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Meaning of the newborn cry

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If there is no innate ideas, and if emotions derives from the ideas, why the newborn cry ?

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This is from Emotions in the Ayn Rand Lexicon

Just as the pleasure-pain mechanism of man’s body is an automatic indicator of his body’s welfare or injury, a barometer of its basic alternative, life or death—so the emotional mechanism of man’s consciousness is geared to perform the same function, as a barometer that registers the same alternative by means of two basic emotions: joy or suffering. Emotions are the automatic results of man’s value judgments integrated by his subconscious; emotions are estimates of that which furthers man’s values or threatens them, that which is for him or against him—lightning calculators giving him the sum of his profit or loss.

But while the standard of value operating the physical pleasure-pain mechanism of man’s body is automatic and innate, determined by the nature of his body—the standard of value operating his emotional mechanism, is not. Since man has no automatic knowledge, he can have no automatic values; since he has no innate ideas, he can have no innate value judgments.

Man is born with an emotional mechanism, just as he is born with a cognitive mechanism; but, at birth, both are “tabula rasa.” It is man’s cognitive faculty, his mind, that determines the content of both. Man’s emotional mechanism is like an electronic computer, which his mind has to program—and the programming consists of the values his mind chooses.

But since the work of man’s mind is not automatic, his values, like all his premises, are the product either of his thinking or of his evasions: man chooses his values by a conscious process of thought—or accepts them by default, by subconscious associations, on faith, on someone’s authority, by some form of social osmosis or blind imitation. Emotions are produced by man’s premises, held consciously or subconsciously, explicitly or implicitly.

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And this is from Values

Now in what manner does a human being discover the concept of “value”? By what means does he first become aware of the issue of “good or evil” in its simplest form? By means of the physical sensations of pleasure or pain. Just as sensations are the first step of the development of a human consciousness in the realm of cognition, so they are its first step in the realm of evaluation.

The capacity to experience pleasure or pain is innate in a man’s body; it is part of his nature, part of the kind of entity he is. He has no choice about it, and he has no choice about the standard that determines what will make him experience the physical sensation of pleasure or of pain. What is that standard? His life.

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I've read already this. How does it answer the question according to you? You mean that the newborn cry because of physical pain, not emotion ?

Edited by gio

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26 minutes ago, gio said:

I've read already this. How does it answer the question according to you? You mean that the newborn cry because of physical pain, not emotion ?

A child cries because he's "hungry".  But the concept of "hungry" is not yet fully developed as it will one day become.  As an adult, you may feel hunger pains and realize that it's time to eat, or that you will have to wait awhile until you get home, or that you are on a diet, etc.  All an infant really can be said to know is that it feels pain.  it's also a valuable means of alerting that something is "wrong" to adults, care providers, etc.  The child will slowly over time come to learn to associate feeding with pleasure or, in the least, the lack of pain.  And some children can be born with the inability to feel pain.  This can be deadly.

It necessary to differentiate between emotions discussed in the domains of philosophy, psychology and neurology/physiology.  I do tend to think that people interpret Rand's philosophical /epistemological view of emotions as equivalent to psychology/neurology/physiology - and this would be wrong.  The role emotions play is far more complex than presented in the above extracts.  I'd be happy to explore this if you want.  It is an interesting topic.

Edited by New Buddha

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1 hour ago, gio said:

I've read already this. How does it answer the question according to you? You mean that the newborn cry because of physical pain, not emotion ?

Do you have an example of an emotion is a newborn capable of? I'm trying to understand what you have in mind?

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2 hours ago, gio said:

If there is no innate ideas, and if emotions derives from the ideas, why the newborn cry ?

After spending some hundreds of hours (not thousands, so I'm not an expert) studying biology and evolution, I think it's very safe to say that humans are not born 100% tabula rasa. Evolution, in order to make us live at a young age, had to write into the hardware how we should act and feel at a young age. It's not a conscious choice made by the neo-cortex to take the first breath and to scream. The neo-cortex has hardly been developed. The same goes for later stages, I'd say 100% of the value judgement in a kid is handed down from the genes. And it is value judgement, the young person is judging if something is of benefit or is harmful.

While it might sound academic and nice to say that rational judgement precedes emotions, I think it's very safe to say that in reality it's a complete tangled mess. For programmers; it's the worst spaghetti code you can imagine. Reality is messy, very messy, and so are the internal workings of humans. Evolution didn't intelligently design us, it just took small steps here and there to improve us.

