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Re: [xmca] about emotions

Thomas Scheff
makes a good case that guilt is among the basic emotions, Jay.


Jay Lemke wrote:
Achilles, and friends --

I am not sure of the best interpretation of LSV's position on these matters, but it seems to me to be in the spirit of his work and the later CHAT tradition that we imagine a culturally informed "development" (probably with phylogenetic antecedents) in which the "higher" functions develop out of the earlier ones by a progessive layering or refinement, specialization, and differentiation -- both for higher feelings as well as higher cognitions.

Indeed I don't think we want to separate affect and cognition, or feeling and meaning, emotion and reason, too much. A little distinction is useful to give us purchase on understanding their integration. I would assume that in the developmental and evolutionary sequence, these two aspects of our adaptive operating-with-the-world, are initially less separable and less distinguishable, aspects of a single functional process. And that later in the sequence we LEARN to MAKE a distinction, and perhaps even to FEEL a difference between them.

But it is their functional integration which is of the greatest importance, not their difference (in my opinion). So to the higher mental functions viewed cognitively (and it is not at all clear that LSV did view them ONLY cognitively in our modern sense) there must correspond also "higher feelings", what we might call culturally refined or culturally differentiated and functionally specialized feelings, which function as part of the whole engagement in activity that enables us to sometimes get a bit ahead of our semi-predictable environments. Insight. Intuition. A feeling for the organism. Good hunches. Good judgment. A nose for useful lines of research. And so on.

Of course once we are immersed in a complex world of highly culturally differentiated feelings, we realize that their functions are not simply practical, not simply dictated by evolutionary fitness. Or at least not in very obvious ways. And so I have taken to making a heuristic distinction of my own in terminology among emotions (the more classical ones, triggered by environmental events, with obvious adaptive significance, like those listed by Darwin and borrowed by James, such as fear, anger, disgust, desire, etc.), affects (which I use to mean the "higher" feelings, the more culturally specific and "refined" ones, like feeling noble or feeling guilty), and feelings as such (the general category, of which emotions and affects are subclasses, and which also includes the more auto-perceptual feelings like feeling tired or feeling dizzy).

Again it is not so much the distinctions here that I value theoretically, but getting a sense of the scope of the whole domain of feelings, and how to make sense of any particular feeling-type within it. (Distinguishing again between the uniqueness of a particular feeling on a particular occasion and the more generic feeling-types recognized or recognizable culturally across instances.)

Whew!  A lot to chew on ...


Jay Lemke
Professor (Adjunct, 2009-2010)
Educational Studies
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Visiting Scholar
Laboratory for Comparative Human Communication
University of California -- San Diego
La Jolla, CA
USA 92093

On Nov 27, 2009, at 10:45 PM, Achilles Delari Junior wrote:


Thank you very much.

Something near to this distinction between feelings and emotions
was posed by William James too, according Vygotsky, but James
saw this distinction in terms that these social dimension of affective
world, the higher feelings, have almost nothing related to biological,
physiological, material, body, conditions. And Vygotsky criticizes
this like a way of dualistic thinking - this dualism can be understood
as based in ideological motivations too: "the human is not an animal,
nor a material been, but a divine been, in his higher, superior feelings..."

A distinction between feelings and emotions is present in Damasio too
in neurofunctional terms... But Vygotsky proposed the question of
a systemic inter-relationship in that the lower can turns higher, and
vice versa... I don't know what we can thing about this... In this
case, distinction between feelings and emotions are useful, but if
we want to understand the entire human been, his/her whole personality,
the integration and inter-functional relations between feelings and
emotions turns relevant too, In my point of view.

Best wishes.

From: jaylemke@umich.edu
To: lchcmike@gmail.com; xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
Subject: Re: [xmca] about emotions
Date: Fri, 27 Nov 2009 19:28:26 -0800

I am certainly one of those people interested in emotion, or feeling,
or affect, or whatever we choose to make of the phenomenon.

The topic seems to have historically accumulated a lot of ideological
baggage. And while its expression may be more sophisticated today than
in times past, there doesn't seem to be that much less of it (as for
example in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy review noted by
someone earlier).

Emotion tends to be seen as bad in our philosophical tradition. As the
enemy of reason, the motor of self-deception, etc. It links us to the
animals, to our "baser" nature, etc. A bit of this in the pagan
tradition, a lot of it in christian asceticism, and tons of it in
Enlightenment rationalism and its successors.

Emotions are also associated with the unreliable feminine vs. the cool
and collected masculine, with the passions of the mob vs. the
thoughtful elite, with peasants, workers, and children, and pretty
much every social category whose oppression needs some legitimation.
Indeed one of the near universal legitimations of elite power is "we
know what's good for you", not just because of what we know, but
because you can't be trusted to see your own best interests through
the haze of your emotions.

Useful as this is to elite interests, it combines further with the
cult of individualism to make emotions a purely individual, mental,
subjective matter. Non-material, non-social, non-cultural, and
universal (the easier to apply the stigma of emotionality to non-
European cultures). It is rather hard to crawl out of this pit of mud.

As I've been trying to do for the last year or two. There would be too
much to say for a short post on this list, but here are a few basic

Feeling is a broad enough category to get back to the phenomenology of
affect/emotion, whereas "emotion" is too narrowly defined within the
tradition of animal-like and universal.

There are a LOT of different feelings, and that is more important than
efforts to identify some small number of basic emotions.

Many feelings are associated with evaluative judgments and this may be
a key link to re-unify affective and cognitive.

Feelings do differ significantly across cultures, and are part of a
larger system of meanings-and-feelings specific to a community.

You can't make meanings across any longer term process of reasoning
without feelings and evaluative judgments.

It is likely that feelings have histories, both in cultures and in

Feelings are often reliable guides to survival, to adaptive action,
and to finding ways to meet our needs.

Feelings are just as situated and distributed as are cognitions. And
just as active and actively made and produced.

In short -- pretty much everything in our dominant tradition about
emotions and feelings is exactly wrong -- and for the worst possible
ideological-political reasons, I believe.


Jay Lemke
Professor (Adjunct, 2009-2010)
Educational Studies
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Visiting Scholar
Laboratory for Comparative Human Communication
University of California -- San Diego
La Jolla, CA
USA 92093

On Nov 26, 2009, at 8:08 AM, mike cole wrote:

With so much interest in achieving an integrated understanding of
cognition, and development, Achilles, your focus on this topic is a
reminder of its continued importance.

Seems like one of those many areas in psychological research where
we cannot
keep from murdering to dissect.
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