There is a unique and binding property of emotional life that is quite poorly captured by neuroscientific reductionism to organic chemistry, to pure blind mechanism. While it might be true that we can correlate emotional experience with chemical and electrical facts, it is also true that beyond quite limited chemical or behavioural influence, these facts do not assist any individual one of us as much as they provide energy and momentum to the self-propagating information system that is science and corporate medicine. Nietzsche once wrote that knowledge of metaphysical reality is likely to be about as useful to us as knowledge of the chemical composition of water would be to a boatman facing a storm. Knowledge of the neural correlates of emotion is really very similar. We live them before we know them. It is an existential problem.

2 replies on “Emotion”

I remember, Nimzovich, the Russian chess master, said that chess masters use their emotions as high-speed calculators to rapidly sum up the positions on the board, in terms of good or bad. I think that might also apply to other situations besides merely chess. Daniel Kahneman wrote a book about fast thinking and slow thinking. He asserted that we all have and use both kinds of thinking. Fast thinking involves speedy judgments and fuzzy approximations that are good enough to allow you to respond in emergencies. Slow thinking is analytical, methodical, and systematic. You were right to point out that emotions involve more than our chemical/hormonal responses; they also involve cerebral processes and patterns that trigger those chemical/hormonal responses IMHO. Nice post.

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