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I read a fascinating article about free will the other day. The first premise seems unremarkable to me: we initially make our decisions based on emotion, and then rationalize those decisions after the fact by reason. That premise seems well-correlated to me with empirical evidence in many cases; though there might be a small subset of cases in which people actually reason something out first before acting. However, the author then asserted that, because our decisions are primarily driven by emotion, that we only have the illusion of free will. I am not quite sure I completely followed the logical chain from the premise (emotions drive most decisions) to the conclusion (we feel like we have free will even though we actually do not). My questions to the panel are, (a) is the initial premise as reasonable to you as it seems to be to me, and (b) how does the conclusion follow logically from this premise? Thanks very much!

I have to admit: I'm as puzzled as you are. Let's suppose I'm trying to decide which flavor of ice cream I want. My choices are chocolate and rum raisin. I like them both, and there's nothing unreasonable about eating either. What would make the author of the article treat my ending up with rum raisin amount to a free choice? That I did an exhaustive utility calculation? In the circumstances, how is this better than picking rum raisin because at that moment I'm feeling nostalgic and I'm struck by a warm memory of the big scoops of rum raisin I used to get from the ice cream shop in my home town when I was a boy? More generally, what's the issue? Did my momentary emotion compel me to pick the rum-raisin? That doesn't seem plausible. What reason was there for not giving in to my emotion? I'd go a bit further. In a case like this, wouldn't it be a bit unreasonable to second-guess my urge? What's the issue? If it's supposed to be that there's an explanation for how I came to pick what I picked,...

Are feelings/emotions susceptible to moral judgment? For example, can a person be blamed for merely feeling in a certain way, without acting on it?

It's an interesting question. If an emotion simply wells up in you, it might not be reasonable to blame you—especially if you don't act on it. In any given moment, we may not have much control over what we feel. But here are two things to consider. First, we do sometimes say that certain reactions aren't appropriate; we do use broadly moral language to talk about emotions. When we say things like "He should get over himself!", we're often making a judgment about the moral appropriateness of staying in the grip of an inappropriate emotional reaction. Second, most of us do have at least some ability, over the long haul, to train and reshape our emotions. This is one of the goals of certain kinds of psychotherapy, but therapy isn't the only path to the goal. This suggests that we can hold people (including ourselves!) responsible for not doing what it takes to modulate their habitual emotional responses. Here's another way to put it. It's part of a person's character that s/he reacts to things in...

Is horny an emotion or a feeling

Depends on what you mean, doesn't it? But even after we sort that out, the answer may still be that it depends. A headache is a feeling but not an emotion—at least, not as most people use the word. Anxiety, at least a good deal of the time, is also a feeling rather than an emotion, but it can go either way. A free-floating, undirected anxiety is a feeling. But it doesn't seem too strange to say that anxiety about something specific counts as an emotion. So maybe we could say that emotions are feelings with objects. At the end of the day, that won't do. Still, it gets at something. We tend to save the word "emotion" for states that are about something, or have some sort of content other than just raw feels. But that's pretty clearly not enough. That slice of apple-rhubarb pie in front of me may fill me with a very focussed feeling of hunger. But that feeling doesn't count as an emotion. What's missing? The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is reason. Emotions can be justified and they can respond...

If there are 201 nations worldwide how can we all be proud of our nations. What is the point in having pride in your nation? Is it because it feels good?

Suppose that 201 groups of people each set themselves a noble goal. If I were a member of a group that achieved its goal, I might well be proud of my group. If that pride is reasonable (and it might well be) I'd still have the same reason to be proud of my group if other groups—even all of them—achieved their goals too. As for the point of pride, I might indulge in feelings of pride because it makes me feel good, but that probably gets things the wrong way around. Some things just make us feel proud. Pride makes most sense, perhaps, when what we're proud of is something that we deserve some credit for, but we also sometimes feel proud when someone that we're associated with accomplishes something. Suppose my friend works hard on a book and it wins an award. I might very well feel proud of her, and that doesn't have to mean that I'm trying to take some of the credit for what she accomplished. We might ask what the point is in this feeling of pride, but the question seems beside the point. My friend did...

