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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Emotions: Their Rationality & Consistency by Marion Ledwig (Peter Lang Publishing) stands in the tradition of current emotion theorists, such as Elster, Damasio, de Sousa, Greenspan, Nussbaum, and Solomon, who advance the rationality of the emotions. Yet this book goes beyond their accounts, for it not only defends the view that emotions can be termed rational, but also considers in which different senses emotions can be termed rational. Besides discussing whether emotional intelligence and emotional consistency are forms of emotional rationality, this book makes clear how far this view on the rationality of the emotions can be generalized: whether it can, for instance, be generalized to computers having rational emotions and whether emotional responses to art can be considered to be rational. This book draws not only on knowledge from neuroscience, cognitive science, and philosophy of mind, but also on evolutionary theory and developmental psychology, to substantiate its position.

Excerpt: This book stands in the tradition of current emotion theorists, such as Elster, Damasio, de Sousa, Greenspan, Nussbaum, and Solomon, who advance the rationality of the emotions. Yet this book goes beyond their accounts, for it not only defends the view that emotions can be termed rational, but also con­siders in which different senses emotions can be termed rational. Whilst this book advances the idea that the emotions, as a general category, can be termed rational, it does not investigate the question of whether there are ar­guments for the rationality of particular emotions, such as envy, fear, happiness, etc., which go beyond the arguments for the rationality of the emotions as a general category. Besides discussing whether emotional intelligence and emotional consistency are forms of emotional rationality—two topics which are at the cutting edge of current philosophical research—my account will make clear how far my view on the rationality of the emotions can be generalized: whether it can, for instance, be generalized to computers having ra­tional emotions and whether emotional responses to art can be considered to be rational. Following that line of thought, I will consider whether the ration­ality of the emotions may generalize to other affective phenomena. In par­ticular, the current book makes some substantial contributions as to whether it generalizes to moods—about which Griffiths' computational account opens up a new and valuable branch of research.  

If Ben-Ze'ev's theory of the emotions is deemed correct, that the typical cause of emotions is the perception of a significant change in the individual's situation and that this theory is vague because it does not say when a change is significant, then the view that emotions are not rational could also be sup­ported, because they are vague. If moods are claimed to have either no par­ticular object or everything as a focus, and that it is not quite clear why a given stimulus causes a mood rather than an emotion, then it could also be claimed that not only moods are vague, but that also the boundary between emotions and moods is vague and if this is the case, how can moods be deemed rational? These conclusions can be objected to by stating, a la Coates (1996, p. 3), that only ordinary concepts are inherently vague and that the terms "emotion" and "mood" are such ordinary concepts.'

With regard to the latter, the position could be advanced that ordinary language is inherently vague, because its objects are inherently vague or the line between where an object or a phenomenon begins and ends cannot be drawn, due to insufficient knowledge.' With regard to the emotions, phobias, affective disorders, and moods, knowledge has increased over the last dec­ades, with the advancement of neuroscience, cognitive science, and philoso­phy of mind, but is far from complete. Thus it is still not possible to say that the emotions, phobias, affective disorders, and/or moods are vague, because the phenomena are vague or because enough knowledge has not been gath­ered yet to make that kind of a judgment.

Coates (1996, p. 167) suggests that ordinary language is inherently vague, because vague concepts, like "heap", are only used in contexts where a precise demarcation point would have little purpose. Whilst the terms "emotion", "phobia", "affective disorder", and "mood" are not as vague as "heap", precise demarcation points for these terms also do not seem to be needed in daily life, which might explain the vagueness of these concepts.

What does it mean if ordinary language is inherently vague? According to Simons (1997), semantic vagueness concerns the meaning and reference of expressions. This might lead to interpretative indeterminacy. Is it a bad thing if ordinary language is inherently vague?' From an evolutionary perspective this does not have to be the case as long as the species survives. Also, if the aim is to motivate people, then a vague, general goal, such as "to preserve nature", might be very effective, whereas if the aim is definitely to reach that goal, then it has to be more precise. Similarly, in philosophy, vague concepts might be a very good starting point for discussing philosophical concepts, but in order to reach an adequate analysis of a certain concept this would be in­sufficient and it would be necessary to be more precise.

Coates (1996, p. 8) even goes so far as to say: "sometimes a blurred pic­ture may communicate more meaning than a sharp one." In the language of the social sciences, theoretical simplification for complex phenomena, such as social reality, may be advanced by vague concepts. Yet identity conditions for vague concepts might be completely impossible, which might be a clear disadvantage. Furthermore, it might be questioned whether vague concepts can give the knowledge that philosophy actually wanted to deliver (cf. Coates 1996, p. 155). The Law of Excluded Middle does not hold with re­gard to vague concepts, which might make logic more cumbersome, too. Hence, vagueness needs to be excluded from the concepts as much as possi­ble. With regard to moods and their boundaries with the emotions, this might still be possible, because moods have not been studied that much let alone their relationships to other phenomena. With regard to the emotions, further research in neuroscience, cognitive science, and philosophy of mind and also attempts to synthesize emotions in computers is likely to reveal further in­sights into the emotions and might perhaps lead to a theory of the emotions that is not vague. The same might hold for phobias and affective disorders.

However, as many everyday objects, such as the sun or human beings, are vague (Simons 1999), it seems not impossible that phenomena like "emo­tions", "phobias", "affective disorders", and "moods" will turn out to be vague, too. Furthermore, evidence for the vagueness of emotions might arise from people's general inability to classify their own emotions. For example, on meeting a friend not seen for a very long time might generate feelings that are not mixed feelings as such, but rather feelings that are hard to put a label to. Mixed feelings are not really a case of vagueness, though, for mixed feel­ings are so called because the different feelings experienced do not blend into each other. Even if, for example, the boundaries between emotions, moods, etc. might turn out to be vague, this does not have to have any consequences for the rationality of emotions, moods, etc., because these phenomena might still serve a rational function. Nevertheless, it might be an interesting re­search project to investigate the connection between vagueness and the ra­tionality of the emotions, moods, etc. further.

