Re: Emotions, Knowledge, Logic

Ira Brodsky (
Thu, 31 Oct 1996 11:43:42 -0600

Steve Witham wrote:

>Okay, with logic and knowledge you can calculate outcomes.
>But what lets you say one outcome is "better" than another? This isn't
>really "knowledge," it's prejudice, bias, *value*.

Nonsense. It is a judgement based on knowledge, understanding, and logic.
To say that our choices are just the result of some sort of innate reaction
is to abdicate responsibility for them. What you call "value" (and link to
emotion) I call general principle (and link to experience and reflection).

>If you encode values as well as knowledge into your premises, you're
>effectively programming them into a computer. If it works, then what
>you've done is program emotions. As I said, emotions are the logic of

A big -- and false -- leap. Values =82 emotions.

>Values cannot come from understanding. Only knowledge does
>(except if you are talking about understanding values you already had).
>You can't get values except from having them already, explicitly, implicitl=
>tacitly, or built into your structure. As they say, you can't derive
>"ought" from "is." But if you have values, and you're doing any thinking
>or information-processing in light of them, that's emotion. That's all
>emotion is.

Gee, then how do people come to change their values? My values today are
very different from what they were twenty years ago. And if you are
correct, doesn't this mean that children (and even infants) have been
imprinted with the values they will carry with them for their entire lives?
I don't think so.

In fact, while infants clearly have emotions, I'm not at all sure they have

>When people say that emotions are bad sources of information,
>what I understand to be going on is this: one part of their value system
>is telling me it doesn't like the urgings of other parts. The person
>is saying that they have conflicts within their value system. The fact
>that some emotions claim not to be emotions is the result of a lot of
>terrible ideas from our past.

Above you said "You can't get values except from having them already." Are
you suggesting we are born with conflicting values? If so, how do we
resolve such conflicts? When we choose between two conflicting (contrary?)
values, what facility is it that we make use of?

Emotions are indeed bad sources of information. Perhaps we live in
entirely different universes; when I look at people who rely on their
emotions as sources of information, I see people whose lives are a mess --
or worse.

>An example of an emotion pretending not to be an emotion is when you said:
> "You are clearly better off if your premises come from understanding,
> ^^^^^^^^^^
> not emotion. The same goes for values."
>What is "better off," if not a value, an emotion? Without emotion you
>don't care whether your premises lead to prosperity or ruin. Without
>emotion there is no "better."

Again, this is nonsense. Really, you are equating "emotion" with "truth."
The fact that we recognize truth -- and do not need to trace its "premises"
-- does not make it an emotion. A =3D A is self-evident. If you don't
accept that, you will not be able to think or communicate.

>So I hope I've restored the peaceful smile on Bertrand Russell's face. :-)

If you consider death a state of peaceful bliss, I guess so. <g>

>>I think what you are really saying is that, contrary to Bertrand Russell,
>>emotions can be a good thing *if* they are tamed by reason and
>>In that case, we agree.
>I would sort of agree. Only in my view, reason is a *tool* that different
>emotions *use* to work out ways of peacefully coexisting. Same between
>different people: reason is the negotiating method. Saying that reason
>"tames" emotion is like saying the internet "makes people friends".

Reason is a tool. But it is used by intellect, not emotions.

And what about knowledge and understanding -- are those also just "tools"?

Now the punchline: Think about how self-serving it would be if everything
flowed from emotion. Nothing would take precedence over self-indulgence.
You would always be right. If it feels good, do it.

And why should two 40-something adults (I'm 43) debate anything. We are
each operating from values we "already" have. We are both right, so we are
never going to agree.

I don't believe that, and I hope you don't either.

Ira Brodsky
Datacomm Research Company
Wilmette, Illinois