Posts Tagged ‘emotion’

EMOTION PRIMES REASON

December 29, 2013

EMOTIONS SPEAK, EMOTIONS TEACH, EMOTIONS LEARN

At altitude in the High Sierra Nevada, in the crisp winter night, I was contemplating the dazzling firmament, sparkling with stars, the Andromeda galaxy fully visible. Aldebaran, the twinkling red giant star, spoke to me of my early childhood, when my grandparents and my uncles taught me the night sky, and the cosmos. Aldebaran also spoke of the Saharan sky of my infanthood, its sparkling orange accentuating that of the distant horizon. Who has not seen desert stars at dusk, has not seen the grandest sight.

I felt fully rejuvenated, full of ambitious curiosity, at one with the universe.

More evidence that emotions speak, teach and learn? I considered carefully how small children learn languages. It’s an object of wonder. And mystery. My daughter is bilingual, French, English, and is learning Mandarin. The latter is accomplished by going to a Chinese school, eight hours a day. Native Chinese speakers are impressed by her fluency.

Athena’s best friend also just turned 4 year old, the daughter of a Turkish family. She speaks English and Turkish. I spoke to Athena’s friend in French only. Surprise: the Americano-Turkish toddler understood much of what I say.

Toddler power.

How do children understand language? They do it without books, by observing contexts carefully. The exact same mental attitude that is essential to science or philosophy.

I discovered that children feel out the context, including the emotional context, and compute what the meaning has got to be. Then they learn to associate the probable sounds to the probable meaning, memorizing the whole thing ever more precisely as they correct the subtle differences between what they understood or uttered, and what allows achieving better communications.

A child is, among other things, a physicist, learning the basic facts of reality: fall, get hurt, etc. Notice that it’s the emotion that does the learning: fall, get all roughed up, break the precious skin, get distressed, cry a lot. Thereafter “gravity” (a concept Athena associates from falling off trees and holding planets around) is taken really seriously. The more it hurts, the more serious. Gravity would not have been so well understood, so seriously understood, had not as much pain been experienced.

Pain is the ultimate experience.

This shows right there that there is something wrong to avoiding pain at all cost: it would mean avoiding learning at all cost, the essence of humanity. Some will say: “Oh, we are good, and want to live as we please, avoiding pain shall be foremost, whatever it takes.”

Buddhists, of course, promote the notion. Yet, when push came to shove, they had to establish a pretty nasty empire. But not nasty enough. Nasty enough to infuriate the future Genghis Khan, not nasty enough to resist him when he came back with a large army. Yes, you have to live with others, whose pain is, all too often, your pleasure.

(See tourists, polluting with CO2 around the world as they go to far off beaches, searching for pleasure through materialistic extravaganza, insuring that those beaches they claim to love, will be flooded very soon.)

The most important books one reads, and most frequently, are books of emotions, not books of words.

A small sensation can have a huge emotional impact. People can be hated, or humiliated, or spurned, once, and never forget. Remember Hitler, who felt humiliated and alienated by weirdly dressed Jews in the center of Vienna, when he was a beggar. “Is this a Jew?” he wondered. And then Hitler learned to associate his wretched condition of truly destitute German to the alienation he experienced in Vienna, thanks to this vision never experienced before of a black dressed individual with abundant black hair hanging all over.

He was not the only German to feel that way, and it all built up into a giant hatred (helped, of course, by 15 centuries of Christian anti-Jewish emotions and pattern of homicidal abuse).

Thus a small emotion can have huge intellectual, even civilizational, or anti-civilizational, impact.

Emotions are what get people to move. People’s minds to move, that is. And more. Emotions are how minds were built.

Addressing thoughts is one thing. Thoughts are digital. Addressing emotions is addressing what reality is made of. A continuous field, just as those fields we call Quanta. What’s out there is more complicated than Homer. Because words can only clumsily approximate what we feel. Such as individual photons. Themselves, fields.

The emotional universe is where we live. It’s what we are. A civilization is not first about words, but about how it feels about the universe. And, from there, what it teaches, speaks of, and even what it can learn of.

Imprisoned in their brutal view of man, the Greco-Romans did not learn enough to prevent the near collapse of civilization. We won’t have the second chance they got in us. Time to feel right. Enshrine it in the law as needed.

Patrice Aymé

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Note: The fancy philosophy above is fully compatible with the most recent neurobiology, and takes flight from it, extending its dendrites where the glia are the most active…

Aphorisms Mid January 2011

January 14, 2011

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Violence And All That Blah Blah Blah: When Is The Law Not The Law? And Is Not A Government Which Ignores The Law Committing Violence Of The Highest Order? An editorial in the New York Times enjoined all Americans to act according to the law, in light of a shooting in Arizona by a crazed maniac who bought his weapon legally.

