Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Active simulation of other's state

[The whole burden of our human progress has been an attempt to escape from the bondage to the body and the vital impulses.] ~Sri Aurobindo
[An ever-enlarging self takes the place of the old narrow self which is confined to our individual mind and body, and it is this moral growth which society helps and organises.]

The Divine Humanity To Be Evolved Through the Yoga Humanity acts based on the motive force of desire, and much of our mental development and focus is based on ways to both satisfy and justify this vital for...

Emotion and its transformation in Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga Psychology. Larry Seidlitz — Sri Aurobindo Center for Advanced Research, Pondicherry.
We find presented in Sri Aurobindo’s treatment of emotions a great paradox and its synthesis and resolution. On one hand, emotions are presented in the most disparaging terms, as the center stage for all suffering, perversion, and obscurity. On the other hand, emotions are viewed as not only deriving from the ineffable Ananda or Bliss which is the very nature and substance of the Divine Existence, but they are also a powerful means into the very heart of that Ananda.] 

Efforts have been expended, in particular, on the rehabilitation of some emotions commonly described as “negative”, such as guilt (Greenspan 1995), shame (Deonna et al. 2011), envy (D'Arms and Jacobson 2005), disgust (Rozin, Lowery, Haidt et al. 1999), and sentimentality (Solomon 2004; Howard 2012). The very idea that some emotions are “negative” has come under fire: philosophers have been critical of a simplistic notion of “valence” that is widely taken for granted in psychology (Krisjansson 2003).
The role of emotions in our experience of art and literature is an obviously promising area which has received much attention in recent decades. Robert Gordon (1987) was one of the first to suggest that the knowledge we have of the states of mind of others, and particularly of their emotional condition, is derived not from any psychological theory, but from an active simulation of that other's state. There is suggestive neurological evidence that this might be on the right track from the discovery of “mirror neurons” that are similarly activated both by a concrete action and by the sight of the same concrete action in another (Gallese and Goldman 1998). The idea has been developed by Keith Oatley (2012), as an approach to literature. Fiction, he argues on the basis of much empirical work, works as a simulation run on the wetware of the reader's mind, and has the power to change us. This view is also supported by Martha Nussbaum, who despite being firmly in the cognitive camp, has insisted that the kind of knowledge involved in moral appraisal is both affective and cognitive. For that reason, the full force of certain moral truths can best be grasped through the medium of literature rather than philosophical argument. (Nussbaum 1990; 1994; 2001; Baier 1995; Hogan 2011).
There has been a good deal of work on the role of emotions in music, although there is little consensus about how that works. (Budd 1985; Juslin and Sloboda 2001; Robinson 2005; Nussbaum 2007). Emotions in film have also come under scrutiny from philosophers (Plantinga 1999; French, Wettstein and Saint 2010.)
One area that has mushroomed since the last couple of decades of the twentieth Century is the philosophy of sex and love. At least one book has explored the prospects for love and sex with robots (Levy 2007). More usually, controversies have centered on the role of reason in generating love, as well as the kinds of reasons for action that love produces or can justify. As might be expected, contemporary contributions to the philosophy of love have on the whole been less sanguine about love, particularly erotic love, than the general run of self-help or popular books in praise of love. Surprisingly, however, the idea that we love for reasons continues to find defenders among philosophers. (Singer 2009; Frankfurt 2004; Jollimore 2011; Lamb 1997; Nussbaum 1997; Soble 1998; Solomon and Higgins 1991; Stewart 1995; Vannoy 1980; Blackburn 2004).
In debates about the nature of emotions, feminist voices have been important participants, particularly on issues concerning the role of emotions in morality (Gilligan 1982; Larrabee 1993) and the question of gender.
Cameron Woloshyn made invaluable contributions to the current(2013) revision of this entry. Wyndham Thiessen helped with an earlier version. David Chalmers made judicious suggestions for improving the original (2000) version. Thanks to Amélie Rorty for suggestions and advice. Also, the editors would like to thank Kyle Helms for pointing out several typos in the first published version of the entry.