Re: Non-sensory experiences

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Fri Nov 09 2001 - 10:24:15 MST

From: "Webb, Steve" <>
> I think there may be some confusion here regarding my use of the word
> "feeling" to describe the emotional state of "eureka!". I assert that
> this emotional state is *not* a feeling the sense you're using it. As
> far as I can tell, this *emotional state* resides entirely within the
> brain (although there may be secondary effects transmitted outside of
> the brain, e.g. ENS transmissions that cause goose pimples or make one
> feel flushed as a result of the "eureka!" experience.

Feedback from the body qualifies as an experience, AFAIC. That experience
depends on sensory input, again, from the body. As you may have heard, Marvin
Minsky is working on an "Emotion Machine" that he believes will supply the
necessary emotional elements of AI. If we take the sensory part out of
experience, we are left with memories or artificial constructs of sensory
input. These phantom experiences can build emotional renditions of real life.
I'd call these "emotional hallucinations" rather than experiences. These
emotional hallucinations form perhaps the majority of what are called
"religious experiences" that some people report during (and especially after)
seizures. When we become untethered from real life experience, it's possible
to deceive ourselves that our imaginary emotional "experiences" are real, when
they are actually emotional hallucinations. I question the usefulness of
hypotheses about "non-sensory experiences" which do not include the
information that these "experiences" are derived from previous sensory events.

> Earlier you offered a definition of "sensory" that supposedly cleared
> everything up:
> But the "eureka!" experience itself has nothing to do with the senses or
> sense organs as far as I can tell. It's not a sensory experience
> because no senses are involved in the primary experience. There may, as
> I've said, be secondary sensory experiences, but the direction of
> transmission seems to be from the brain to the sense organs, not the
> other way around.

Regardless of the direction of transmission, the "eureka!" experience (note
well the exclamation mark, it is significant) relies on feedback in the
nervous systems of the organism. If the organism rewards itself with relief
and exhilaration upon solving a problem or discovering a cognitive pattern,
the experience is accompanied by sensations which are, of course, sensory. The
exclamation mark noted by the way you've referred to the "eureka!" experience,
denotes a shouting, celebrative vociferation. This vocalization (or
alternatively, silent relief of tension) provides auditory sensory input (or
the sensation of muscle relaxation, or whatever) to the brain. Hence,
self-stimulation also qualifies as a sensory event.

I notice that the article which was the reason for beginning this discussion
failed to include any empirical evidence or experimental validation of the
hypothesized "non-sensory" experiences. While this does not necessarily prove
that such hypothesized experiences don't exist (it's impossible to prove a
negative, like trying to prove that ghosts do not exist), it does place the
subject squarely in the non-scientific field of human thinking. Besides being
useless speculation, the concept of "non-sensory" experience further muddies
the waters of human understanding by obscuring the meaning of the word
experience, which for all practical purposes involves one or more of the human

--- --- --- --- ---

Useless hypotheses, etc.:
 consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment, malevolent AI

We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.

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