The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

Nature vs nurture

The US psychologist Paul Ekman argued that emotions are basic, universal and hard-wired. All humans share the same emotions. His study of facial expressions of emotion across cultures convinced him that they are not determined by society: they are determined by biology.

The US neurologist Paul MacLean supported that theory based on the fact that we all share the regions of the brain that account for emotions.

However, it seems self-evident that emotions differ from society to society. Either cultures shape emotions or viceversa: people from different regions of the world sometimes collide because they have a different repertory of values, and they have different ideas about which actions are offensive or polite.

One solution is to assume that there exists a hard core of basic emotions shared by everybody and a less rigid "fruit" of emotions that are created by culture. The British philosopher Peter Goldie called it the "avocado-pear" model and argued against it. He instead proposed a "clay model": there is a window of opportunity when emotions can be shaped, and later they become hard-wired and immutable.

The Australian philosopher Paul Griffiths proposed that emotion (as well as the rest of what we call "mind") is the result of the interaction between genetic and environmental inputs.

The US anthropologist Clifford Geertz, on the other hand, argued that, essentially, emotions are cultural artifacts. So did the New Zealand-born philosopher Rom Harre and the US anthropologist Catherine Luz (“The Anthropology of Emotions “, 1986). According to them, emotions are not universal: they are shaped by culture and socially constructed.


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