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

                                On 5 May 2014 01:24, Greg Thompson
                                    I have a colleague down the hall,
                                    David Crandall, that has been
                                    among the Himba for almost 30
                                    years. I also have three students
                                    do research among the Himba in a
                                    month. So I've been picking up
                                    interesting details about the Himba.

                                    It seems like it is true that they
                                    have increasingly had contact
                                    Western culture, as evidenced by
                                    recent protests in some of the
                                    cities that were staged by Himba
                                    opposed to the building of a dam
                                    would cause flooding of some of
                                    the burial sites of their

                                    At the same time, they are
                                    non-numerate people that lack some of
                                    Western institutions where kids
                                    learn (oddly enough) about
                                    (think of those pictures of happy
                                    and sad faces that Western
                                    takes into the classroom as the
                                    MEANS by which they teach
            literacy -
                                    means of teaching literacy always
                                    entail certain cultural ends -
                                    "emotion" - concepts that are not
                                    emic concepts).

                                    Among the western institutions
                                    that the Himba lack, the Himba lack
                                    Western model of schooling (one of
                                    my students is doing research
                                    very issue). It is only in the
                                    last 15 years or so that Himba have
                                    sending their children to school,
                                    and now only in small numbers.
                                    are very skeptical of schools
                                    since, in their opinion, the schools
                                    teach their children anything
                                    worthwhile. Knowing how to count is
                                    unimportant to them since although
                                    they are non-numerate they are
                                    keep track of large herds of
                                    cattle because they know each of
                                    individually and can recognize
                                    when one is missing. But what
                                    are things like knowing how to
                                    properly honor one's ancestors. If
                                    to do that properly, then then
                                    ancestors will cause bad things to
                                    oneself. That is much more
                                    important than knowing how to count.

                                    Carol, I also agree with your
                                    concerns with the methodology of the
                                    it may not be reasonable to assume
                                    that this research is the same
                                    Ekman tasks and of-course it is a
                                    Western-type task (but one might
                                    that it is less so than the Ekman
                                    tasks since it is more open,

                                    So Carol, I wonder what
                                    conclusions you would draw from your
                                    emotions universal?
                                    I wonder if there is a further
                                    possibility that these
                                    missing. Is it possible that
                                    "emotions" are not universal in
            quite a
                                    different sense? Perhaps that the
                                    very category of "emotion" is

                                    I think this research points in
                                    that direction - when viewing a
                                    a face, people do not necessarily
                                    assume that the person in the
                                    "emoting". I assume that this
                                    would be true among Westerners as
                                    that possibility doesn't present
                                    itself in the research
                                    Westerners are asked "what emotion
                                    is this?" The task is already
                                    the domain called "emotion" (with
                                    which they are already very
                                    Anthropologists have done great
                                    work to show the problems with
                                    Western defined domains into
                                    non-Western contexts (e.g. the domain
                                    "kinship" - David Schneider, the
                                    domain of "color" - John Lucy).
                                    argument is that even though this
                                    research turns up results that
                                    suggest that the domains are real
                                    even in non-Western contexts,
                                    findings are plagued by the fact
                                    that they assume these domains
                                    these non-Western subjects into
                                    choosing within the pre-defined
                                    But then again, perhaps "emotion"
                                    is a universal category?

                                    On Sun, May 4, 2014 at 7:55 AM,
                                    Carol Macdonald <
                    carolmacdon@gmail.com <mailto:carolmacdon@gmail.com>

                                        Well Mike

                                        I am here working in Namibia
                                        for the year, and I would like to
                                        these Himba people are.  I
                                        mean the ones referred to in the
                                        not sure they are *so
                                        *isolated - they are well
                                        recognised as one
                                        language groups.  And I think
                                        there is also an elephant in the
                                        This is a western-type task,
                                        and Luria would have been quick to

                                        out. What makes this woman
                                        think that this task would be the

                                        the others.

                                        Just a couple of basic
                                        principles to cast a small
                                        aspersion on


                                        On 4 May 2014 14:16, mike cole

                                            Perhaps of interest

                                        Carol A  Macdonald Ph D (Edin)
                                        Developmental psycholinguist
                                        Academic, Researcher,  and Editor
                                        Honorary Research Fellow:
                                        Department of Linguistics, Unisa

                                    Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
                                    Assistant Professor
                                    Department of Anthropology
                                    883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
                                    Brigham Young University
                                    Provo, UT 84602

                        Dr. Elinami Swai
                        Senior Lecturer
                        Associate Dean
                        Coordinator, Postgraduate Studies
                        Faculty of Education
                        Open University of Tanzania
                        P.O.Box 23409
                        Cell: (255) 076-722-8353; (255) 068-722-8353

                               ...this faith will still deliver
                               If you live it first to last
                               Not everything which blooms must
                               Not all that was is past

            Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
            Assistant Professor
            Department of Anthropology
            883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
            Brigham Young University
            Provo, UT 84602