The Manifold of Sense - Part IWritten by Sam Vaknin
"Anthropologists report enormous differences in ways that different cultures categorize emotions. Some languages, in fact, do not even have a word for emotion. Other languages differ in number of words they have to name emotions. While English has over 2,000 words to describe emotional categories, there are only 750 such descriptive words in Taiwanese Chinese. One tribal language has only 7 words that could be translated into categories of emotion
words used to name or describe an emotion can influence what emotion is experienced. For example, Tahitians do not have a word directly equivalent to sadness. Instead, they treat sadness as something like a physical illness. This difference has an impact on how emotion is experienced by Tahitians. For example, sadness we feel over departure of a close friend would be experienced by a Tahitian as exhaustion. Some cultures lack words for anxiety or depression or guilt. Samoans have one word encompassing love, sympathy, pity, and liking which are very different emotions in our own culture." "Psychology An Introduction" Ninth Edition By: Charles G. Morris, University of Michigan Prentice Hall, 1996
This essay is divided in two parts. In first, we survey landscape of discourse regarding emotions in general and sensations in particular. This part will be familiar to any student of philosophy and can be skipped by same. The second part contains an attempt at producing an integrative overview of matter, whether successful or not is best left to reader to judge.
Words have power to express speaker's emotions and to evoke emotions (whether same or not remains disputed) in listener. Words, therefore, possess emotive meaning together with their descriptive meaning (the latter plays a cognitive role in forming beliefs and understanding).
Our moral judgements and responses deriving thereof have a strong emotional streak, an emotional aspect and an emotive element. Whether emotive part predominates as basis of appraisal is again debatable. Reason analyzes a situation and prescribes alternatives for action. But it is considered to be static, inert, not goal-oriented (one is almost tempted to say: non-teleological - see: "Legitimizing Final Causes"). The equally necessary dynamic, action-inducing component is thought, for some oblivious reason, to belong to emotional realm. Thus, language (=words) used to express moral judgement supposedly actually express speaker's emotions. Through aforementioned mechanism of emotive meaning, similar emotions are evoked in hearer and he is moved to action.
A distinction should be and has been drawn between regarding moral judgement as merely a report pertaining to subject's inner emotional world and regarding it wholly as an emotive reaction. In first case, whole notion (really, phenomenon) of moral disagreement is rendered incomprehensible. How could one disagree with a report? In second case, moral judgement is reduced to status of an exclamation, a non-propositional expression of "emotive tension", a mental excretion. This absurd was nicknamed: "The Boo-Hoorah Theory".
There were those who maintained that whole issue was result of mislabeling. Emotions are really what we otherwise call attitudes, they claimed. We approve or disapprove of something, therefore, we "feel". Prescriptivist accounts displaced emotivist analyses. This instrumentalism did not prove more helpful than its purist predecessors.
Throughout this scholarly debate, philosophers did what they are best at: ignored reality. Moral judgements every child knows are not explosive or implosive events, with shattered and scattered emotions strewn all over battlefield. Logic is definitely involved and so are responses to already analyzed moral properties and circumstances. Moreover, emotions themselves are judged morally (as right or wrong). If a moral judgement were really an emotion, we would need to stipulate existence of an hyper-emotion to account for moral judgement of our emotions and, in all likelihood, will find ourselves infinitely regressing. If moral judgement is a report or an exclamation, how are we able to distinguish it from mere rhetoric? How are we able to intelligibly account for formation of moral standpoints by moral agents in response to an unprecedented moral challenge?
Moral realists criticize these largely superfluous and artificial dichotomies (reason versus feeling, belief versus desire, emotivism and noncognitivism versus realism).
