Re: [xmca] Emotion at Work

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Sat Jul 28 2007 - 07:17:45 PDT

These are difficult questions, aren't the, Michael?
I have always found the mathematical meaning of moment quite a good handle
on what moment means philosophically. So the moment is some kind of
abstraction from the concept, or "unit of analysis," which as you say, is
not thinkable separately from what it is an aspect or moment of. So, yes, I
do agree with you in your original formulation of this, that you can't
talk of a moment or aspect of a thing being a cause of the thing or of
another of its aspects. You can talk of the relations between these
'moments' but they cannot be causal I think. All activities have emotional
content, experienced as feelings.

I still want to hear your response to what is, to me, the most serious
issue I raised with your article, that you don't seem to count material
culture, i.e., artefacts, as having any role in the emotional colour of
experience. I think this is a serious omission. A poignant piece of music,
a name which summons up a traditional story we all know, the face of a
well-known politician, words like "injustice" or "power", the national
flag, or the tones of the Internationale, etc., etc., etc., not to mention
Linus's blanket, our mother's breast (according to the Freudians) - is it
not true that every feeling is associated with elements of material culture
which are the means through which these feeling are passed down the
generations, shared amongst people, and therefore summoned up to be shared
in activity?


At 05:53 AM 28/07/2007 -0700, you wrote:
>Hi Andy,
>one of the problem in much writing about activity theory is that
>activity is said to be the smallest unit and then people report about
>its ELEMENTS (subject, object, tools, . . .) ???? How can this be?
>Isn't element a smallest unit?
>So those who think/write/talk dialectically use the term "moment,"
>which is one of the way in which the unit expresses itself but in one-
>sided form. Each moment, therefore, is constitutive of and
>constituted by other moments. A moment cannot exist on its own. This
>"moment" therefore is not an indication of time but one of the ways
>in which a unit expresses itself, but which cannot be taken as a
>"building block" of the unit because it is nothing in and of itself.
>On 28-Jul-07, at 1:59 AM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>? I don't quite follow you, Michael.
>"any moment cannot be the cause because there is a reflexive
>and by "moment" you mean what in this context?? is "emotion" a moment?
>And cause are always also effects and vice versa, and of course there
>is always a circle of causes and ultimately reciprocity. Thus
>actuality. But the "unit of analysis" step out of that circle. The
>concept of unit of analysis is not, in my view, recognition of
>reciprocity, but rather a way out, a negation, of the infinite circle
>of causality.
>Are you saying that emotions are in a relation of reciprocity with
>other "moments"??
>At 09:55 PM 27/07/2007 -0700, you wrote:
>>Hi Steve, irreducible means that any moment----which cannot be
>>elements because the activity system is the smallest analyzable
>>unit---is constituted by all other moments. So it cannot be the
>>cause, because there is a reflexive relationship. In such a
>>relationship you cannot claim one moment to be the cause of another,
>>because the same is true the other way around. So common causal
>>reasoning doesn't work. This is exactly where I see so many Anglo-
>>Saxon scholars wrestle with, or not even recognize the trouble they
>>are having....
>>PS: Sometimes I use the analogy to coupled differential equations
>>that cannot be separated into independent equation because they share
>>parameters, so that changes in one presuppose and entail changes in
>>another. (See also the dynamical hypotheses in cognitive science, van
>>Gelder and the likes)
>>On 27-Jul-07, at 7:13 PM, Steve Gabosch wrote:
>>Hi Andy. I have a couple questions from your posts.
>>My first question is about the quote from page 58 in Michael's
>>article, which you agree with. "Because emotions are an irreducible
>>aspect of activity, they cannot be claimed to be the cause of other
>>aspects of the activity." (p. 58) I haven't been able to decipher
>>this particular passage - it just plain puzzles me. Perhaps you
>>could explain it. I don't get why being an irreducible aspect of
>>activity means emotions cannot be claimed to be the cause of other
>>aspects of activity. I just may be missing something.
>>My second question is about your reference to Damasio. What is your
>>take on his distinction between emotions and feelings? Below is a
>>Scientific American interview in April 2005 that asks Damasio his
>>thoughts on this.
>>- Steve
>>Scientific American Mind
>>April 2005 Issue
>>Feeling Our Emotions
>>According to noted neurologist Antonio R. Damasio, joy or sorrow can
>>emerge only after the brain registers physical changes in the body
>>For centuries, the fleeting and highly subjective world of feelings
>>was the purview of philosophers. But during the past 30 years,
>>Antonio R. Damasio has strived to show that feelings are what arise
>>as the brain interprets emotions, which are themselves purely
>>physical signals of the body reacting to external stimuli.
>>Born in 1944 in Lisbon, Portugal, Damasio has been chair of the
>>University of Iowa's neurology department since 1986. He and his
>>wife, neurologist Hanna Damasio, have created one of the world's
>>largest databases of brain injuries, comprising hundreds of studies
>>of brain lesions and diagnostic images. As profound as some of the
>>damage is to Antonio Damasio's patients, all of it informs his
>>understanding of how emotions and feelings arise and how they can
>>affect mental illness.
>>In recent years, Damasio has become increasingly interested in the
>>role emotions play in our decision-making processes and in our
>>self- image. In several widely popular books, he has shown how certain
>>feelings are cornerstones of our survival. And today he argues that
>>our internal, emotional regulatory processes not only preserve our
>>lives but actually shape our greatest cultural accomplishments. --
>>Interview by Manuela Lenzen
>>MIND: Professor Damasio, why are you so fascinated by the nature of
>>human emotion?
>>Antonio R. Damasio: At first I was interested in all types of
>>neurological injuries. If one area of the brain would lose its
>>ability to function, the patient's behavior could change either