With regard to the emotionality of computers, only time will tell where this will be possible. If we succeed, however, this will put an enormous responsibility on us, in the sense of deciding which emotions a comp should have and in which intensity. However, trying to synthesize emotion in computers will help us clarify which theory of the emotions is the correct or more appropriate one. Nevertheless, as we have only experienced lift this earth and therefore are limited in our account of what constitutes life, theory of the emotions will be similarly limited and so it seems quite reason able to doubt whether we will be able to recognize whether an alien life f (in the sense of life from other worlds, not in the sense of artificially-created, by humans here on earth) is capable of having emotions and whether the emotions are or can be called rational.

With regard to virtual worlds, it seems especially intriguing to find why we develop emotions with regard to virtual agents and why we seer prefer indirect communication via media, such as email and SMS, to face-to-face communication, for emotions also have some communication function (Rolls 2002, pp. 17-18; cf. also Ben-Ze'ev 2004b; Gilbert and R 2002). This raises the questions of whether computers are used because I enhance that function. It might be also of interest to find out whether experience of emotional communication is an aspect of emotional intelligence because such proficiency might help us in regulating emotions in others.

To model the emotions by means of Bayesian nets seems to be a promising approach, to which contemporary neuroscience, cognitive science and philosophy of mind could contribute. Also, it would be worthwhile to investigate emotional intelligence further, especially to finally make c whether it is a personality trait, whether it is an ability, or whether there might be a connection between the two. In this respect, it seems pivotal find out which processes underlie and support emotional intelligence, which part of the brain is involved in emotional intelligence, and to what extent genetically determined. If emotional intelligence turns out to be a persona trait, then it seems to be odd to speak of the rationality of this person; trait, though. However, in the case of an ability, it seems to make much n sense to speak of the rationality of this ability. Further investigation of moods and their relationship to other affective phenomena seems to be in order, although psychologists have already dealt with moods to some extent, philosophers still shy away from the phenomenon. In this respect it might especially intriguing to explore the question of whether moods can ser rational function.

With regard to the rationality of the emotions it seems a worthwhile issue to consider further whether McDowell's and Williams' theory of reasons can be made to yield a better theory of what constitutes a good reason. In this respect, it appears also of value to specify further which features personal developmental and evolutionary processes exhibit. Furthermore, it seems to be of interest to find out whether arguments can be found for the rationality of particular emotions beyond the arguments provided here. Velleman (2003, p. 244, pp. 246-248), for instance, considers the question of whether guilt with wrongdoing and guilt without wrongdoing can be considered to be ra­tional and tries to argue for this position, going beyond the reasons given here for the rationality of the emotions. Besides the rationality of belief, the question of whether desires can be considered rational is of interest for the rationality of the emotions, because if it is considered to be rational to desire to be happy, then this should have consequences for the rationality of happi­ness and the other respective emotions. It might be also of further interest to have a look at how the rationality of the emotions bears on the rationality of emotional inconsistencies.

With regard to rational emotional responses to art, it seems to be aston­ishing that people respond emotionally to art at all, for in many cases it is just an object and not something alive that they respond to. Especially from an evolutionary perspective, it would be worth knowing what is so evolutionar­ily beneficial that humans respond emotionally to art? That is, how does art enhance our survival? Perhaps art is just a sign of creativity, and creativity can quite clearly be survival enhancing. In this regard, it might be fruitful to investigate whether cultural evolution follows similar principles as biological evolution and whether there is a connection between the two and what such a connection might look like. Yet, as Taylor and Jefferson (1995, p. 8) have pointed out, no theory of cultural evolution has yet proven to be successful. This is partly due to the fact that it is not quite clear what exactly evolves, that is, what are the units of cultural evolution, how do they maintain their identity, and how do they interact with each other.

If we do not seem to see what functions the emotions serve, it is because, for humans, they are so obvious that they are akin to invisible. Hence, a fresh look at the matter would be worthwhile, adopting an alien perspective as much as possible.

Emotion and Reason: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Decision Making by Alain Berthoz, translated by Giselle Weiss (Oxford University Press) (Papercover) It is always advisable to perceive clearly our ignorance. (Charles Darwin)

We need to completely change, and perhaps even reverse, the way we think about making decisions. We are emerging from a century dominated by the power of reason. As the sine qua non of science, reason allowed us to discover the fundamental properties of matter and, armed with technology, to transplant the heart, symbol of love, from one chest to another. Reason brought us the moon, favoured muse of poets, and soon it will take us to Mars. Even now reason is enabling us to probe the brain—that extraordinary product of evolution—for the neural basis of the most sophisticated workings of cog­nition. It was reason that removed the demons believed to torment the brains of epileptic children and reason that vindicated the parents of children afflicted with disorders such as autism and schizophrenia—attributed until only recently to psycho­logical trauma—by revealing their genetic origin. Reason underpins our conviction that the decisions our doctors make, like those made by our politicians, are the result of a logical analysis of observable phenomena.

But this rational thinking—arrived from Euphrates by way of Sumer, Jerusalem, Cairo, Athens, and Rome, this curious child of the East and West, of Arabic mathemati­cians and of astronomers from every continent who taught that we can predict the very movements of the planets—cannot be said to be a product of the Age of the Enlightenment. It is stiff and impersonal. It is indifferent to the soft fog of uncertainty; it shields itself from the wonders and vagaries of the imagination, and would have us believe that the world is amenable to reckoning, that the Vietnam War can be won by the Pentagon's computers.