The debate has old roots. Feeling Theories, such as Descartes', regarded emotions as a mental item, which requires no definition or classification. One could not fail to fully grasp it upon having it. This entailed introduction of introspection as only way to access our feelings. Introspection not in limited sense of "awareness of one's mental states" but in broader sense of "being able to internally ascertain mental states". It almost became material: a "mental eye", a "brain-scan", at least a kind of perception. Others denied its similarity to sensual perception. They preferred to treat introspection as a modus of memory, recollection through retrospection, as an internal way of ascertaining (past) mental events. This approach relied on impossibility of having a thought simultaneously with another thought whose subject was first thought. All these lexicographic storms did not serve either to elucidate complex issue of introspection or to solve critical questions: How can we be sure that what we "introspect" is not false? If accessible only to introspection, how do we learn to speak of emotions uniformly? How do we (unreflectively) assume knowledge of other people's emotions? How come we are sometimes forced to "unearth" or deduce our own emotions? How is it possible to mistake our emotions (to have one without actually feeling it)? Are all these failures of machinery of introspection?
The Dialogue of Dreams - Part IWritten by Sam Vaknin
Are dreams a source of reliable divination? Generations upon generations seem to have thought so. They incubated dreams by travelling afar, by fasting and by engaging in all other manners of self deprivation or intoxication. With exception of this highly dubious role, dreams do seem to have three important functions:
To process repressed emotions (wishes, in Freud's speech) and other mental content which was suppressed and stored in unconscious. To order, classify and, generally, to pigeonhole conscious experiences of day or days preceding dreaming ("day residues"). A partial overlap with former function is inevitable: some sensory input is immediately relegated to darker and dimmer kingdoms of subconscious and unconscious without being consciously processed at all. To "stay in touch" with outside world. External sensory input is interpreted by dream and represented in its unique language of symbols and disjunction. Research has shown this to be a rare event, independent of timing of stimuli: during sleep or immediately prior to it. Still, when it does happen, it seems that even when interpretation is dead wrong substantial information is preserved. A collapsing bedpost (as in Maury's famous dream) will become a French guillotine, for instance. The message conserved: there is physical danger to neck and head. All three functions are part of a much larger one:
The continuous adjustment of model one has of one's self and of one's place in world to incessant stream of sensory (external) input and of mental (internal) input. This "model modification" is carried out through an intricate, symbol laden, dialogue between dreamer and himself. It probably also has therapeutic side benefits. It would be an over-simplification to say that dream carries messages (even if we were to limit it to correspondence with one's self). The dream does not seem to be in a position of privileged knowledge. The dream functions more like a good friend would: listening, advising, sharing experiences, providing access to remote territories of mind, putting events in perspective and in proportion and provoking. It, thus, induces relaxation and acceptance and a better functioning of "client". It does so, mostly, by analysing discrepancies and incompatibilities. No wonder that it is mostly associated with bad emotions (anger, hurt, fear). This also happens in course of successful psychotherapy. Defences are gradually dismantled and a new, more functional, view of world is established. This is a painful and frightening process. This function of dream is more in line with Jung's view of dreams as "compensatory". The previous three functions are "complementary" and, therefore, Freudian.
It would seem that we are all constantly engaged in maintenance, in preserving that which exists and inventing new strategies for coping. We are all in constant psychotherapy, administered by ourselves, day and night. Dreaming is just awareness of this on-going process and its symbolic content. We are more susceptible, vulnerable, and open to dialogue while we sleep. The dissonance between how we regard ourselves, and what we really are and between our model of world and reality this dissonance is so enormous that it calls for a (continuous) routine of evaluation, mending and re-invention. Otherwise, whole edifice might crumble. The delicate balance between we, dreamers, and world might be shattered, leaving us defenceless and dysfunctional.
To be effective, dreams must come equipped with key to their interpretation. We all seem to possess an intuitive copy of just such a key, uniquely tailored to our needs, to our data and to our circumstances. This Areiocritica helps us to decipher true and motivating meaning of dialogue. This is one reason why dreaming is discontinuous: time must be given to interpret and to assimilate new model. Four to six sessions take place every night. A session missed will be held night after. If a person is prevented from dreaming on a permanent basis, he will become irritated, then neurotic and then psychotic. In other words: his model of himself and of world will no longer be usable. It will be out of synch. It will represent both reality and non-dreamer wrongly. Put more succinctly: it seems that famous "reality test" (used in psychology to set apart "functioning, normal" individuals from those who are not) is maintained by dreaming. It fast deteriorates when dreaming is impossible. This link between correct apprehension of reality (reality model), psychosis and dreaming has yet to be explored in depth. A few predictions can be made, though: