Thursday, 25 April 2013

reply to Sandy L. re reason versus the passions.

Sandy_L wrote as follows.

My responses appear in red. Black text is Sandy's wording.


"When we are younger we are driven by emotion. As we come to age we see the importance of reason and the role it should play in our lives. Yet it is the balance of the two which is the mark of a human being. If we are driven by emotion but capable of reason then it is true that both of these influence our behavior, these two halves therefore make up the whole."

1. We are always driven by emotion, so you'd need to cite some research to support the claim, as you seem to be, that it's only when we're younger that we're irrational. I cannot think of any want/desire/inclination that is not about some emotion, and I think older people are just as irrational; they've merely learnt to camouflage it with good manners and depression.

2. Reason does have a role to play in our lives, but by saying "should play" you're implying that we don't use it "properly". I dispute this point. I believe we use it as properly as we can, that is, to resolve our wants/needs. That is all it is good for. Or for figuring out scientific and mathematical problems.

I quote the full argument from Hume below my responses. Please consult it, especially the supporting arguments. In brief, it goes as follows: We are motivated by emotion and want. Reason is not emotion. Therefore reason cannot motivate us. So what is the function of reason? To find out how to get us what we want. Nothing more. Let's check this symbolically.

W = want; E = emotion; M = motivation; A = action; R = reasonO = object of desire, target or goal of a want

Here's the formal argument:

1. O -> W           [see an object, it causes a want]

2. W element of E   [want is an emotion]

3. E -> M           [emotion causes motivation]

4. M -> A           [motivation causes action]

5. ~M -> ~A         [if there is a demotivator, we won't act]

6. M                [a motivation exists]

7. |- A             [therefore action; from 5; 6]

8. E -> M           [3]

9. E -> M -> A      [commutation, transitivity]

10. E -> A          [9; therefore emotion causes action]

11. R -> ~E         [Reason is not emotion]

12. R v E           [either reason or emotion]

13. M               [6]

14. |- P(E|k)>P(R|k)  [E is more probable since we have M, Bayes' theorem; 12]

15. |- ~(R -> M)    [Therefore reason does not motivate]

16. (R -> ~M) v (~R -> M) [14; 15; 12]

17. |- ~R           [13; 6; 16]

I've not checked this argument and I'll probably polish it a bit later. But there you go.

Incidentally, this argument also entails

18. O -> W -> M -> A    [transitivity, commutation]

19. O -> A              [18]

which means you will act as soon as you see an object of desire. Why, then, we do not always act when we see an object of desire? This is to be explained simply by reference to self-control through means of the use of fear. This is why in step 2 we have W element of E; because W alone is not sufficient to fill the Set of E, and the entire set of E causes M. To put it another way, Want is just one emotion, another is Fear. They both comprise the set E, emotion. Since it is the entire set E that causes motivation, Want, W, is only one cause of M; other causal impactors are Fear, drives, etc. - other components of E.

So, let's say for example that you see a chocolate. You either take it or you don't. If you don't take it, it's because you fear getting fat, or unhealthy, or being arrested for shoplifting, or becoming an immoral person from stealing regularly. If you do take the chocolate, it's because you wanted it. in either case, fear or want were the motives, and fear and want are emotions. Reason had nothing to do with it. Reason only comes in to play if, for example, the chocolate is high up on a shelf, and you have to work out how to get it down from the shelf.

3. Reason is the hallmark of a human? No. I find humans very irrational. My evidence: War, torture, crime, religion, astrology, homeopathy, etc. I conclude that the hallmark of a human is the capacity for generative grammatical language, culture, and more advanced technology. (Apes and birds use primitive lever and spear type technologies). That's apart from obvious biological markers like bipedalism. So reason and tool use is not paradigmatically human.

"I know we are emotionally charged creatures and emotion tends to be a big driving force."

It is the only driving force, by the above argument. We are driven by drives, we are motivated into motion by emotion. It is not a coincidence that these words are related.