>>dramatically or only subtly. One day I asked myself, What is missing
>>in a person who can pass an intelligence test with flying colors but
>>can't even organize his own life? Such patients can hold their own in
>>completely rational arguments but fail, for example, to avoid a
>>situation involving unnecessary risk. These kinds of problems mainly
>>occur after an injury to the forebrain. As our tests prove, the
>>result is a lack of normal emotional reactions. I continue to be
>>fascinated by the fact that feelings are not just the shady side of
>>reason but that they help us to reach decisions as well.
>>MIND: You differentiate between feelings and emotions. How so?
>>Damasio: In everyday language we often use the terms interchangeably.
>>This shows how closely connected emotions are with feelings. But for
>>neuroscience, emotions are more or less the complex reactions the
>>body has to certain stimuli. When we are afraid of something, our
>>hearts begin to race, our mouths become dry, our skin turns pale and
>>our muscles contract. This emotional reaction occurs automatically
>>and unconsciously. Feelings occur after we become aware in our brain
>>of such physical changes; only then do we experience the feeling of
>>MIND: So, then, feelings are formed by emotions?
>>Damasio: Yes. The brain is constantly receiving signals from the
>>body, registering what is going on inside of us. It then processes
>>the signals in neural maps, which it then compiles in the so-called
>>somatosensory centers. Feelings occur when the maps are read and it
>>becomes apparent that emotional changes have been recorded--as
>>snapshots of our physical state, so to speak.
>>MIND: According to your definition, all feelings have their origin in
>>the physical. Is that really the case?
>>Damasio: Interestingly enough, not all feelings result from the
>>body's reaction to external stimuli. Sometimes changes are purely
>>simulated in the brain maps. For example, when we feel sympathy for a
>>sick person, we re-create that person's pain to a certain degree
>>internally. Also, the mapping of our physical state is never
>>completely exact. Extreme stress or extreme fear and even physical
>>pain can be dismissed; the brain ignores the physical signals that
>>are transmitting the pain stimulus.
>>MIND: The differentiation between emotions and feelings brings to
>>mind 17th-century philosopher Rene Descartes' idea of dualism--that
>>the body and mind represent autonomous systems. But you reject that
>>idea, as you explain in your book Descartes' Error. How should we see
>>the relationship between mind and body?
>>Damasio: To me, body and mind are different aspects of specific
>>biological processes. Philosopher Baruch Spinoza supported views
>>similar to mine, regarding the body and soul question, shortly after
>>Descartes' time. In his Ethics he wrote: "The object of the idea
>>which constitutes the human mind is body." Spinoza thereby
>>anticipated the findings of modern neurobiology.
>>MIND: Indeed, in your latest book, Looking for Spinoza, you describe
>>the man as "a mental immunologist developing a vaccine capable of
>>creating antipassion antibodies." So is only a life free of passions
>>a good life?
>>Damasio: Spinoza fascinates me not only because he was ahead of his
>>time with his ideas on biology but also for the conclusions he drew
>>from these ideas about the correct way to live life and set up a
>>society. Spinoza was a very life-affirming thinker. He recommended
>>contrasting the negative emotions such as sadness and fear with joy,
>>for example. He understood this kind of practice as a way to reach an
>>inner peace and stoic equanimity.
>>MIND: What are some of the other functions that feelings have, in
>>addition to helping us make decisions?
>>Damasio: My interest now extends way past the question of decision
>>making. In our lab, we are working more intensely with social
>>feelings such as sympathy, shame or pride--they form a foundation for
>>morality. Neurobiol-ogy doesn't simply help us to better understand
>>human nature but also the rules of social interaction. Yet to really
>>grasp this, we need a broader research approach: along with cognitive
>>and neurological sciences, many of the humanities could contribute,
>>especially anthropology and sociology.
>>MIND: It seems your research also extends into defining
>>consciousness. What role do emotions play? What role does the body
>>Damasio: Consciousness, much like our feelings, is based on a
>>representation of the body and how it changes when reacting to
>>certain stimuli. Self-image would be unthinkable without this
>>representation. I think humans have developed a self-image mainly to
>>establish a homeostatic organism. The brain constantly needs up-to-
>>date information on the body's state to regulate all the processes
>>that keep it alive. This is the only way an organism can survive in
>>an ever changing environment. Emotions alone--without conscious
>>feelings--would not be enough. Adults would be as helpless as babies
>>if they suddenly lost their self-image.
>>MIND: Animals also must possess consciousness, then?
>>Damasio: I do believe that animals develop a very basic self- concept--
>>what I refer to as "core self." But to have a broader
>>self, such as
>>we do, requires an autobiographical memory.
>>MIND: Do you believe that we will someday be able to create
>>artificial consciousness and feelings?
>>Damasio: An organism can possess feelings only when it can create a
>>representation of the body's functions and the related changes that
>>occur in the brain. In this way, the organism can perceive them.
>>Without this mechanism there would be no consciousness. It is unclear
>>that this could ever develop in a machine or whether we really want
>>machines with feelings.
>>MIND: Will research on emotions help lead to better forms of therapy
>>for psychiatric illnesses?
>>Damasio: Without question. Emotional disorders form the core of most
>>psychological illnesses--a good example of this is depression.
>>Specific treatments will be developed in the future, such as new
>>types of medicine that target distinct cellular and molecular
>>systems. Other forms of therapy are also sure to benefit, from
>>traditional psychotherapy to social intervention.
>>Manuela Lenzen is a philosopher and writer in Bielefeld, Germany.
>><end of article>
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Received on Sat Jul 28 07:19 PDT 2007

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