Well aware of the limitations of reason (since Heisenberg showed that we cannot simultaneously know both the position and speed of a particle), physicists have turned to new theories that take uncertainty into account. Following on the calculation of probabilities and the theory of the Reverend Bayes, which links cause and effect, came theories of fractals, catastrophe, chaos, and complexity. In biology, too, uncertainty has become the companion of necessity. The principle of entropy helped to understand how neurotransmitters are released at the level of the synapses; and dynamic nonlinear systems and strange attractors have become indispensable conceptual tools for model­ling processes as diverse as the neuronal encoding of movement in the brain and the evolution of a population of voles in Sweden.

Having predicted a backlash of emotion over reason, Andre Malraux wrote that the twenty-first century would 'be religious or [would] not be'. One could interpret that forecast as a recipe for a new kind of mystical thinking—since the human brain appar­ently still craves gods—but more tolerant, incorporating data from reason. In fact, we are witnessing a frightening return to the most obscure, sectarian, intolerant, and fanatical forms of religion amid a ruthless struggle for profit and global exploitation that is unprecedented in history. Such is the nature of the problems that have greeted the new century that the theories at our disposal are too crude to tackle them. How can we ever hope to solve them if we do not understand decision making?

We are convinced that decision making is the product of rational thinking, that it is unique to man and the structures situated in the frontal lobe of his brain, just as decision makers in big companies have their offices at the very top of sky scrapers. A classic model of this sort is that of Donald Norman and Tim Shallice, who postulated the existence of a 'supervisory' system regulating the flow of information in the systems that control action (see Fig. 0.1). Moreover, the dominance of formalist theories and the hegemony of linguists in the cognitive sciences have led us to believe that lan­guage joins logical reasoning as a sort of dynamic duo in the making of decisions.

Given this perspective, one can see the innovativeness of Antonio Damasio's elegant efforts to reintegrate emotion in the process of decision making, and, more recently, to reincarnate cognition as well, closely akin to some of my analyses and those of neurophysiologists such as Francisco Varela.

But we cannot stop there. Human progress always entails a change in point of view, and this book is intended as a radical reversal of perspective. Instead of looking at decision making as a rational process that appeared recently in evolution owing to logical tools, this book proceeds from the opposite assumption (1) that decision making is probably the fundamental property of the nervous system and (2) that its origin is action. Action is not movement; it is the intention to interact with the world or with oneself as part of the world. Action always has a goal; it is always backed up by purpose. It thus becomes the organizer of perception, the organizer of the perceived world. Action is also embedded in a more general concept, the act. 'In the beginning was the Act, says Goethe's Faust.

In The Brain's Sense of Movement, I developed a theory of brain functioning founded on the idea that the brain is a simulator of action, a generator of hypotheses, and that anticipating and predicting the consequences of actions based on the remembered past is one of its basic properties. Current neurophysiology and cognitive psychology confirm these ideas already put forth by pre-Socratic thinkers and, closer to our time, among such great forerunners such as Nicolai Bernstein, Donald MacKay, J. J. Gibson and so on. The brain is thus essentially a comparator. It compares the state of the world with its hypotheses. It does not transform stimuli into motor responses or feelings. This activity of comparing is always linked to intention, to a 'project'—or plan—of action (in the sense of 'projection'). There is no mechanism of perception apart from action, no more than there are mechanisms of attention apart from the selections made continually by the brain.

Perceiving is deciding

I suggest, moreover, that perception is not only simulated action but also and essentially a decision. Perceiving means not only combining and weighting, it means choosing from among the variety of available sense data those pertinent to the action envisaged. Perceiving resolves ambiguity; thus, perceiving is deciding.

In contrast to the ideas maintained by some schools of cognitive psychology, I also suggest that decision making is not a process specific to humans, whose functioning depends on the prefrontal cortex and mechanisms such as working memory, which enables him to hold in his mind facts and recollections. I will argue that decision-making mechanisms are present in animals at various levels of their central nervous system.

We need to construct a 'hierarchical' and heterarchical theory of decision making, to understand how both parallel and serial processing of information is organized. Deciding is about linking the present to the past and to the future; it is about organ­izing things. In this book, I will try to show what I mean by these ideas.

Formalist theories

Today, the literature boasts hundreds of articles about decision making in diagnostics and medical therapeutics, in economics, sports, the art of war and risk taking in accidentology, and so on. Examining this literature reveals a paradox: research suggests the best way to deliver medicine, to do (or not do) an operation, to launch a product, to introduce fiscal measures, and to referee a football game. But it says nothing about how the brain makes decisions. At most, one finds in economics allusions to the work (excellent, I might add) of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. More recently, Bernard Walliser published a book on cognitive economy without providing a single reference to cognitive psychology and the process of decision making.

Cognitive psychology does have an extensive literature on the theory of decision making that relates to our subject. I will give you only a little taste of it here for purposes of contrasting these approaches with the cognitive neurobiology and physiology of decision making that we propose to construct. The need to bring the theory of decision making and the cognitive sciences closer together has often been stressed but rarely directly addressed. Cognitive theoreticians are believed to be quite prepared to adopt the Bayesian principle of optimal interference, ignoring findings by researchers in decision-making theory, to wit, that people systematically violate the axioms of these optimal theories. For their part, theoreticians of decision making seem ready to adopt serial architectures of decision making for processing information, without taking into account work by cognitive scientists showing that humans perform substantial parallel processing. However, since the French edition of this book appeared, a new field called neuroeconomics has emerged which attempts to link theories of economics to the neural basis of decision making.