"My argument is that a balanced human being (Please take note of this word for it is the backbone of my argument) who is able to take a step outside of a situation and see it from all sides and allow rational thinking to dominate yet take emotion into consideration is sure to make a sound judgment. It is only once we have allowed ourselves to detach from the situation that makes this possible."

One is never detached from the situation. The postmodernists argue that all arguments are about seizing/annexing power. Nietzsche calls it the 'will to power'. 

One can ideally argue that persons will "act for reasons," as the Analytic Philosopher Compatibilists claim, however, 'reasons' is an ambiguous word, and doesn't always entail rationality. So, for example, one can think of the case of 'reasons' meaning 'causes'. So the reason I keyed a car was I was angry with the driver. That 'reason' is not rational, it is emotional: it is about anger. So you first need to clarify that you have rationality in mind, ie that sense of 'reasons', rather than 'reasons' in the sense of 'causes'. Of course, a reader can see that this - rationality - is the sense that you have in mind, but the Humean argument shows that rationality is moot. Here's an example of the distinction. "What is the reason for the building falling over?" well, it was demolished. "What is the reason for the building falling over?" Well, the owner wanted to demolish it. Two different senses of "reason" are at work here: cause and desire, or teleological intention. It's the same distinction as between "why" (for what purpose) and "why" (for what cause).

"Reason and not emotion leads us to thinking about cause and effect."

That is correct. Reason calculates the means by which to satisfy the desires. It does not motivate; motivation arises in desires/inclinations/drives only.

"Reason is associated with human activities such as art, philosophy, science, maths. Emotion and reason are like twins who from sharing the womb cannot live life apart."

The first claim is false regarding art and Continental philosophy. Phenomenology and existentialism, for example, concentrate on emotional aspects like feeling freedom. Consider Sartre's discussion of how wine feels on the tongue. Analytic (English) philosophy concentrates on reasoned arguments, as illustrated above in the steps. The same for maths and science. Art certainly is about passion. Consider even the mathematical style of Bach's music; his compositions are clearly affective in nature; one of his works is even called 'Ode to Joy', not 'Ode to Logic'.

The second claim, that they are intertwined, is probably correct.

"We must remember emotion is that which is an automatic function it leads to poor decision making and snap judgments. It is child like in that is searches for pleasure it does not understand delayed gratification it will always look towards happiness and naturally steers us from pain."

This seems correct. 

"(It is like America in world war two it cares only for itself and its own gain)."

Non-sequitur, irrelevant.

"Negative emotions will play there role in our decision making process but what if that which emotion tries to steer us from is actually for our greater good."

'Their'. If it helps, it was 'hiora' in Old English, so just remember it has an "I" in it. Whereas the preposition "there" was 'thaer' in Old English.

You cannot always say that emotion steers us away from greater good.

Let's do a thought experiment. Imagine you're in the desert, and you arrive at an oasis after two days' thirst. Your emotions command you to drink. Is this irrational? Is there a greater good in suppressing that emotion? No. Therefore self-control is not necessarily rational or for the greater good. It depends on circumstance. And self-control is effective anyway only through its use of emotions. Take an example. Let's say you know that there's plutonium at the bottom of the oasis. You know that it has made the water radioactive. Will you still drink? Well, maybe now you'll hesitate, because you know that drinking will give you a delayed death from cancer or radiation poisoning. But not drinking will give you a quicker death from thirst. So, which do you take? The point is, your hesitation is not about rationality: in both cases, you're motivated by emotions: fear and thirst. (IF thirst is really an emotion; I'd say not, it's a bodily drive. In any case, it's not a rational demand, it's a biomechanical demand).

"Alone emotions are a good guiding tool they should be regarded as a wild unpredictable child and should not alone have full control over situations."

If my argument above from Hume is correct, then they are always in control of situations.

