IGS Discussion Forums: Learning GS Topics: Where are we going as a species?
Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Tuesday, November 8, 2005 - 11:47 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

It has only been two years since the Twelfth International Conference on General Semantics, the topic of which was Confronting the Challenges of Conflicting World Views. Here are my thoughts on that subject.

Have your read Coping with Increasing Complexity: Implications of General Semantics and General Systems Theory, Edited by Wasburn and Smith, Gordon and Breach, NY, (1974)?

Also check out The Media Ecology Association, which is carying on the advanced general semantics work Neil Postman was involved with.

Where are we going as a species? For a little "close-to-home" time-binding, I'll quote my mother. "Where are you going? - To hell, if you don't change your ways."

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, November 9, 2005 - 02:14 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Hi Nora,

I take exception to your use of "lizard brain" in conjunction with emotion. My experience as an amateur herpetologist, my reading of the general semantics reference material "The attitude theory of emotion", and other experiences suggest that "emotion" is only fully developed as a mammalian brain capability. A quick search of the internet brought up sites that corroborate my initial semantic reaction. The response behavior that characterizes the functioning of the attitude theory of emotion shows only sporadic development in reptiles, but is clearly evident in early mammals.

Emotion has a valid function. It regulates pair-bonding ("love"), social dominance ("anger"), social submissiveness, ("depression"), survival ("fear"), learning ("joy"), health ("disgust"), all studied by Nina Bull. For all these emotions there is a common structure. The probability of engaging in the appropriate behavior is maintained at a higher level than in the absence of the mechanism of emotion. Capture a snake, and give it some time to calm down. The snake will, if at a comfortable temperature and with adequate support, generally become quite docile, although there are species variation. A bird or other mammal, on the other hand will continue to seek escape, because the mechanism of fear maintains the emotion and increases the probability of flight behavior. Many lizards show behavior consistent with a lack or reduced "emotional" response pattern. Again, there is species variation. But for consistent emotional behavior, one needs to look at mammals.

Moreover, "Reptiles to mammals - There are no transitional forms between reptiles and mammals. Mammals just appear in the fossil record, again without transitional forms (Gish notes 32 such orders of mammals)." There is no evidence to support that we evolved from reptiles, although we may have had a common ancestor. So we never had "lizard brains".

Nora and Ben,

It is the "social order" structure that dominates our emotional responses, and we have millennia of co-evolution between our social organizations and our brains that we are not likely to change in a few decades or even centuries without a lot of factors. How and why does the position in the social order of individuals relate to the survival of the species? What, for that matter, does the word "mature" mean in the context of evolution for survival?

Because of the structure of emotional functioning, we have an entry point for managing our emotional responses. It is at the point of deciding whether something is "good" or "bad". If we can remain indecisive in regard to something, we will not be able to "orient" toward or away, and hence will not engage the emotional reaction machinery.

Communicating without direct visual and auditory contact "bypasses" our capability of, mostly unconsciously, understanding our position in the social order, so dominant sub-conscious factors governing our interpersonal behavior are absent outside of "face-to-face" communications. This allows engaging in behavior without the hampering effects of subconscious risk assessment.

A LOT of stuff we don't think about and are not generally aware of affects how we communicate. Neil Postman's work in media ecology began to explore some of these effects. My first-hand experiences there showed me that some people can behave in what we might describe as a "less than fair" manner when they think they know things about the communications situation that their co-communicators do not know. I'll not be more explicit than that, except to recall the old addages, "knowledge is power" and "power corrupts".

As always, there's more that can be said, but I'll stop here now.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, November 9, 2005 - 04:34 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Hi Ben,
I've used the words 'emotion' and 'feeling' consistent with Nina Bull's "Attitude theory of emotion". "Feelings" are short term reactions one senses. "Emotions" are a higher level structural pattern that, in the attitude theory of emotion, relates body orientation and feelings. It does not help that the six terms mentioned are used in both contexts - to indicate feelings and to indicate emotions. In my paper Think-Feel and Know-Act you may notice that I put both words in "scare quotes" most of the time. But I related "feelings" as short-term and "emotion" as the time-bound resultant. I find it hard not to think of "behavior" as an effect of a developed "emotion". Beating somebody can be the result of "anger", but I cannot think of beating as anger. We "infer" the person may be angry if they beat someone.

You said, These particular sensations might better be termed "moods" to distinguish them from other feelings like "cold," "hot," "sweaty," "constipated," etc., which are more bodily feelings rather than relational feelings. In the Attitude Theory of Emotion, the feelings of the emotions are also bodily feelings, no less than "cold", "hot", etc.. They are just less obviously associated with the more easily located senses. I describe them as "integrated enteroceptive and proprioceptive" sensations.