My criticism of the way economists represent decision making among consumers finds striking confirmation in this text by the Nobel prize winner in economics for 1994, Reinhard Stelten: 'Modern mainstream economic theory is largely based on an unrealistic picture of human decision making. Economic agents are portrayed as fully rational Bayesian maximizers of subjective utility. This view of economics is not based on empirical evidence, but rather on the simultaneous axiomization of utility and subjective probability. In the fundamental book of Leonard Savage (1954), the axioms are consistency requirements on actions, where actions are defined as mappings from states of the world to consequences. One can only admire the imposing structure built by Savage. It has a strong intellectual appeal as a concept of ideal rationality. However, it is wrong to assume that human beings conform to this ideal'.

Do not misunderstand me. I realize that major economists, such as Paul Samuelson, know full well the limitations of utility theory but think that it is the best of the alternatives until we have a theory of the brain.

Decision making, then, is not only about reasoning; it is also about action. It is never a purely intellectual process, a logical game for which you can write an equation. Making

a decision involves thinking, of course; but all the while integrating elements of the past, it also contains in itself the act it is leading to. This act incorporates what I will term the 'acting body, which also fits well with Varela's concept of 'enaction'.

The physiology of memory must include that of forgetting; similarly, the physiology of decision making must also be a physiology of not deciding, that is, of indecision or inhibiting action. There are many such examples: a patient with Parkinson's who remains immobilized for want of dopamine; an airplane pilot who suddenly freezes, dumbfounded, when a truck appears in the takeoff lane; a driver who, like Buridan's ass, cannot decide whether to go left or right at a fork in the road and hits a tree in the middle; the strategist or politician who hesitates between two solutions. This paralysis is encouraged by the maxim, 'When in doubt, do nothing!' Subjects blocked in this way freeze so as not to persist in a previously adopted response. Likewise, psychologists have observed that during development, a child may fail to find a new solution because she is locked into one that corresponds to a preceding stage of her development and cannot replace the initial behaviour with a more sophisticated one.

Several fields of application of theories of decision making do not appear in this book: the problem of risk taking, for which readers are referred to the work of Rene Amalberti, questions of workplace security, which have inspired very complex theories, and the enormous problem of decision making in medicine, which occupies hundreds if not thousands of pages on the World Wide Web. I hope that this book will one day contribute to thinking in these very important fields of social science.

These many forms of decision making give an idea of the magnitude of the task. All the more so since decision making is also always, although to different degrees, related to emotion, as shown in the Judgement of Solomon, painted by Nicolas Poussin.

Johnson-Laird's mental-model theory predicts that the brain structures responsible for deductive and probabilistic reasoning are the same because they involve mental models. They are likely situated mainly in the right brain, which seems especially important for the construction of mental models themselves, calling into play—according to the proponents of this theory—visuospatial structuring. In contrast, hypotheses supporting a more logical basis for reasoning lead to the opposite prediction: the activated structures are located in the left brain, as suggested by the studies mentioned above. The difference between the left and right brain has been the subject of much research.

This question was taken up in a positron emission camera study in which brain activity was recorded during three tasks involving 'logical, 'probabilistic, and 'seman­tic' syllogisms. In the logical, deductive task, subjects had to distinguish between valid and invalid arguments. In the probabilistic task, they had to indicate whether the conclusion of a series of arguments had a greater likelihood of being true than false. Finally, in the semantic task, subjects had to analyse the different arguments and indicate whether they contained anomalies.

The results show a clear variation in activity between the different areas. This result underscores the fact that deductive reasoning about syllogisms is related to visuospatial tasks. Compare the work of Johnson-Laird that we discussed in Chapter 1 on the effectiveness of diagrams in reasoning. The authors conclude that reasoning about syllogisms involves distinct brain areas depending on whether the subject intends to evaluate them deductively or probabilistically. We need to rethink the possible role of the cortex in reasoning that leads to a decision.

The wheel of fortune

I began this book by showing the limits of economic theories about decision making despite the excellent efforts of theoreticians and psychologists such as Daniel Kahneman [24]. In a series of conferences at the College de France on decision making in economics and plans for a `neuroeconomic' theory of decision making, Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini stressed both the contradictions of normative theories and the fact that recent data—in contrast—do confirm some predictions.

For example, we have all seen at a town fair or at an amusement park those huge spinning wheels with numbers or figures of playing cards on them. As a child, I liked to go spend my pocket money in the (often vain) hope of winning a big Teddy bear, a col­lection of multicoloured balloons, or of taking home a set of glasses as if I had been off crossing vast mountain ranges and distant continents to bring back treasures that would gain me the respect of the entire family! This wheel, which seemed immense to a kid, set spinning by the stallholder in a gesture that contained all my hopes, caused me to live moments that for gamblers become like a drug, the chance of winning or losing flickering in my mind. I still hear the sound of the little leather or metal tongue tripping along the pegs on the edge of the wheel that seemed to go round forever.

Does our brain really operate like a game of chance similar to the wheel of fortune, as prospect theory predicts? To find out, subjects were placed in an apparatus that measures brain activity (magnetic resonance imager). They were shown a spinner inspired by wheels at a fair with rewards in the form of money. While waiting for a reward, most of the areas of the brain that we have mentioned (hypothalamus, amyg­dala, orbitofrontal cortex, reward systems linked to dopaminergic activity, such as the nucleus accumbens, the ventral tegmental area, etc.) were activated. The level of activity in these parts of the brain is linked to the subjective and relative value of wins and losses and not to their absolute value.

