X-Message-Number: 12676
From: Thomas Donaldson <>
Subject: still more on feelings and goals (with a bit on consciousness, too)
Date: Sun, 31 Oct 1999 00:29:02 +1000 (EST)

Yet more on feelings and goals:

By now we have lots of ways of getting some insight into what someone 
(other than us) may be feeling, and again what their goals may be. Scott
Badger has argued that both can exist independently, bringing up people
with manic depression or simple depression as examples. He also brought
up the case of someone who has feelings he/she cannot explain. These
are good examples.

I would say that in each of these cases those feelings ARE associated
with goals, though the goals may not be very elaborate. When someone
is depressed (in the medical sense) their goal may very well be not to
exist (having a goal and being mentally able to implement it aren't the
same). Someone with depression has a very poor opinion of themself or
of their situation (depression can be realistic, after all). The very
existence of such a poor opinion suggests that the person holding it
has ideas about the goals he/she should have (such ideas are goals
themselves) together with a total lack of belief that he/she can
attain them.

Again, if someone has a feeling they cannot explain when they feel
it, they may simply not want to trace down just why they feel that way,
for good reasons or bad. (We cannot spend all our time on introspection;
but on the other hand, if a feeling repeats several times, it may be
wise for us to try to work out why we feel that way). 

I will say that Scott can probably find cases of pathology in which the
connection between goals and feelings simply fails to exist. If nothing
else, some kinds of brain injury might produce such conditions. I'm
happy to make them exceptions to my suggestion for a general rule.
Moreover, so far as I understand how brains work, I don't know of any
case in which a brain injury has separated the two... but that is 
hardly proof that such injuries are impossible.

This connection may come from the simple fact that the brain regions 
causing our feelings lie very close to (and sometimes may even coincide)
with those causing our goals. I do not mean that our feelings must
always be strong ones (though strong feelings and strong goals go 
together). Even if we have a mild desire to succeed in a minor game,
that minor goal will come with similarly mild feelings.

For general interest, one popular (among neuroscientists, not in the 
population at large!) theory of how consciousness works postulates the
involvement of special areas in our thalamus. We know that we aren't
conscious of most of the workings of our brain (after all, our brain
has many neurons working IN PARALLEL, while our consciousness is 
SEQUENTIAL, so that such awareness would be quite impossible). Not only
that, but we can often act before our consciousness becomes aware of that
action. Our consciousness may actually have the major role of sorting
among various feelings and goals to choose the one which we shall attempt 
at that time: one function which by its nature cannot be done in parallel.
So this theory suggests that even our consciousness depends on the
presence and close matching of our feelings and goals.

Yes, I can identify the areas of thalamus involved, and discussed this
theory in PERIASTRON a few years ago. Anyone wanting to know more need
merely ask.

			Best and long long life

				Thomas Donaldson

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