Amfoes     Mon, Oct 12, 2009  Permanent link
I believe SpaceCollective would be incomplete without this video - Damasio's work on emotions in general. Thank you, Spaceweaver.

Emotions had not only been abondoned as a research direction in neuroscience (neurology) for quite a long time but also been declared as "absolute evil" in human thinking in the last century as to bias or paralyze rational thinking and reasoning. It appears that a silent witch-hunt by means of ignoring emotions was carried out in the academia. Thanks to Damasio and LeDoux (Joseph LeDoux) emotions seem to have gained their dignity in the academia. But I am very skeptic about whether this is the case for general understanding of how the ultimate human reasoning and thinking ought to be and function. I believe emotions are still very much discarded from the discussions about the future of human reasoning and thinking. In this respect, I would like to see Damasio as well as other researchers working on emotions (such as LeDoux) to appear in public more often and to popularize their research. It is not a good strategy to wait for Dawkins to take an interest in the role of emotions in human evolution and let him popularize the subject. Needless to say, I think the interaction between emotions and evolution are to offer so much about the origins of life - particularly of intelligence.

The part I enjoyed most was the reference to Einstein and how he acknowledged and embraced his emotions in the process of thinking.

I would like to write more about this topic as soon as I have time. Meanwhile, please allow me to list a couple of books I have been reading lately - rather at a slow pace though - that I think might be of interest to those who want to read more about advances in research on emotions. (Apart from Damasio's books, and listed in decreasing order of relevance)

- The Emotional Brain by Joseph LeDoux (A must-read for anyone interested in emotions)
- Emotion explained by Edmund Rolls (Comprehensive account on the findings of neuroscientific research on emotions)
- On the Emotions by Richard Wollheim
- The Emotion Machine by Marvin Minsky (Well, it's Minsky.)
- Educating Intuition by Robin Miles Hogarth (strongly recommended for those who have a background in economics)
- A Cultural History of Causality: Science, Murder Novels, and Systems of Thought by Stephen Kern (general interest in causality, it has an interesting chapter on emotions whereby it is discussed how emotions are elicited in cultural context and understood by various periods (e.g., Victorian, early 20th century))
Spaceweaver     Tue, Oct 13, 2009  Permanent link
Thank you Amfoes for your thoughts and the interesting reading list. I entirely agree that emotions were till lately (perhaps still are) a kind of 'black sheep' of academic research, not to speak of the common prejudice that emotions are inferior to reason.

It is becoming clear that emotional activity is indispensable to thinking and is involved in many cognitive functions. Psychological research starts to show that the emotional system is an intelligent system that carries out complex computations and is capable to swiftly resolve situations that are virtually intractable to reason in real time.

Moreover, if the human mind is an evolutionary ecology, as I believe it to be, emotions are an essential component in the selective mechanism that drives evolutionary processes in the mind. It wouldn't be an understatement to say that emotions guide the dynamics of human identity and human activity at all scales from the individual level to our collective human web.