As a child, if I wanted to win a stuffed bear and only won a sweet, I was more disap­pointed than if I had hoped to win a sweet and won nothing. In other words, if the subject believes he will win 10 dollars and only wins 5 dollars, he feels he has lost something, and this disappointment is visible in the data supplied by imaging his brain. It is the difference between what he hoped for and what he obtained that correl­ates with the cerebral activity.

The brain is a detector of differences between its hopes and expectations and what it gets; this principle is widespread and probably originates from the fact that the brain is an 'intentional' biological machine, that is, it works by giving itself goals. Moreover, the intensity of responses evolves asymmetrically as a function of winning and losing, as predicted by prospect theory; in the end, losing counts more than winning. The growing field of neuroeconomics systematically examines the neural processes involved in economic choices and reactions to monetary rewards. New cooperation between economists and scientists will probably also lead to development of probabilistic approaches to decision making.

Brain-imaging techniques have enabled a further dissociation of the contributions of different parts of the anterior cingulate and other areas of the frontal cortex and subcortical structures in the various phases of a monetary decision-making process. The areas involved during the 'decision phase' and the 'outcome phase' are different.

The brain is a predictor that imagines the future, but it does not necessarily seek to obtain 'objective' truth about the world. It works subjectively, that is, by evaluating differences between its predictions and what it obtains. It assigns itself a goal and assesses reality with respect to the goal. The significance of such findings recalls the work of the Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, who drew attention to what she called 'levels of aspiration'. She showed that children who are very ambitious in accomplishing a task succeed better than others, and vice versa.

Confabulation, a failure to relate to reality?

In making a decision, a judge, a consumer, the leader of an army, a politician, or whoever must take into account the memory of past decisions to adapt them to the present situation, and especially lived experience, this amazing synthesis of desire, fact, history, and culture. To decide is to predict the future consequences of action, but it also entails assessing the relevance of those consequences with respect to present real­ity. I do not like the word 'reality, and its use in pathology in the term derealization'. The term 'actuality' is better. I suggest we speak of 'deactualization'. It is just as ugly, but more accurate.

For example, Mr X arrives at a reception, and his host introduces him to his wife, saying: 'Here is Jacqueline! I think you don't know one another!' Mr X feels ill-at-ease because he is very familiar with his host's wife, who is one of his former girlfriends. Yet he decides to acquiesce and to lie out of politeness. Face recognition involves the temporal lobe's task of identification, which we covered in Chapters 2 and 8. But here, Mr X must make an additional decision following recognition. He must adapt his memory to the reality of the moment and either acknowledge his ex-girlfriend or pretend not to know her. We are embarking on a more complex cognitive operation. Social rules must be respected. Past memories must be suppressed. Simple perceptions of similarity or difference must be transcended to enter into the realm of reasoning and of deliberation. How many legal errors are the result of conclusions made too hastily by false witnesses who believed or pretended they recognized someone?

In these complex processes we will encounter the neurons of the prefrontal cortex which, as we have seen, contribute to multisensory integration and participate in suppressing undesired action, recalling memories, and anticipating the consequences of ongoing actions or even only imagined ones. They contribute to the development of emotional states and of motivation. Here, they are also involved in creating and apply­ing social rules, and inhibiting memories that are irrelevant to the present situation.

To show that the neurons of the monkey are activated by abstract rules useful in deciding whether a person is identical to or different from someone already seen, the monkey is shown an image of an object. After a delay, the monkey is shown an image of the same object or another one and has to compare the content of the two images. This is the classical paradigm of delayed match to sample, but here, in addition, the monkey's response must follow a rule. In certain cases, it must respond only if the object is the same and in others, only if it is different. The abstract rule is 'identical or different'. The neurons activated specifically by the requirement to obey a rule are located in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

But we don't only have to obey rules. We must evaluate how our memory and the present situation—the reality of the moment—are related. Mr X recognizes Mme Y, but he chooses to pretend not to recognize her if, for example, he had been very much in love with her before she married and wants to suppress that memory. He adapts his response to the reality of the moment. Such a decision involves mechanisms that confabulation will illustrate for us.

A woman with a brain lesion of the frontal cortex doggedly nurses her 'baby' of 30 years! A clinician just out of hospital returns to his office saying that he had to meet his patients. We are not talking about the obsessional behaviours described in Chapter 3. These patients construct their urgent behaviour based on a memory that has no present reality.

Their concept of 'now' is determined by past memories unrelated to the reality of the moment. This inability to assess the actual real character of a situation is sometimes called `derealization'. These are spontaneous confabulations. But healthy

people may also confabulate when they are forced to rely on memories that may be imprecise, for example, when they are serving as witnesses to an accident or a crime.

Several explanations have been proposed to account for this strange derangement of rational thought. None of them is satisfactory. For example, memory deficit, the combination of a failure of memory and dysfunction of the so-called executive mechanisms—confusion about the sequence in which events occur—could explain certain confabulations in healthy subjects but not in disturbed ones. In fact, confabu­lators have trouble defining the present in time intervals of 1 or 2 s. They live past events as if they were happening now. It is possible that this deficit is abnormality due to a malfunction of the dorsomedial orbitofrontal cortex whose workings we examined in Chapter 11. We have seen that it is concerned with the relation of stimuli or events to associated rewards, and that especially it mediates adaptation in animals and humans to alterations in reward criteria. Animals with lesions lose this flexibility. They continue to react to stimuli that once gained them a reward, even if at present no reward is forthcoming. The lovelorn sometimes manifest this psychorigid behaviour, continuing to frequent the spots where their former paramour made tender love to them. The problem is an inability to extinguish the value of the reward.