"It is reason which is something we have to consciously tap into to make use of when trying to understand a world outside of our own."

This is true, but it applies only to things amenable to reason, such as how to raise a rock by using a lever and fulcrum. It does not apply to WHY we want to raise a rock by means of whatever means is possible. Reason deals with HOW, not WHY.

"A combination of reason and rationality is the true mark of a human being."

I've seen cats planning to attack each other by hiding behind corners. Ive seen chimps sharpen sticks to later spear prey. I consider those to be a demonstration of reasoning abilities. Therefore not only humans can reason, and reasoning is thus not the marker par excellence of what it means to be human. I think culture, creativity, syntactic language are better markers and more peculiar to our species. No other animals seem to demonstrate culture or art, for example, unless we train them (e.g. elephants).

-Happiness was achieved if ‘reason subdued the primitive passions’

This is part of the process of balance so I do not see it in the same light as Plato, for him emotion needed to be extinguished completely to let reason rule. Plato describes in his Chariot Allegory two horses pulling a chariot in separate directions. Reason is the horse of good breed while emotion the wild horse."

I disagree. I think happiness is achieved when one no longer has anything that one wants. As long as one has wants, or lacks, to put it another way, one won't be happy. Therefore, one must do one of two things: either satisfy all wants by achieving everything you want in life, or, try to crush the wants. But, as priestly child molesters demonstrate, the attempt to crush the wants/desires is doomed to failure. So the demonstration of having left most of the emotional pressures behind comes from answering the question: "What do you still want?", with the reply "nothing".

"Plato does show us two separate contradictory sides of ourselves yet he fails to see that these horses cannot be pulling in opposing directions as they are both searching for a means to the same end. So they can not be going in different directions."

Yes. But the reason finds the mechanism, and the emotions decide the object. IE the reasons deal with "how", and the emotions deal with "what" or "why".

" – reason nestled in emotion and dependent on it. This article depicts emotion to drive reason yet does not deny the importance of reason"

Journal article reference? Author? I prefer a journal article... at least I know it's been through peer review.

"As I said balance is the backbone of this argument. It relies on the premise that the individual is balanced as only a balanced human being can step outside of emotion and not get caught up in it. Only a balanced human understands the importance of reason. A balanced human being uses opposing sides of self together."

The only thing that stops an emotion is a stronger emotion, e.g. fear. The reason can only control the emotions by presenting them with some sort of fear, e.g. fear of the consequences. Reasons cannot control the emotions by appeals to reasons. Good reasons, in and of themselves, are reasons towards some other desideratum. So, for example, if I have a choice to steal or not steal, relevant considerations, in actual life, are as follows: Fear of getting caught and punished, versus, getting what you want, versus, adversely affecting the owner of the item you plan to steal, and therefore being a 'bad person' and fearing the feeling of 'guilt'. None of this is reason, it is all emotion.


Here is Hume's argument:



Treatise of Human Nature

Of the will and direct passions 

Of the influencing motives of the will

Nothing is more usual in philosophy, and even in common life, than to talk of the combat of passion and reason, to give the preference to reason, and assert that men are only so far virtuous as they conform themselves to its dictates. Every rational creature, `tis said, is oblig'd to regulate his actions by reason; and if any other motive or principle challenge the direction of his conduct, he ought to oppose it, till it be entirely subdu'd, or at least brought to a conformity with that superior principle. On this method of thinking the greatest part of moral philosophy, antient and modern, seems to be founded; nor is there an ampler field, as well for metaphysical arguments, as popular declamations, than this suppos'd pre-eminence of reason above passion. The eternity, invariableness, and divine origin of the former have been display'd to the best advantage: The blindness, unconstancy, and deceitfulness of the latter have been as strongly insisted on. In order to shew the fallacy of all this philosophy, I shall endeavour to prove first, that reason alone can never be a motive to any action of the will; and secondly, that it can never oppose passion in the direction of the will.