Obama talked well, at the memorial service, true. But did he act well, as non violently as possible in his quality of president? Out of magnanimity, we will momentarily ignore the dark angel of Afghanistan flying by, on automatic, its wings dripping with blood…

Is Obama part of this disrespect for law and decency he himself deplores? It is a trick question. One million Americans were killed by firearms since 1970. Sanctimoniously, the "left" is asking the right to tone down the political debate to respect the … law (see Krugman: "A tale of two moralities").

But did the Obama administration prosecute those who incited, advocated, ordered and practiced torture? No. Obviously some citizens are above the law. Some citizens are too big to fail. But that is doing violence to the law.

Did the Obama administration prosecute those who incited, advocated, organized, ordered and practiced financial malfeasance, in the greatest financial conspiracy ever known? No. Obviously some citizens are above any suspicion. More violence to the law. Granted a law that allows people to go around with concealed war weapons is itself violent, so this is getting a bit too much for logical processing.

The Roman republic lasted five centuries, because the Romans implemented ferociously their metaprinciple of putting the law above anything else: Dura Lex, Sed Lex! "The law is hard, but it’s the law!"

When the Roman republic deviated from this, a strict, constant, relentless application of the law, the richest and noblest of the rich stopped obeying the law. The republic became a violent mess, where money reigned, and then a tyranny, where Pluto ruled.

By refusing to apply the law on a massive scale, the Obama administration has done violence to the law, hence to the republic, hence encouraged the very atmosphere of violence it now condemns so eloquently.

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My Baby Learns Through Emotions, And Emotions Money Can’t Buy:

The language of emotions comes first to baby. It is a continuous, multidimensional medium (dimensions through facial expressions, eyebrows, frowning, mouth and eye geometry, or tone of voice, and body language). That way emotional language resembles the mathematical set-up of quantum physics; the Quantum waves evolve continuously in often high dimensional "configuration space". Notice the word: con-figuration. It is not there figuratively speaking. Physics has logical poetry in its semantics.

Emotional communication with babies is more important than anything else, as it directs the rest of the mental development of a baby. Including speech. Let those who pay for care be forewarned. ***

President Obama Suggested That Americans Could Question Each Other’s Ideas Without Questioning Their Love Of Country.

And the New York Times to add:"We hope all Americans take that to heart." And then what? Which kind of heart is that? What if it is a heart of stone? The heart needs to be educated in the ways, and taste, of reason. As I just said, it cannot be purchased and provided in exchange for money.

The heart has its own mind, but it needs to go to school too. learning the multiplication table is not learning the calculus of emotions.

Learning to think well is done by learning to debate, and learning what a correct argument is. A correct argument deploys elaborated logic and vast, relevant knowledge. One learns to detect what is relevant. A correct argument is far removed from those crudest of analogies known as insults, and those violent remedies known as threats.

Learning to debate correctly is not only a body of knowledge. It requires more. The heart has to be engaged.

Learning to debate is also a body of appreciation, with sophisticated feelings to accompany it with the passion that good thinking needs as hope and propellant. There is work to do, to rearrange neuronal circuitry into the general love for arguments, and it ought to start by primary school. Read a complicated, explain the main points, learn to answer questions about it. I went through this kind of schooling. I continually come across Americans who obviously did not.

Instead, in the USA, an "argument" is known, by the common heart, as a dispute. It is high time to reorganize  the semantics seriously. How does one want to love debates if what debates are made of, arguments, are viewed and confused with aggressions?

The USA has a lot of work to do with the heart. Especially when one sees its incapacity to switch to the metric system (like the rest of the planet), its incapacity to chase money out of politics (as all other democracies are trying much harder to do), its incapacity to remove dangerous weapons from the public space, or going to a health care system which does not mix employment and insurance.

The incapacity to switch to a more rational mode is fundamentally a manifestation of an inability to think satisfactorily. For example, guns are first used to kill people the murderers are familiar with. What is the logic in that? Owning guns so one can use family for shooting practice?

Time to go back to school, big time.

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Teleprompt Me Not:

Barack’s speech at the Arizona memorial was excellent. Very good ideas therein, and, for once, he talked with his heart. Why the heart suddenly? Why for once? Because, for once, Obama used NOTES, not a stupid teleprompter. So he immediately became much more intelligent. If he keeps at it, talking without doing the teleprompter robot, if he keeps at it, talking with its heart as his copilot, he will elevate the debate in the country. Americans will be reminded to talk with their hearts.

Notes are used just to recall what one wants to talk about (except if one is an old, mentally diseased Stalinist). After a glance at the notes, the reader uses internal memory recall. Then one lifts one’s eyes from the notes, and reconstitute the train of thought the notes pointed at. A good reader of notes has to reconstitute, and even relive with his or her heart, and that is much more than what is showing up on the teleprompter screen.