How might the orbitofrontal cortex affect behaviour? For it is not enough to assume that association remains intact; we also need to understand why it translates into persistent behaviour. Most likely the subcortical frontal loops, which connect the frontal cortex to distinct portions of the basal ganglia (striatum, pallidum, and substantia nigra), and the thalamic nuclei that project in turn towards the neocortex, cause these behaviours. Indeed, transversal links exist between the limbic portion and the motor portions of the loops connecting the basal ganglia, the thalamus, and the cortex. The orbitofrontal cortex, which first projects to the accumbens, can also influence large areas of the cortex by this route, which first descends towards the centre of the brain before going back up towards the cortex. This idea supports the theories of Rodolfo Llinás, who assigns a major role to the centrencephalic structures of the thalamas, in contrast to theories that emphasize intracortical transactions. But perhaps both mechanisms come into play. Time will tell.

In short, the anterior limbic system, in particular the orbitofrontal cortex, is probably the principal mediator of our capacity to tether ourselves to the reality of the moment. It does so by suppressing—inhibiting—memories that are irrelevant for the action happening now. Hence, it is a basic mechanism of decision making since it requires updating the value of the reward or punishment from our memory.

Another interesting dissociation has been revealed by brain imaging. In remember­ing past events as an aid to making decisions, we may recall the past in two ways. We may simply remember that an event happened without consciously recollecting the content or details (`remember'), or we may fully recollect the content of a scene or episode (`remember and know'). Psychologists have developed paradigms for testing this dissociation. Lateral parietal regions appear to respond preferentially to remember decisions, while anterior and medial regions respond to both remember and know decisions [40].

We may also manipulate the memory of past decisions. For instance, we can develop `counterfactual' mental representations as alternatives to past events. We often say, 'If I had behaved this way instead of that, I might not be in trouble now.' These alternative thoughts are an important element of the various steps that lead to decision making. In one study, patients with Parkinson's disease, in whom temporal lobe function is impaired, generated fewer of these counterfactual representations [41].

Magical thought

`Don't be superstitious: it brings bad luck,' goes the proverb. Have you ever been tempted by magical thought? For example, 'If you sing out of tune, it will rain'? Some societies perform ritual dances to summon rain. Magical thought creates powerful causal associations between unconnected things or whose connections are very weak. For instance, some people equate cause and correlation. How many mothers use the word 'premonition' in describing the dream they had the night before their child had an accident or was killed in war? How many gurus make a fortune out of exploiting these so-called causes! Everybody knows that before making a decision, many people—even heads of companies and other elites—consult their astrologer.

Some people are more susceptible to magical thought than others. They believe in their horoscope and the magical properties of numbers. The neural basis of this predilection is perhaps close to being elucidated thanks to the work of Peter Brugger's group. Recently, the role of the right cerebral cortex in magical thinking was demon­strated [42]. People strongly inclined to magical thinking tend to remember the left side of a complex shape, which is processed by the right cortex, whereas subjects indif­ferent to such thinking tend to recall the right side. The right cortex may be affected by weak associations. For example, if I say to you, 'castle and king, you find the association a strong one, just as if I say 'bread and butter'. One day, the neurologist Theodor Landis observed a patient with a lesion of the left cortex (which, remember, is involved in processing language). He asked the patient to give him a word associated with 'bread. The patient answered, 'God'. This association between bread and God is very distant (weak), although everyone raised in a Christian culture would readily understand it. But making this association involves performing a symbolic mental act, a process different than that of simple language association. The right cortex of these patients, who had language disturbances, could make this association very well. Indeed, the right cortex appears to favour weak associations [43], which require processing that is more global, more general, one might even say more abstract.

This idea relates to several observations, first that emotion particularly involves the right cortex, second that psychoses frequently occur in patients with deficits of the right cortex (although psychoses that accompany epilepsy often appear together with left focal seizures), and finally that the right cortex is involved in spatial and global aspects of shapes, objects, and scenes, whereas the left cortex may be more involved in the sequential aspects of the part of the world that surrounds us. So much so that when the left cortex, said to be 'dominant' by neurologists, is weakened, the right cortex is freer to create 'weak' associations. But this may also be the key to creativity [44], which consists precisely in drawing associations between nonobviously related concepts, objects, or ideas. 'The earth is blue like an orange', wrote Paul Eluard, and Rimbaud invented 'correspondences' between vowels and colours.

Liberated from the rational supervision of a left brain constrained by the rules of syntax and semantics, the right brain is freer to make new associations. What matters is that this possibility is acknowledged for so-called normal subjects [45]. Perhaps mathematicians, in any case, geometers, have a very powerful right brain. But it is also clear that dominance of the right brain can lead to serious disturbances by allowing a person to create illusory associations, such as those seen in paranoia, where the least gesture is interpreted by the patient as a conspiracy, and even, as some neurologists think, in schizophrenia [46] as well as in disorders that cause illusions [47]. One might then understand how, in very suscepti­ble subjects, leaders of sects can reinforce associations that cut them off from social norms. It might also serve as a conditioning device for religious fanaticism.

As far as the biological theory of decision making goes, this research is essential, because it suggests that we do not always make decisions as a result of reasoning based on concepts clearly articulable by the left brain. Often, their intuitive character is due to the fact that they result from associations induced by the right brain. If we sometimes make decisions without really knowing why, it is because they are the result of an internal dialogue, maybe a dialogue in sign language, between two brains that do not necessarily agree.

Emotional Reason: Deliberation, Motivation, and the Nature of Value by Bennett W. Helm  (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy: Cambridge University Press) How can we motivate ourselves to do what we think we ought? How can we deliberate about personal values and priorities? Bennett Helm argues that standard philosophical answers to these questions presuppose a sharp distinction between cognition and conation that undermines an adequate understanding of values and their connection to motivation and deliberation. Rejecting this distinction, Helm argues that emotions are fundamental to any account of value and motivation, and he develops a detailed alternative theory both of emotions, desires, and evaluative judgments and of their rational interconnections. The result is an innovative theory of practical rationality and of how we can control not only what we do but also what we value and who we are as persons.