If i define philosopher as lover of wisdom, how can i be sure that its a rational,critical and systematic investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct(one of nowadays favoured definitions of philosophy, it seems to me)that brings wisdom? It seems quite bit too dogmatic to me. It seems like these epithets are implying the only way through one can gain wisdom, but what if there are others means to gain wisdom?

If word origins were a good guide to the nature of a profession, a secretary would be a keeper of secrets and a plumber would be someone who works in lead. That suggests we have some reason to be suspicious at the outset. Even if we grant that "philosopher" comes from the Greek for "lover of wisdom," that doesn't tell us much about what the discipline of philosophy actually is. Let's take the philosophers who think of themselves as systematically, critically examining principles of being, knowledge and/or conduct. Do they see themselves as engaged in the pursuit of wisdom? Some might, but I'd guess most don't. They're trying to sort through interesting and abstract questions of a particular sort, but no wise person would think of abstract theoretical understanding as amounting to wisdom nor, I submit, would any wise person think that wisdom requires abstract, theoretical understanding. I'd side with the wise here. Wisdom isn't easy to characterize in a sound bite, but I think of a wise...

In my cross-cultural psychology class, we learned about the emotion "schadenfreude": to take pleasure in someone else's misfortune. If feeling this emotion goes against an individual's beliefs about themselves, i.e., that they are a good person, then isn't it possible that they would deny that they experienced this; doesn't this mean that our own personal experiences are not verifiable and therefore unknowable?

There's a scene in a movie (I forget which one) where a character claims to be happy, weeping all the while. Of course, that was just a movie, but I dare say you've seen someone blush bright red who says they're not embarrassed, or someone with their teeth clenched, insisting that they aren't angry. Our minds aren't detached from our bodies; what we feel makes a difference to what those bodies do. What people say they're feeling isn't always a good guide to what they actually feel. In the scenario you describe, the person is really feeling the emotion (schadenfreude in this case) but says otherwise. It's possible that the person knows very well what they feel but doesn't want to admit it. If so then they, at least, have "verified" their experience, and with the right sort of persuasion, might even be willing to own up to their emotion. Another possibility is that they are deceiving themselves. Just how self-deception works may be tricky to sort out, but it seems to be a real enough phenomenon....

I cannot remember the last time I was unhappy, annoyed or felt jealous. I have read, on some of the answers, references to emotional pain being inevitable. I do not agree. I think it is very possible, but difficult, for one to learn how not to feel 'destructive' emotions, such as anger, jealousy and unhappiness. If one were to, for instance, lose a friend in a 'tragic' accident, they would be expected to feel upset. I think it's correct to say that this is an illogical feeling; an unfortunate bi-product of the way that we have evolved. I think that if one were to be extremely logical, then they would be able to override the emotions, in the same way that many people can override the nefarious feeling of jealousy, if their spouse seemed to be attracted to another person. So, with that context, my question is: Do you think/agree it is possible, or even logical, to live one's life without feeling negative emotions?

Whether it's possible is an empirical question. I'd guess it's highly unusual, but it might be so sometimes for all that. As for whether it's "logical" to live without negative emotions strikes me as not the best question. What I'd ask is whether it's desirable—whether it's a good thing. I don't quite see why it would be, at least given what we're actually like. Suppose my friend is seriously ill and in pain. Feeling bad about that seems appropriate. If I were unruffled by my friend's pain, he might well wonder how much I really cared about him. Or suppose I neglected to do something I ought to have done, causing considerable inconvenience for someone else. Feeling sorry (not just saying it but feeling it) also seems fitting. We did, indeed, evolve so that emotions, negative ones included, are part of our motivational system. Of course, sometimes our emotions can get in the way of responding well. But sometimes. the lack of emotion can have the same result. That's how things are. Would it be...