As a kid grows, and I'm sure you can see from your own life, the kid take more and more responsibility for thoughts and actions. When this is done, value judgement becomes more of an issue, and the model that Rand is suggesting is becoming more and more accurate.

Evolution, to make us live, had to instill the desire to live, the desire to struggle and win, and it comes long before we're born. This is not a function of the intellect, you see it in all living beings. It's a function of life itself and comes down to how the DNA works with it's copying mechanism.

In general, I feel that many objectivists have not spent adequate time on evolution, DNA, biology, reproduction etc. Very many things in objectivism will come into a different light with knowledge of these things.

tldr; There are innate ideas, patterns in the brain and our nervous system, as well as values. These have been handed down by evolution to help us fight for our lives. Babies cry because they need assistance from parents if he or she shall have a chance to live.

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20 minutes ago, Mindborg said:

There are innate ideas, patterns in the brain and our nervous system, as well as values.

This is not an innate idea, that's an innate capacity. Tabula rasa just means, to Rand, no innate concepts or ideas. There is no mechanism to form ideas with genes. An -emotion- goes with some evaluation.

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1 minute ago, Eiuol said:

This is not an innate idea, that's an innate capacity. Tabula rasa just means, to Rand, no innate concepts or ideas. There is no mechanism to form ideas with genes. An -emotion- goes with some evaluation.

You definitely make me think here. Thank you for bringing it up, I'll need some time to think more.

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4 hours ago, Mindborg said:

Reality is messy, very messy, and so are the internal workings of humans. Evolution didn't intelligently design us, it just took small steps here and there to improve us.

You might find this interesting.  It's from the book I of the Vortex by Rodolfo Llinas. The messiness is not a bug, it's a feature!  The one [ ] is my add.

 

But is there something in principle quite different from the types of embodiments that we have in modern day computers and in the nervous system itself? That is a very serious and important question to ask. One may consider, as did Alan Turing (Turing 1947; Millican and Clark 1996), whether it is in principle possible to make a universal machine out of a digital type of device if the appropriate algorithms are implemented. Can algorithmic computation ever be sufficiently extensive, fast, and concise enough to implement the totality of properties that a 14-watt entity such as our brain can implement with 1.5 kilograms of mass? And what do we make of the intelligence of an ant that as a robot demonstrates incredible computational agility with mere milligrams of neuronal mass, a brain with less mass than a single microchip? The fundamental issue is that brains are nothing like digital computers; they operate as analog devices and thus utilize physics directly in their measurements, as opposed to the abstracted measures of zeros and ones that are cleansed of the elements that generated them. Is the computation of digital physical computers truly comparable to that performed by analog devices? It has been stated that for a digital computer to be able to support the equivalent computational properties (capabilities) of the brain, the mass required might be many orders of magnitude larger and the power supply equally as large.

There is another argument to consider in terms of the differences between brains and computers. Warren McCulloch wondered long ago how it was that reliability could arise from nonreliable systems (McCulloch 1965). The reader should know by now how unreliable nerve cells are as computational entities. First of all, they have intrinsic activity, and
thus as conveyors and relayers of information may be extremely noisy. McCulloch’s answer was rather intriguing: he felt that reliability could be attained if neurons were organized in parallel so that the ultimate message was the sum of activity of the neurons acting simultaneously. He further explained that a system where the elements were unreliable to the point that their unreliabilities were sufficiently different from one another would in principle be far more reliable than a system made out of totally reliable parts. Here, a reliable system [computer] is one with unreliability in each element as low as possible but still present. This may sound almost paradoxical, but in what is considered a reliable system, the elements are reliable to about the same extent. And even if this reliability is 99.99 percent, the problem is that the elements are also all the same in their unreliability, meaning that what is unreliable is common to all the elements. It therefore becomes an issue of probabilities. In such reliable or redundant systems then, whatever tiny problem or unreliability they do have will add up. In nonreliable systems, however, the elements are not redundant and are therefore slightly different in their unreliability. Because they are all slightly different in their unreliability, there will never be the possibility of this unreliability adding up! These unreliable systems are therefore far more reliable than reliable systems.  The upside of this is that in a system with elements of differing unreliabilities, what they have in common are the reliable aspects! This is fundamental. It means that for an instrument to be totally reliable it must ultimately be made up of unreliable—varied—parts!

Edited by New Buddha

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The way the long quote above works can be seen as this.

Suppose you are an audio engineer tasked with recording an acoustical guitar performance.  You might use two microphones - one for left and right channels - and each microphone records the entire spectrum of the sound frequency.

However, each ear in humans has 16,000 "microphones" each of which is only responsive to a very small frequency of the entire audible band.  This creates enormous redundancy and yet consumes very little power.

In the human ear (and the entire nervous system for that matter) the "hardware" is performing what "software" does in computers.  There is no computation or energy expenditure over and beyond the intrinsic neuronal activity that is constantly taking place anyway.  The ears are only being modulated by external stimuli.

Edited by New Buddha

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8 minutes ago, New Buddha said:

The messiness is not a bug, it's a feature! 

I agree, it's a feature. But it's still a mess. No intelligent designer would make it like it is, it's a bunch of local optimums with no regard to global optimum.

 

11 minutes ago, New Buddha said:

  The upside of this is that in a system with elements of differing unreliabilities, what they have in common are the reliable aspects! This is fundamental. It means that for an instrument to be totally reliable it must ultimately be made up of unreliable—varied—parts!

Isn't this why we're all pro free market too? Let the messy individuals do as they please in trade, and the sum total of all this mess is a highly organized society?

And when the government is trying to force everyone to act in a certain manner, then the outcome becomes very unreliable.

 

Many of these principles that govern one part of reality is also applicable to things that seem unrelated. This is why it's so beneficial to think in terms of principles.

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Another long quote from the same book.

Coming back to the issue of sensory FAPs [Fixed Action Patterns], there is a concept that has been lurking in the halls of neuroscience about as long as that discipline has been around. It is the concept of “labeled lines,” and it may further help us theoretically remove the ghost in the machine once and for all. The concept of labeled lines states that sensory pathways of all sense modalities encode the specific properties of the world they convey by very specific firing patterns, and that each line or pathway only carries information of that specific modality. In literal terms, these specific patterns are the specific sense modality messages from the outside world. It makes intuitive sense that the perception of high frequency sound requires receptors that convert sound waves into neural energy. These are the hair cells of the auditory apparatus, which respond to high frequency sound with a correspondingly high rate of firing. Similarly, hair cells respond with a low rate of firing when presented with low-frequency sound. Pacinian corpuscles, receptors of the skin that respond to mechanical compression, fire their labeled line message of low frequency pulsing in response to light compression of the skin, and correspondingly higher frequencies of firing for increased mechanical compression. And so it is that the initial message carried by a given sensory pathway faithfully “labels” its outer world counterpart. This frequency coding property, and the fact that each sensory pathway only carries information about its specific sense modality, has led to the concept of labeled lines. But let us follow one of these labeled lines a little farther, right into the central nervous system. The high frequency firing of the auditory apparatus in response to sound of high frequency does not remain as such. As we follow this labeled line, the high frequency activity is translated into low frequency activity by the time it reaches its end point (auditory cortical neurons). This tells us something very important: it is not the code or message coming from the outside world that is being transmitted, but rather it is the neuronal element that responds to the message from the outside that is itself the message! It is the sensation born of an internally activated sensory FAP—one may justifiably say that the labeled line carries de facto the frequency because it fired!

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4 hours ago, Eiuol said:

This is not an innate idea, that's an innate capacity. Tabula rasa just means, to Rand, no innate concepts or ideas. There is no mechanism to form ideas with genes. An -emotion- goes with some evaluation.

After giving it some though, my answer is: I don't know.

I would have to see an experiment to verify of falsify this. I don't know how this experiment would be set up, but I do know that neuroscience have come quite far these days, and will go much further in the future.

I know that in computers there is no hard distinction between software and hardware. Almost anything done with one can be done with the other, with the difference that hardware is more expensive but faster.

I would not be surprised if it's possible for nature to do the same with us, that certain ideas and even concepts are so extremely useful that they actually become part of the hardware. I would actually be surprised if it's not like this.

As for concept formation in neo-cortex; I'm not an expert on these things, but I do know that I've been surprised by being wrong very many times. I'd love to see a study on it.

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13 minutes ago, Mindborg said:

Isn't this why we're all pro free market too? Let the messy individuals do as they please in trade, and the sum total of all this mess is a highly organized society?

Nassim Nicholas Taleb explores this idea too.  From wiki:

He criticized the risk management methods used by the finance industry and warned about financial crises, subsequently profiting from the late-2000s financial crisis.[5][6] He advocates what he calls a "black swan robust" society, meaning a society that can withstand difficult-to-predict events.[7] He proposes antifragility in systems, that is, an ability to benefit and grow from a certain class of random events, errors, and volatility[8] as well as "convex tinkering" as a method of scientific discovery, by which he means that decentralized experimentation outperforms directed research.[9]

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2 minutes ago, New Buddha said:

Nassim Nicholas Taleb explores this idea too.  From wiki:

 

Yeah, he's written quite a bit about it. Very good books, especially Antifragile.

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5 hours ago, Mindborg said:

After spending some hundreds of hours (not thousands, so I'm not an expert) studying biology and evolution, I think it's very safe to say that humans are not born 100% tabula rasa. Evolution, in order to make us live at a young age, had to write into the hardware how we should act and feel at a young age. It's not a conscious choice made by the neo-cortex to take the first breath and to scream. The neo-cortex has hardly been developed. The same goes for later stages, I'd say 100% of the value judgement in a kid is handed down from the genes.

I believe that Eioul is only objecting to the use of the word "genes" in the above.  Genes themselves are not the repository of innate sensorimotor/sensory/perceptual/cognitive mechanisms that infants are born with.  Genes guide the development of the substrate of mechanisms that support behavior but are not the behavior themselves.

Edited by New Buddha

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8 hours ago, softwareNerd said:

Do you have an example of an emotion is a newborn capable of? I'm trying to understand what you have in mind?

I don't know, I just wonder if the newborn cry is an emotion or not.

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4 hours ago, New Buddha said:

I believe that Eioul is only objecting to the use of the word "genes" in the above.  Genes themselves are not the repository of innate sensorimotor/sensory/perceptual/cognitive mechanisms that infants are born with.  Genes guide the development of the substrate of mechanisms that support behavior but are not the behavior themselves.

OK, that might be what Eioul meant. Yeah I agree there's not any ideas in the DNA. I could even go so far as to say there's very little information in the DNA itself, it's just a bunch of atoms on a long string. It just so happens that when this long molecule interacts with certain other systems, like the cell surrounding it, the it has these strange effects on the cell, and the cell then acts in a certain way.

My claim is that it's plausible that because of the DNA certain neuron-pathways might become very strong, and that this pattern in the brain is so useful that the kid is born with it, and that pattern might conceivably correspond to a concept in reality.

I could be wrong, and studies will probably verify or falsify this in the future.

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2 hours ago, gio said:

I don't know, I just wonder if the newborn cry is an emotion or not.

I've seen a few newborns. Yes, they have very strong emotions. Very strong.

A search online will suggest that the amount of adrenaline in the body of a baby when crying is going to be very high.

 

https://www.askdrsears.com/topics/health-concerns/fussy-baby/science-excessive-crying-harmful

http://www.health24.com/Medical/childhood-diseases/Experts/Question/adrenaline-and-crying-20100508

http://www.theparentvortex.com/wordpress/new-research-on-cortisol-crying-infant-brain-development-and-the-morality-of-babies/

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19 hours ago, gio said:

If there is no innate ideas, and if emotions derives from the ideas, why the newborn cry ?

The below quote is from Rand.

19 hours ago, New Buddha said:

Emotions are produced by man’s premises, held consciously or subconsciously, explicitly or implicitly.

From the standpoint of epistemology, Rand's above quote is correct enough to counter claims of Epiphenomenalism.  From wiki:

 

Epiphenomenalism is a mind–body philosophy marked by the belief that basic physical events (sense organs, neural impulses, and muscle contractions) are causal with respect to mental events (thought, consciousness, and cognition). Mental events are viewed as completely dependent on physical functions and, as such, have no independent existence or causal efficacy; it is a mere appearance. Fear seems to make the heart beat faster; though, according to epiphenomenalism, the state of the nervous system causes the heart to beat faster.[1] Because mental events are a kind of overflow that cannot cause anything physical, yet have non-physical properties, epiphenomenalism is viewed as a form of property dualism.

 

Many modern day determinists (which includes many prominent cognitive scientists/philosophers) hold a variant of epiphenomenalism even if they would reject the term or deny dualism.

Emotions are important in cognition.  But the actual role emotions play in cognition is much more complex than a "yes" or "no" answer that you are looking for.  In part because humans (and other complex animals such as wolves, lions, etc.) undergo dramatic neurological and physiological changes as they grow into adulthood - including learning by observation.  An animal like a turtle or a fly, much less so.  A young, pre-conceptual infant or child will not have emotions when looking at, say, his countries flag or a work of art.  And adult will.  But this does not mean that infants do not experience emotions.