Excerpt: I have suggested that the assumption of the cognitive-conative divide and of the corresponding conception of rationality as either epistemic or instrumental underlies our conceptions of the motivational and deliberative problems and so has resulted in an unsatisfactory understanding of ourselves and how we can reason practically. Thus, on the one hand, the split between cognition and conation results in an understanding of the motivational problem as that of how to bridge the inevitable gap between cognition and conation. As I argued, this understanding of the problem seems to force us to see practical reason as only contingently and fortuitously connected with motivation, thereby undermining any resulting account of how we can rationally control what we do. On the other hand, this split results in an understanding of the deliberative problem in terms of a genuine paradox of simultaneous invention and discovery, a paradox which forces the choice between cognitivism and non‑cognitivism, between an emphasis on the cognitive and the idea of rational discovery and an emphasis on the conative and the idea of autonomous invention. No matter which of these options we choose, it seems, we are led to give up an important dimension of our understanding of ourselves: as autonomous and so responsible for the kind of persons we are, or as able non‑arbitrarily to reason about who to be and so to discover what has meaning in our lives.

In spite of their entrenchment in philosophical understandings of the mind, these conceptions of cognition, conation, and rationality are not obligatory. My aim in this book is to argue for an alternative conception of evaluative judgment, desire, and emotion as each being essentially both cognitive and conative in a way that cannot be analyzed into separable components. In essence, this is to undercut the traditional cognitive‑conative divide in a way that enables me to reconceive both the motivational and deliberative problems. As a result, we should not conceive of the motivational problem as that of figuring out how to bridge an inevitable gap between evaluation and reason on the one side and motivation on the other. Rather, I shall argue, potential (but not inevitable) gaps between evaluation and motivation can arise entirely within reason, so that nothing extra‑rational is required to bridge such yaps. Moreover, once we reject the cognitive­conative divide, we should not conceive of the deliberative problem as simply a choice between cognitivism and non­cognitivism. Rather, we can understand the standards of deliberation about value as partially within our evaluative sensibilities and so as in a sense invented by us, while still being genuine standards that enable us to discover personal value.

In each case, the reconception of the problem and so of what is heeded in order to solve it depends on an understanding of our emotions and desires as making a distinctive contribution to reason, thus enabling Its to see rationality as more than just epistemic or instrumental. In Part I, I aim to provide an account of our emotions and desires that makes this possible. My aim in chapter 2, "Emotions and the cognitive‑conative divide is essentially to clear the ground of competing accounts of emotion and desire so as to make room for the kind of account I shall offer. In attempting to solve the mind‑body problem, philosophers of mind typically offer accounts of the intentionality of desire that ignore a central feature of desire, namely that it views its object as worthy of pursuit or avoidance ‑ as having import. Making sense of such import, therefore, is central to solving the mind‑body problem, though this is a problem that is typically simply ignored within philosophy of mind. I suggest that we can achieve an account of import if we turn to a rather natural understanding of emotions as essentially pleasures and pains: to feel such a pleasure or pain is to "feel" an evaluation of one's situation, where such an evaluative feeling seems to be an appropriate source of the imports things have for us. This account of emotions, however, conflicts with standard cognitivist theories of emotions, which presuppose the cognitive‑conative divide. I argue that such accounts fail to be accounts of emotions, ultimately diagnosing their failure to lie with that presupposition. Consequently, I argue, solving the problem import presents is impossible under the assumption of the cognitive‑conative divide.

In chapter 3, "Constituting import," I fill in the account of emotions sketched in chapter 2 in terms of a more fundamental notion of a felt evaluation in such a way as to solve the problem of import. At the core of this account is a distinctive analysis of the notions of pleasure and pain. Emotions are pleasures and pains not in that they somehow involve bodily sensations; rather, I argue, emotions can be redescribed as pleasures and pains: to feel fear just is to be pained by danger. The point of this redescription is twofold. First, it highlights the idea that emotions are evaluations. I argue that such evaluations are best made sense of as a kind of intentional awareness of import, for the rational warrant of emotions depends in part on whether they are properly responsive to the imports things have. Consequently, import must have a kind of objectivity that is presupposed by particular emotions. Second, the redescription of emotions as pleasures and pains makes intelligible the fact that emotions motivate us in certain ways. I argue that talk of pleasure and pain in these two contexts of evaluation and motivation is univocal, for to feel pleasure and pain ‑ to feel the import of one's situation in this way ‑just is to feel a motivational pull. In this respect, emotions involve both cognitive and conative elements, though these elements are not intelligible as isolable components. Indeed, I argue, this same account applies as well to desires and, surprisingly, to bodily pleasures and pains. This understanding of emotions, desires, and bodily pleasures and pains as simultaneously responsive to import and motivating in a way that rejects the cognitive‑conative divide is part of what I intend in calling them "felt evaluations."

I have said that particular felt evaluations presuppose import as a feature of the world to which they can be correctly or incorrectly responsive. Yet import is also subjective insofar as my cares and personal values need not be shared by others. How is this dual objectivity and subjectivity possible? The answer lies in understanding import as emerging in part out of patterns of felt evaluations. Such patterns should not be understood as mere dispositions to feel emotions or desires; rather, the patterns are rational both in that they are imposed by rational commitments among emotions and desires and in that they are partially constitutive of the warrant of their constituents. In this way, import is both objective insofar as it is ontologically prior to particular felt evaluations, which are responsive to it, and nonetheless subjective insofar as it is partly constituted by the rational patterns of one's felt evaluations; indeed, this is another fundamental feature of felt evaluations made possible by the account I provide of their mutual rational commitments. (Of course, this account of felt evaluations has not yet made intelligible a deeper level of objectivity needed for a solution to the deliberative problem, namely that it is possible to discover what imports things should have for you. More on that in Part II.)