The understanding exerts itself after two different ways, as it judges from demonstration or probability; as it regards the abstract relations of our ideas, or those relations of objects, of which experience only gives us information. I believe it scarce will be asserted, that the first species of reasoning alone is ever the cause of any action. As its proper province is the world of ideas, and as the will always places us in that of realities, demonstration and volition seem, upon that account, to be totally remov'd, from each other. Mathematics, indeed, are useful in all mechanical operations, and arithmetic in almost every art and profession: But `tis not of themselves they have any influence: Mechanics are the art of regulating the motions of bodies to some design'd end or purpose; and the reason why we employ arithmetic in fixing the proportions of numbers, is only that we may discover the proportions of their influence and operation. A merchant is desirous of knowing the sum total of his accounts with any person: Why? but that he may learn what sum will have the same effects in paying his debt, and going to market, as all the particular articles taken together. Abstract or demonstrative reasoning, therefore, never influences any of our actions, but only as it directs our judgment concerning causes and effects; which leads us to the second operation of the understanding.

Tis obvious, that when we have the prospect of pain or pleasure from any object, we feel a consequent emotion of aversion or propensity, and are carry'd to avoid or embrace what will give us this uneasines or satisfaction. `Tis also obvious, that this emotion rests not here, but making us cast our view on every side, comprehends whatever objects are connected with its original one by the relation of cause and effect. Here then reasoning takes place to discover this relation; and according as our reasoning varies, our actions receive a subsequent variation. But `tis evident in this case that the impulse arises not from reason, but is only directed by it. Tis from the prospect of pain or pleasure that the aversion or propensity arises towards any object: And these emotions extend themselves to the causes and effects of that object, as they are pointed out to us by reason and experience. It can never in the least concern us to know, that such objects are causes, and such others effects, if both the causes and effects be indifferent to us. Where the objects themselves do not affect us, their connexion can never give them any influence; and `tis plain, that as reason is nothing but the discovery of this connexion, it cannot be by its means that the objects are able to affect us.

Since reason alone can never produce any action, or give rise to volition, I infer, that the same faculty is as incapable of preventing volition, or of disputing the preference with any passion or emotion. This consequence is necessary. `Tis impossible reason cou'd have the latter effect of preventing volition, but by giving an impulse in a contrary direction to our passion; and that impulse, had it operated alone, wou'd have been able to produce volition. Nothing can oppose or retard the impulse of passion, but a contrary impulse; and if this contrary impulse ever arises from reason, that latter faculty must have an original influence on the will, and must be able to cause, as well as hinder any act of volition. But if reason has no original influence, `tis impossible it can withstand any principle, which has such an efficacy, or ever keep the mind in suspence a moment. Thus it appears, that the principle, which opposes our passion, cannot be the same with reason, and is only call'd so in an improper sense. We speak not strictly and philosophically when we talk of the combat of passion and of reason. Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them. As this opinion may appear somewhat extraordinary, it may not be improper to confirm it by some other considerations.

A passion is an original existence, or, if you will, modification of existence, and contains not any representative quality, which renders it a copy of any other existence or modification. When I am angry, I am actually possest with the passion, and in that emotion have no more a reference to any other object, than when I am thirsty, or sick, or more than five foot high. `Tis impossible, therefore, that this passion can be opposed by, or be contradictory to truth and reason; since this contradiction consists in the disagreement of ideas, consider'd as copies, with those objects, which they represent

What may at first occur on this head, is, that as nothing can be contrary to truth or reason, except what has a reference to it, and as the judgments of our understanding only have this reference, it must follow, that passions can be contrary to reason only so far as they are accompany'd with some judgment or opinion. According to this principle, which is so obvious and natural, `tis only in two senses, that any affection can be call'd unreasonable. First, When a passion, such as hope or fear, grief or joy, despair or security, is founded on the supposition or the existence of objects, which really do not exist. Secondly, When in exerting any passion in action, we chuse means insufficient for the design'd end, and deceive ourselves in our judgment of causes and effects. Where a passion is neither founded on false suppositions, nor chuses means insufficient for the end, the understanding can neither justify nor condemn it. `Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger. `Tis not contrary to reason for me to chuse my total ruin, to prevent the least uneasiness of an Indian or person wholly unknown to me. `Tis as little contrary to reason to prefer even my own acknowledge'd lesser good to my greater, and have a more ardent affection for the former than the latter. A trivial good may, from certain circumstances, produce a desire superior to what arises from the greatest and most valuable enjoyment; nor is there any thing more

extraordinary in this, than in mechanics to see one pound weight raise up a hundred by the advantage of its situation. In short, a passion must be accompany'd with some false judgment. in order to its being unreasonable; and even then `tis not the passion, properly speaking, which is unreasonable, but the judgment.

The consequences are evident. Since a passion can never, in any sense, be call'd unreasonable, but when founded on a false supposition. or when it chuses means insufficient for the design'd end, `tis impossible, that reason and passion can ever oppose each other, or dispute for the government of the will and actions. The moment we perceive the falshood of any supposition, or the insufficiency of any means our passions yield to our reason without any opposition. I may desire any fruit as of an excellent relish; but whenever you convince me of my mistake, my longing ceases. I may will the performance of certain actions as means of obtaining any desir'd good; but as my willing of these actions is only secondary, and founded on the supposition, that they are causes of the propos'd effect; as soon as I discover the falshood of that supposition, they must become indifferent to me.

`Tis natural for one, that does not examine objects with a strict philosophic eye, to imagine, that those actions of the mind are entirely the same, which produce not a different sensation, and are not immediately distinguishable to the feeling and perception. Reason, for instance, exerts itself without producing any sensible emotion; and except in the more sublime disquisitions of philosophy, or in the frivolous subtilties of the school, scarce ever conveys any pleasure or uneasiness. Hence it proceeds, that every action of the mind, which operates with the same calmness and tranquillity, is confounded with reason by all those, who judge of things from the first view and appearance. Now `tis certain, there are certain calm desires and tendencies, which, tho' they be real passions, produce little emotion in the mind, and are more known by their effects than by the immediate feeling or sensation. These desires are of two kinds; either certain instincts originally implanted in our natures, such as benevolence and resentment, the love of life, and kindness to children; or the general appetite to good, and aversion to evil, consider'd merely as such. When any of these passions are calm, and cause no disorder in the soul, they are very readily taken for the determinations of reason, and are suppos'd to proceed from the same faculty, with that, which judges of truth and falshood. Their nature and principles have been suppos'd the same, because their sensations are not evidently different.

Beside these calm passions, which often determine the will, there are certain violent emotions of the same kind, which have likewise a great influence on that faculty. When I receive any injury from another, I often feel a violent passion of resentment, which makes me desire his evil and punishment, independent of all considerations of pleasure and advantage to myself. When I am immediately threaten'd with any grievous ill, my fears, apprehensions, and aversions rise to a great height, and produce a sensible emotion.

The common error of metaphysicians has lain in ascribing the direction of the will entirely to one of these principles, and supposing the other to have no influence. Men often act knowingly against their interest: For which reason the view of the greatest possible good does not always influence them. Men often counter-act a violent passion in prosecution of their interests and designs: `Tis not therefore the present uneasiness alone, which determines them. In general we may observe, that both these principles operate on the will; and where they are contrary, that either of them prevails, according to the general character or present disposition of the person. What we call strength of mind, implies the prevalence of the calm passions above the violent; tho' we may easily observe, there is no man so constantly possess'd of this virtue, as never on any occasion to yield to the sollicitations of passion and desire. From these variations of temper proceeds the great difficulty of deciding concerning the actions and resolutions of men, where there is any contrariety of motives and passions. 



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