Like a Tsurezuregusa for a philosophy grad student.
stephenburnsred replied to your post: That’s my secret, Captain: I’m always angry. There’s no reason to think that emotions are any more than neuro-processes
Ah yes, this old saw. If you read carefully the…
“Stating that emotions are biology sets up the argument that they are just biology.”
Yes precisely. Nothing ‘metaphysical’. This is a strictly physicalist/materialist view. There is nothing to suggest that anything metaphysical, like ‘mind’, ‘heart’, ‘emotions’, or other ‘qualia’ exists at all…..besides maybe intuition.
But there is equally nothing to suggest that our physicalist/materialist view is the “correct” one except for privileging the scientific process over anything that remotely resembles metaphysics. That is not to say that science isn’t telling us something about our world, simply that it is not telling me everything about my world.
Put another way, if we are to take science as the gatekeeper for all explanations of the phenomena in our world, I might argue that there must have been something severely wrong with me due to the fact that I’ve formed an important, emotional connection with an inanimate object (my sword and my motorcycle, in this case) and a non-human (my cat).
Further, should we take materialism over all other means to explain our world, Aesthetics goes the way of the dodo. On the materialist view, there is no such thing as aesthetics as aesthetic responses cannot be sufficiently explained by science. There are attempts at using neuroscience to explain our responses to music and art, but the best they do is show what happens to the brain while listening to music, not why it happens.
What you seem to be doing is making the mistake with science that Analytic philosophy made with language, that is, trying to reduce everything to atoms, chemicals, and the firing of neurons, all of which is at a loss to explain why, when Mitsugi Saotome grabs my wrist, I can move every part of my body except my ankles.
This is not to say that science does not have a place in philosophy: far from it. We can use the scientific principles to add weight to our metaphysical assertions, as the Dalai Lama did in “The Universe in a Single Atom,” and Davidson did in his studies on meditation. Science and Metaphysics aren’t mutually exclusive, it’s simply the tendency of our modern belief structure to privilege science over metaphysics as science seems more real.
It’s almost as if we traded religion for science, and turned scientific inquiry into it’s own form of dogma. My argument is that it need not be that way.
Right, so when you have two theories, both in line with observation, you go with the simplest one, and that is the physicalist view. The fact is that we don’t have the epistemic capacities to judge with certainty that any view is the “correct” view about anything at all. Just because science doesn’t tell you everything, gives no reason to think that conjuring something ‘metaphysical’ to explain things is a good solution. Science is single-handedly the most reliable tool in the history of civilization that gives us knowledge about the world.
Science doesn’t stand in the way of you having emotional connections with anything, so I’m not sure where you’re going with that.
And sure, there is no substance to aesthetics outside of our neuro-chemical responses to things like art. That’s not a problem for me. There is no “why” it happens. That is like asking “Why is the sky blue”.
I think you’re creating a problem where there isn’t one. There are two points to be made about science here
- There are things that science cannot explain in principle.
- There are things that science cannot explain now.
A lot of the shortcomings you’ve pointed out have more to do with #2, which isn’t surprising given that neuroscience is a field in its infancy. But with regards to both #1 & #2, these shortcoming aren’t a reason to postulate things that have no grounding in anything outside of intuition. That is just the ‘God of the gaps’, except with other wacky things in place of God.
Which is precisely why we part ways at this point your grounding in the physicalist/materialist view of the world leads you to dismiss things like art and aesthetics as perturbations of chemicals, the results of neuroscience.
I choose to believe that there is more to art and emotion than neurochemestry, just as I choose to believe that science can provide us accurate descriptions of phenomena, but it cannot give us certain causal fact. That doesn’t mean that I don’t take science as valid, simply that I think that there is more to it than chemical or atomic processes.
Hence, parting ways.