Are consciousness and emotion separable? Or are they inextricably entangled by the physical substrate of thought, the body? Certainly human minds are subject to emotional perturbation, from embarrassingly trivial distractions to profound depths of loyalty and love. And certainly we can imagine emotion without (much?) conscious thought, as seems to be the case for some animal behavior.

But can we imagine pure emotionless mind? Or is there something about consciousness that demands "feelings" — without which one might have a simulation, but no real "being"? If emotion is the result of unconscious biochemical influences, could those be emulated as well in circuitry (or in mathematical equations) as in bodies? And are there modes of human development (perhaps found through meditation or philosophical discourse) that can do away with most or all emotion?

If a person were totally emotionless, would she still be a person? And if a computing machine were to have sophisticated enough programming to do (close enough to) the same behavior as a person, including emotions, would the machine then be a person? Or are emotions an irrelevant frill, a mere façade on the important business of mind?

Wednesday, February 09, 2000 at 17:01:02 (EST) = 2000-02-09

TopicMind - TopicScience - TopicStoicism

In one of Douglas Hofstadter's dialoges (A Coffeehouse Conversation or something along those lines), one of the characters (Sandy) argues that emotion is necessary to thinking.


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