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Akilah

What are the basic emotions?

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Ayn Rand in her book the Objectivist ethics--while not explicating the reason for this truth--claims that the basic emotions are joy and suffering from which all others are derivatives; but, perhaps this is merely a result from my past Stoic philosophy before my conversion to Objectivism, however, are not the basic emotions desire and aversion? I.e, joy, being the result of the successful state of life is then necessarily the result of the satisfaction of desire, and the aversion of that which is bad.  Desire being the logical correlate of volitional thought--i.e, value judgments. E.g, the desire for food is not some innate biological instinct, but the result of value-judgments; the frustration of that desire is what results in a host of other negative emotions, and if prolonged long enough, results in suffering. 

Edited by Akilah

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Can you give us a quote? She said in The Objectivist Ethics that pleasure and pain are the lowest-level signals of whether we are being affected for good or for ill, but I don't recognize the claim you mention.

Hunger and satiety are built-in, automatic signals, but they aren't enough to tell us what to eat or how to obtain it.

Edited by Reidy

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I think there is an interesting issue with cause and effect here.

Joy and Suffering are emotions in the sense that they are feelings in a sense caused by the entire state or context of a person, both present and past.  In a sense it is a post facto introspective reactive emotion to the sum of the metaphysical situation of a person currently happening and everything that has occurred in the past.

Motivation, also in a very real sense is a type of emotion or feeling, seems to arises in reaction to a specific context or concrete AND the recognition of the possibility and need to act: you see something you want and an emotional motivator such as desire arises, you see something you wish to avoid and an emotional motivator of aversion arises.  These are prior to actions in respect of the specific context or concrete.  Once action is taken (here either an attempt to obtain the subject of desire or avoid the subject of aversion), I would suggest upon introspection an emotion of happiness or disappointment (temporary or immediate versions of joy and suffering) will arise based on the post mortem analysis of the success or failure of the act to obtain performed or the act to avoid performed.

Although a crucial precursor to action, desire and aversion, as motivations are temporary and vary moment to moment and context to context whereas joy and suffering are a kind of integrated sum of everything.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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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.

The quote says that joy/suffering dichotomy is a "barometer of" the state of a man's mind. It says that joy and suffering are "basic emotions". It doesn't state that these two are "from which all others are derivatives" as you claim. 

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Adding to what EC quoted and stated, joy and suffering being “basic” means something akin to being fundamental in an integrated totality fashion rather than being fundamental in an atomistic reductive fashion.  

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On 10/18/2018 at 6:05 PM, EC said:

 

 

The quote says that joy/suffering dichotomy is a "barometer of" the state of a man's mind. It says that joy and suffering are "basic emotions". It doesn't state that these two are "from which all others are derivatives" as you claim. 

Is that not what basic means? 

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On 10/17/2018 at 11:46 AM, Reidy said:

Can you give us a quote? She said in The Objectivist Ethics that pleasure and pain are the lowest-level signals of whether we are being affected for good or for ill, but I don't recognize the claim you mention.

Hunger and satiety are built-in, automatic signals, but they aren't enough to tell us what to eat or how to obtain it.

I think there exists a difference between hunger and the sensations of hunger; i.e, 'hunger' is the concept of recognizing that food is necessary at that moment (hence, the desire of it) as concluded from the evidence of the senses (the feeling of an empty stomach). 

Hunger is not built in--the sensations preceding it are. 

Sorry, my mistake; she describes the basic emotions in Atlas shrugged.  

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On 10/18/2018 at 7:25 PM, StrictlyLogical said:

Adding to what EC quoted and stated, joy and suffering being “basic” means something akin to being fundamental in an integrated totality fashion rather than being fundamental in an atomistic reductive fashion.  

I.e, you cannot expand the concept of joy and suffering to then obtain hatred and love? 

What I grasp from joy and suffering being "basic" is that they are the primary emotions; meaning, no other kinds of emotions precede them. And so, all other emotions are 'narrowed' abstractions from those primaries which serve as their basis. 

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On 10/17/2018 at 11:48 AM, StrictlyLogical said:

I think there is an interesting issue with cause and effect here.

Joy and Suffering are emotions in the sense that they are feelings in a sense caused by the entire state or context of a person, both present and past.  In a sense it is a post facto introspective reactive emotion to the sum of the metaphysical situation of a person currently happening and everything that has occurred in the past.

Motivation, also in a very real sense is a type of emotion or feeling, seems to arises in reaction to a specific context or concrete AND the recognition of the possibility and need to act: you see something you want and an emotional motivator such as desire arises, you see something you wish to avoid and an emotional motivator of aversion arises.  These are prior to actions in respect of the specific context or concrete.  Once action is taken (here either an attempt to obtain the subject of desire or avoid the subject of aversion), I would suggest upon introspection an emotion of happiness or disappointment (temporary or immediate versions of joy and suffering) will arise based on the post mortem analysis of the success or failure of the act to obtain performed or the act to avoid performed.

Although a crucial precursor to action, desire and aversion, as motivations are temporary and vary moment to moment and context to context whereas joy and suffering are a kind of integrated sum of everything.

Oh, I see; so, instead of 'basic' I am trying to find the 'primary' emotions if they exist--surely they must?  

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8 minutes ago, Akilah said:

Oh, I see; so, instead of 'basic' I am trying to find the 'primary' emotions if they exist--surely they must?  

Not necessarily.  Emotional states are complex but in some sense are integrated nonreducable wholes.  You speak as though an emotion is made up of atomistic emotional simples or monads.

Also you are looking at emotions as if they were in a sort of logical hierarchy the way knowledge is hierarchical or the way a complex argument is structured to prove a conclusion from premises.