In chapter 4, "Varieties of import," I extend this account of import in two ways. First, I articulate more clearly the intuitive distinction between our cares and values and offer an account of this distinction, and so of the relative "depth" of values, in terms of a distinction between reflexive and non‑reflexive felt evaluations, which define different kinds of rational patterns. Second, I examine the ways in which the imports of different things are related to each other, both instrumentally and in terms of degree of import. In part, the notion of degree of import can be understood in terms of the strength or intensity of the desires and emotions that constitute the relevant pattern, thereby complicating our understanding of the kind of rationality these patterns involve. Yet relative importance involves more than just a difference in intensity, and I argue that it can be properly understood only by expanding our understanding of felt evaluations to include a sense of relative import as a distinctive kind of responsiveness to particular situations.

The upshot of Part I, therefore, is a new conception of emotion and desire as neither cognitions nor conations (nor compound states of cognition and conation). Rather, given their connection to import, emotions and desires share features of both cognition and conation in a way that requires rejecting those categories of mental state and replacing them with a new one: felt evaluations. It should be clear, however, that this new understanding of emotions and desires as felt evaluations requires as well a new understanding of the kinds of rationality that apply to them. In articulating the kinds of rational patterns of felt evaluations constitutive of import, I am in effect articulating a distinct kind of rationality: a rationality of import.

In Part II, I turn my attention to our ability to reason about what to do and who to be and so to the ways our understanding of this ability has been transformed by the account of felt evaluations, import, and the rationality of import. As I indicated above, the account of import offered so far is incomplete. For, we cannot yet make sense of there being reasons to change what has import for you and so of what should have import; this is, in essence, the deliberative problem. Moreover, we cannot yet make sense of how we can have control over what we do, for the account of motivation, tied as it is to seemingly passive states of emotion and desire, so far makes no room for deliberation; this is, in essence, the motivational problem. Remedying these deficiencies re­quires examining how evaluative judgment is connected to the sort of felt evaluations discussed so far.

In chapter 5, "Single evaluative perspective," I argue that emotions and evaluative judgments are rationally interconnected in that each can, in a way, correct the other. In particular, a general failure of the sort of emotional response called for by evaluative judgment tends to undermine the rationality of that judgment and so make it that one ought to reconsider that judgment. In virtue of these rational interconnections, I argue, emotions must be understood as concept‑laden, passive assents, and evaluative judgments must be understood as having (or lacking) a kind of emotional depth; evaluative judgments and emotions therefore normally constitute a single evaluative perspective. In this way, evalua­tive judgment is brought into the same rational pattern of felt evaluations constitutive of import.

l exploit this account of a single evaluative perspective in chapter 6 ("Rational control: freedom of the will and the heart") in offering a solution to the motivational problem. For, other things being equal, having deliberated and arrived at an evaluative judgment, the evaluative perspective that judgment provides will ipso facto be an emotional perspective as well, on pain of undermining the rationality of that judgment. Insofar as emotions (and desires) are felt evaluations, they are in part motivational states. So there is a conceptual, rational connection between deliberative judgment and motivation, a connection that enables us to exercise rational control over our motivations by deliber­ating and judging.

Of course, the devil is in the details, for the brief description of the account I have given so far makes it look as if weakness of the will --being motivated to act contrary to your deliberate choice -- is impossible. By exploiting features of the precise nature of the rational interconnec­tions among evaluative judgments, emotions, and desires, I show how it is possible for our evaluative perspective to be divided in such a way that we are motivated contrary to our deliberative judgment. Attaining rational control, therefore, is in large part a matter of being able to regain a single evaluative perspective (and not by merely capitulating in judgment to our emotions and desires). This requires an account of the nature of the will -- of how through evaluative judgment we can control our actions directly - and, snore fundamentally, of how we can thereby rationally control our emotions and desires and so achieve a kind of freedom, distinct from freedom of action and freedom of the will, which I call "freedom of the heart;," Consequently, the idea that we generally have rational control over what we do is not threatened by the possibility of weakness of will, and the motivational problem is thereby solved.

In chapter 7 ("Deliberation about value"), I turn to tackle the deliberative problem. Here I exploit the account of the rational inter­connections among emotion, and evaluative judgments, including the account of the concept-ladenness of emotion, to provide an account of import as an evaluatively thick property, and so as a potential object of discovery, that nonetheless as not rationally prior to the rational patterns of our judgments and emotions and so is also an object of invention. Central to the account is an understanding of how we can elucidate and refine the evaluative concepts in terms of which we deliberate about, criticize, and justify what has import to us. For, given the rational interconnections among emotions and judgments, such a refinement must ultimately be answerable to how much sense it is able to make of our emotional responses partially constitutive of import. Insofar as the patterns of our emotions do not cohere with our understanding in judgment of the values things have, we have reasons to rethink our deliberative conclusions and the concepts on which they are based. Consequently, the standards of criticism are in this way partially internal to our evaluative sensibilities.

The upshot is a radically clew account of the nature of practical reason and of our mental states quite generally. Although, in presenting the case for this account, I try to present clear reasons for each step along the way, in the process criticizing alternative accounts and responding to imagined objections, these reasons taken one by one are not likely to satisfy my opponents, given the fundamental nature of the dispute. In the end, the best justification for the view I present is the way the whole view hangs together and enables us to resolve persistent and seemingly intractable problems.

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