Why? The reader who has consulted notes remembers a few hard facts, animated together by software heavily depending upon emotional recall. Thus, the reader re-creates the discourse, reliving the entire logic of the discourse, including the emotional context it was communicated with initially. This is much more human; see the example of the baby above.

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In the series about increasing American insanity…

Some US representatives announced that they will carry concealed firearms when meeting with their constituents. Don’t campaign, reload! A few constituents are still alive and kicking…

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Getting To Know People Is Getting To Know Minds, Hence The Importance Of Table And Landscape.

To get to know people, you have got to converse with them (or then live with them through extraordinary events, psychologically revealing… and harder to come by, by the definition of "extraordinary").

Ordinary conversation has diverse meanings in diverse countries. In the USA, in the traditional, male dominated culture, it’s all about exchanging sport scores, sport opinions, and sport prognostications. Obsessing about sport teams instead of politics is the way the Demos was kept quiet in the Roman empire. It has been taught to Americans, fostering the reign of their exploiters, because it is a heavy diversion from what is really interesting.

Proper conversation has both to be polite, nice, and deep. To allow depth, and the effort it necessitates, or the pain it causes, polite pleasure has to be traded in for the effort, pain and inconvenience of thinking. Hence the importance of proper manners, a good table, good hike, a good adventure.

Thus filling the minds best goes with filling the stomachs best, and sharing earthly pleasures.

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Why Philosophy Matters Most:

Philosophy is first of all a method: how to reason best with fewer sure facts than science uses. Then, in second order, philosophy is a body of knowledge. Then, in third order, a history, then… in fourth order, a consolation.

Its first order definition, how to reason best on fumes, makes philosophy the most important human activity, and everybody has to master it more, the more civilization progresses.

Homo makes theories, and the first method to make a theory is the imaginary, tempered by philosophy.

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It is not because one can say it, and it bites, that one ought to say it. Something for those who read too much Sade or Nietzsche to remember.

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Obamacare, or Machiavelliancare?

Obamacare is probably unconstitutional: you cannot force the People to purchase private services. Does it matter, in the fullness of time? No.

First for the unconstitutionality: As early as 16 centuries ago, Augustine proclaimed all of Christianity was a "Respublica". Respublica Christiana. Even Augustine, the Christian fanatic, used "Christian" as a qualifier. The memory of the full Roman republic, 450 years earlier, was still fresh. Even under the "Principate" (= "Empire"), the main concept was still the Republic, the Public Thing. Obamacare instead says the main thing is the for profit institution, and the People shall serve it, by being forced, by law, to pay for the profits of the rich health care industry.

I know this was not, supposedly, according to the nice little fable for children, the aim of the law. The crafty aim was to entangle the private companies in a maze of regulations that will force them to behave decently, after offering them enough incentives to do so.

Actually it is argued that the plan will cost one trillion dollars, in spite of a 500 billion cut in Medicare. Obama, in his progressive version, could hope for the following: people get used to expect the advantages of Obamacare. Everybody is covered, pre-conditions get insured, coverage cannot be discontinued, children are protected, etc. By the time people are addicted to what the Europeans have long taken for granted, it will turn out that Obamacare under the private system is not financially workable (and that is already transpiring as premiums escalate). Something will have to give, and it will not be the addiction.

Then a public health system, Medicare For All, will be the only solution. Actually Obama, a few years back, had announced such a Machiavellian plan.

The same Machiavellian approach to financial regulation is entirely possible. A good fisherman lets the fish swallow the bait.

Somebody who ought to know told me Obama was not that clever. Well I am not so sure. And even if he is not, he may have no choice than to become really clever.

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It’s Spelled Banksters, Not Bankers:

The public-private fractional reserve banking system is intrinsically unjust, incompatible with democracy. Some (Simon Johnson) propose to institute a size cap on it. The present banking system would still be unjust, and incompatible with democracy, though.

It seems Obama is stuck too, even if he detests the system, there is not much he can do. The revolt has to come from the street. Common people have to understand the problem first. Somebody has to teach them. Probably not somebody from a top American university.

The European Union has put caps on bankers short term bonuses. They have to wait five years before getting their bonuses, which are transmogrified into stock in their bank holding companies. That is an independent solution from limiting bank size.

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The Truth Often Sounds Shrill...Why? Because it often starts as an alarm call, and only great passion can overcome the exhaustion of establishing new neural connections, refurbished neurons, and, overall, genuinely new neurobiology.

That’s why Planck observed that the best way for the truth to come out was for old people to die and new ones to be born. But of course he said that before the Hitlerjugend became a mass phenomenon.

Truth always come out shrill, thus people who are too cool cannot generate really new thoughts: they just don’t have enough passion, hence enough energy to build inside themselves new structures. Show me a famous thinker, I will show you a passion. Show me a sheep, I will show you the munching. And the general jejune attitude.

We think, not because we are too cool to care, but because we are too passionate to stay indifferent.

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Patrice Ayme