Edited by New Buddha

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A lot of Rand's ideas on cognition were formed at a time when Behaviorism dominated science for largely ideological reasons - which, of course, she rejected.  As a novelist who wrote about very complex ideas, it would be natural for her to explore the roots of emotions.  I too started reading quite a bit about cognitive science in the mid-to-late 1980's when I was studying architecture.

Research into emotions and what role they play in cognition really only started to take off around the 1990's.  There is a ground-breaking book that was published in the early 90's Descartes Error that has had a huge impact, and you might like to read it.  The title of the book is in reference to the dualism proposed by Descartes.

Edited by New Buddha

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On 7/1/2017 at 5:28 AM, Mindborg said:

My claim is that it's plausible that because of the DNA certain neuron-pathways might become very strong, and that this pattern in the brain is so useful that the kid is born with it, and that pattern might conceivably correspond to a concept in reality.

My objection was to innate ideas. Transferring concepts via genes is one way you could imagine innate ideas, but this isn't viable at all.

Another way is, as you said, neuron-pathways whose patterns are represented as concepts. The means to do this may be innate patterns which has a default, then learns like a neural net through associations. One problem here is that despite the power of neural nets and associations, it is not really how the human brain works or how people learn. You might say "well, that doesn't mean people don't use associations at all, a few innate concepts are possible". This could work, the problem is how it is an innate concept at all?

A neuron pathway isn't itself cognitive. Even if you want to be more broad, like "neurological mechanisms", it's not cognitive. As far as you are suggesting, it's still merely a capacity to act. As an analogy, a computer has an OS and plenty to work. But it doesn't have really any information or files you later use it for. It is blank in that regard. Rand argues that concepts are necessarily learned or created consciously. Our mind is blank in terms of concepts. She doesn't deny that metaphorical OS, it's just not essential to what concepts are.

When we talk about emotions as innate, the issue is similar. If emotions are evaluations, why would a blank mind have evaluations? You might say that emotions aren't evaluations, then. I'd respond that whatever these "non-evaluative emotive responses" are, they aren't what people mean when they say emotion. They mean feelings, being aware of the feelings, having some impression of an event. It doesn't need to be cognitive and perhaps not entirely volitional, but an evaluation is needed. Otherwise, we are talking about physiological reactions, like sweating or coughing.

A newborn starts learning as soon as it is born, even while in the womb. Newborn is not equal to a blank mind.

It's still a big unknown exactly how one has their first emotion.

By the way, some scientists speak of core concepts and might call them innate concepts. This means that there are essential modes and means of thinking that are not learned. The science is good, I just don't think calling them -concepts- is good use of terminology that needs precision.

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49 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Transferring concepts via genes is one way you could imagine innate ideas, but this isn't viable at all.

 

You bring up a lot of points, and you might be right in many of them. I realize I have not seen much science on this subject, so I cannot have a strong opinion on this. I am very far from being an expert on this topic too, so again I cannot say.

As for interacting with children I treat them as fully functional humans with a mind, their own desires, their own feelings and as worthy of respect, though they are lacking in physical strength and in knowledge. I find this very useful, and kids seem to like it too. Once I see data or reasoning suggesting my current behavior is not the best for achieving self-esteem and independence in kids, I'll change my behavior.

 

59 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

It's still a big unknown exactly how one has their first emotion.

 

My guess is that it starts very early, long before birth. I'd think it starts even before the brain develops, as I think feelings are more important to primitive life-forms than brains are. I don't know exactly when the amygdala develops in a fetus, but when it does, it deals with feelings. Because it's a much more primitive part of the brain, it's logical that it's more important in early stages.

The amygdala can release chemicals that makes you feel angry, afraid etc., and these are extremely useful feelings in the struggle for survival. I'd guess that in some decades we'll have very good information on what the fetus is feeling while still inside the mother, and I think computer learning will be very useful here. I'd also guess that the fetus is starting to have feelings after perhaps just a couple of months.

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A difference can be made between emotions and feelings.

If you are walking in a strange building and come upon a tall flight of stairs that you need to go up, stored learned memories of past experiences will trigger bodily changes necessary to climb the stairs (changes in adrenal, respiration, heat rate, etc.).  These changes will kick-in predictively, prior to the actual climb.  If, as you climb the stairs, you begin to feel winded, this "feeling" is different than e-motions (changes in bodily states).  You may also feel that you'd rather take the elevator due to the anticipated expenditure of effort and the consequent negative feeling that climbing a tall flight of stairs will cause.

Very young children have limited memory of prior events, so differentiating between emotions and the more evaluative feelings is something that they will have to grow into.

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