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"

For A Theory Of Emotions

I have an inner life, which is not a bodily life. Within this inner life (which it is customary to call "mind") different types of things occur.  I think. I feel emotions. I dream.

There appears to be a difference between emotions and thinking. Emotions are often not desired: they occur because of external stimuli. I don't have much control over them, but they are not spontaneous: I can always relate them to an external event. Emotions have no logical construct, no flow, no time dimension. They simply happen and slowly fade away or change into other emotions: their only dimension is their intensity.

The main difference between emotions and thought is that thoughts do have a time dimension and can evolve over time.  Thoughts can be controlled: I can decide if I want to think or not, and what I want to think. But they can also be spontaneous, just like emotions. Both emotions and thoughts result in behavior. Therefore, my behavior is driven by both emotions and thoughts, by both controlled and non-controlled inner behavior.  Thoughts also result in emotions, albeit of a different type (like depression or anxiety).

Cognition basically  mediates between emotions and thought. Emotions help organize the world in the mind, and that is what thought operates upon. Each emotion changes the mind and how deeply the emotion changes the mind depends on how intense the emotion is. That "change" is a change in cognition.

Thought can also generate a change in cognition, but we can fairly assume that even thought needs to generate an emotion before a meaningful, lasting change is performed on cognition. Basically, we can assume that nothing changes in our mind unless an emotion is created. The emotion is what causes the mind to reorganize itself.

Emotion, cognition and thought seem to repeat themselves virtually ad infinitum. Senses cause sensations, which cause cognitive events, which cause thought, which cause higher-level emotions, which cause higher-level cognitive events, which cause thought, which cause even higher-level emotions, etc. The process gets weaker and weaker as it moves higher and higher, and in most cases it actually never reaches the second level (in a significant way, at least). This process is a process similar to resonance that continues virtually forever, although it rapidly stops being meaningful, especially if new sensations start another chain of events.

Some emotions are localized and some emotions are not localized. The pain in my foot is localized, but my fear of death, my career ambitions and my desire of learning are not localized. Most emotions correspond to bodily needs, but some correspond to more abstract entities that have to do with thought itself. You need to be a thinking subject to desire to learn. Career ambitions refer to a vast complex system of values that has been built with thought.  Even my fear of death is really a fear of "inner" death, not of bodily death, and therefore refers to thought.

Some emotions (the "bodily emotions") are localized and refer to the life of body parts. Some emotions ("inner" emotions) are not localized and refer to the inner life of thought. If thought is an evolution of emotions, then the latter are emotions about emotions.

Emotions play the key role of being preconditions to cognition and therefore to thought.

If thought and emotion are different processes, what is their evolutionary relationship? Have they always been different and separate processes, or is thought simply an evolution of emotions that happened when language enabled us to control emotion and to develop something equivalent to emotion but more subtle?

Note that the free will of the self is almost the opposite of emotions: emotions are beyond "our" control.

The machinery of "mind", or "cognition" (memory, learning, reasoning, language), is at the service of our primary inner life: thoughts and emotions (and even dreams).  The machinery of "mind" is really a mediator between our primary inner life and our bodily life. I can remember an event, and then feel an emotion or think about that event. Viceversa, I may be thinking of something and recall an event. My inner life needs a physical support to be stored and retrieved.  My current inner life needs a physical support to communicate with my previous inner life. The time dimension of thinking is implemented in the physical support. That physical support is the brain.


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