There is no reason given in the OP to assume emotions work this way.  I do not have any reason to accept some emotions are more primary that others, that any are constitutive of others, or that any precede any other (except in time ordering).

The lack of any evidence tending to show such an hierarchy of emotion suggests the opposite of “surely they must”.

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8 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Not necessarily.  Emotional states are complex but in some sense are integrated nonreducable wholes.  You speak as though an emotion is made up of atomistic emotional simples or monads.

Also you are looking at emotions as if they were in a sort of logical hierarchy the way knowledge is hierarchical or the way a complex argument is structured to prove a conclusion from premises.

There is no reason given in the OP to assume emotions work this way.  I do not have any reason to accept some emotions are more primary that others, that any are constitutive of others, or that any precede any other (except in time ordering).

The lack of any evidence tending to show such an hierarchy of emotion suggests the opposite of “surely they must”.

I suppose I was conflating concepts and emotion--i.e, any kind of particular emotion being a concept, hence, having units which constitute that state of consciousness. 

My error lies in thinking that, the concept of emotion is the emotion itself--which is untrue. 

So, you think that emotions (each and every particular) exist as primaries?  

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9 hours ago, Akilah said:

emotions (each and every particular) exist as primaries?

I think literally every thing "Exists" as a primary, i.e. it is itself.  That does not mean things cannot be complex or constituted.  There is no category of primary or non-primary in the metaphysics of a house made of bricks.  The house IS, and it IS made of bricks which ARE.  

When you speak of an emotion, a particular feeling, desire, despair, excitement, or fear, etc. you speak of an entire state affecting a person, it has mental and physical aspects: properties, qualities, or attributes, so to speak, which we intuitively and quickly recognize as characterizing the particular emotion versus another.  Thus we tend to quite easily state our emotions which are straightforwardly recognizable, "I'm scared", "I'm excited!".  Other emotions fall somewhere between what we more frequently and commonly feel, i.e. some emotions are less familiar to us, and they might even exhibit aspects which we associate with the emotions which are more familiar.  These emotions might feel like mixtures or combinations but does this mean these emotions are actually somehow "mixtures" of the others?  Not in the absence of objective scientific evidence, emotions are complex, and self-reporting based on familiarity or the frequency of past felt emotions does not get to the level of evidence of emotional "composition" if such a thing were even possible.  For all we know each emotion is complex, and the rare ones which exhibit aspects of more familiar ones, "seem" like an emotion composed of more than one emotion, but are simply unique emotions exhibiting aspects of the more familiar ones. 

There is an added complication that some claim that (or at least speak as though) a person's emotional state might not be limited to a single emotion - this leads to a further complexity of already complex emotions.  Could a person feel emotions A and B at the same time?  According to some this is true.  But, could a person feel an emotion C which has aspects similar upon introspection to feeling emotions A and B at the same time??  This seems reasonable.  What if the emotion C was exactly the same as feeling emotions A+B ?  Is the person feeling one emotion or two? i.e.  What does it even mean to say a person has two emotions versus one emotion exhibiting what two emotions exhibit?... i.e. there is little meaning and no real basis to claim any "number" of emotions, just an emotional state which exhibits various aspects.

I'm no psychologist, and there may be some science on the subject, but I would not say that emotions are complex and unique but fall within recognizable and familiar territory when we experience emotions we are familiar with, and fall within unfamiliar territory when we experience of emotions which we report as "mixed" or emotions for which we heretofore have no words to describe.

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A long time ago I was seeing an Objectivist psychotherapist.  He was talking about how, in introspecting for psychotherapeutic purposes, you need to be specific about what you are feeling.  It is certainly not enough to say you are upset.  It is not even enough to say you are mad, because that could mean either anger or hostility.  He called hostility a neurotic counterpart to anger and said it is a combination of emotions.  I don't recall him listing them.

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On 10/17/2018 at 10:37 AM, Akilah said:

... however, are not the basic emotions desire and aversion? ..

There's evidence in today's headlines that this is the case, particularly in the form of ressentiment. I'm currently reading a great book called, The Age of Anger, in which the author pulls together quite a bit of history supporting this.

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On 11/1/2018 at 6:41 AM, StrictlyLogical said:

I think literally every thing "Exists" as a primary, i.e. it is itself.  That does not mean things cannot be complex or constituted.  There is no category of primary or non-primary in the metaphysics of a house made of bricks.  The house IS, and it IS made of bricks which ARE.

... I'm no psychologist, and there may be some science on the subject, but I would not say that emotions are complex and unique but fall within recognizable and familiar territory when we experience emotions we are familiar with, and fall within unfamiliar territory when we experience of emotions which we report as "mixed" or emotions for which we heretofore have no words to describe.

I agree that the existence of primaries implies the absence of non-primaries, so complex or mixed emotional states shouldn't be considered as a different kind of emotion any more than a brick house would be considered a different kind of brick.  I believe there is an emotional landscape comprised of basic elements (such as envy) in complex combinations (such as admiration or ressentiment).  As such, the basics remain discernible individually and are not diluted by combination.  Unfamiliar territory, for example,  is still recognizable as a territory with discernible basic elements.

As to what the basic emotions are, I think the list is relatively short compared to the emotional states created by combining them.  Envy appears to me to be non-reducible, i.e. basic, whereas admiration and ressentiment appear to be more a sum of their basic parts, i.e. complex mixtures of the basics.  Substitution of any of the basics (except envy) could transform admiration to ressentiment, so I would look at the reducibility of an emotional state to find its components and settle for basic as a particular emotion that cannot be reduced.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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