Sometimes, when person A claims to love person B, some might say "No, person A, you don't really love person B." Often, they will back up this claim by pointing to aspects of person A's behavior as "proof" - i.e. person A is not jealous when person B speaks with members of person A's sex; or person A does not sacrifice a job opportunity because person B is opposed to the employer's ethical practices; or so on. Does it make sense to tell someone that they do not really love someone they believe they love? After all, love is an emotion, and people external to person A's mind cannot properly judge the emotions person A actually feels. So what justification is there for judging a person's love on the basis of their behavior (setting aside cases where a person regularly beats or abuses someone they claim to love)?

You say that love is an emotion, and in some sense we can grant that. But saying it suggests that love is a feeling , and that, in turn, suggests that it's like a warm sensation in one's tummy -- something that we can simply detect by introspection and that we can't (or can't easily) be wrong about. But it's more complicated than that. If I love someone, I can still have moments when I feel angry at them, for example. But my momentary anger -- a non-loving feeling -- isn't the same as not loving them. Love is, among other things, a complicated set of dispositions. Some of them are dispositions to feel a certain way in certain situations, and others are dispositions to behave in certain ways. I might be momentarily angry with my daughter, for example, but it might be true that if anything were to happen to her, I would be beside myself with grief. I might also be willing to make considerable sacrifices for her well-being. I might worry about her, take time to check up on her, and do all of this not...

Can one be happy, and sad at the same time, where the definition of happiness leans more towards a state of content, rather than joy, and sadness defined more as frustration (helplessness). For example, if one is currently experiencing a state of frustration, of helplessness, to a strong degree (perhaps crying)- and than, at the exact same moment experiencing happiness, or a feeling of content with life. Is this not paradoxical or contradictory? I must say that I have myself have experienced this. I suppose I would describe it as a state of currently being discontent with the specific situation one is in, but content with the general direction their life is going. But to experience the emotions at the exact same moment (NOT to feel frustrated, and after rationalizing their feelings, feel content).

Your question is an interesting one. It's puzzling at first to imagine experiencing two very different, apparently conflicting momentary feelings at the same time. For example: it's hard to know what we would make of someone who claimed to be experiencing a feeling of great calm and extreme anxiety both at the same time. I say "hard" advisedly, however, rather than "impossible." Feeling-states can be quite complicated, and although we can't experience literally contradictory states at the same time (because contradictions can't be true), it might well take near-paradoxical language to convey what some feeling states are like. In any case, something like this is almost certainly part of the story. We're clearly capable of experiencing complex combinations of feeling tone. For example: you've probably had the experience of really enjoying a conversation while at the same time being aware that you have a mild but unpleasant backache. One might be foreground, so to speak, and the other background. That...

What is emotional suffering? I know that I feel that I suffer, but in what sense am I suffering? I cannot place anywhere, the source of emotional suffering in any causal terms from the external world. The external world can bring me physical pain through physical action, but it seems absurd to think that external objects can also cause emotional pain. Does this mean that emotional suffering is generated from within me? Am I the cause of my own suffering? If so, does this mean that one can choose not to suffer?

Saying just what emotional suffering amounts to wouldn't be easy, but there may be no need. Even if we find it hard to spell out what it is , all of us know emotional suffering from the inside. Some emotional suffering may be internally generated -- endogenous, as it's sometimes put -- but whether or not we understand the mechanisms, it's clear that things in the outer world can cause emotional pain. When you think about it, this isn't really so strange. Our emotional states are deeply dependent on the states of our brains, and our brains, after all, are physical things, in interaction with other physical things. We simply accept this for perception: our perceptual experiences are caused by the interaction between things in the outer world and our perceptual systems, including (not least!) our brains. The details of how all this works are best left to the scientific experts, but for example, if I see someone I care about being hurt, and if I can do nothing about it, feeling distressed would seem...

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