Wes referred in our Spinoza discussion to Antonio Damasio, a figure in neuroscience influenced by Spinoza. Here he describes the emotions' role in decision-making:
Watch on youtube: http://youtu.be/1wup_K2WN0I
Spinoza agrees that decision-making is based on emotion. Even a "rational" decision, i.e. one made in a calm manner by considering the alternatives, requires an emotional component to actually choose a path and move forward.
That is very important for my interest in canine cognition. Can you point me to a succinct online statement of this. Is Spinoza close to Hume http://www.bartleby.com/37/3/13.html
It all fits with Damasio and Darwin
I just listened to Damasio’s book _Looking for Spinoza_, but I didn’t get how Spinoza himself puts it.
Of course this insight of emotion>reason gives critical support to us who feel canines think with a degree of reason. Many will say dogs are just hapless victims of crazy emotion and instinct with no conscious thought – or certainly noway akin to ours. Bur when we say emotions are required even for reason, that is big.
I used Whitehead to make my case amongst some dog people that we only differ by degree in our conscious experience – I knew full-well that ANW was a firehose aimed at a cigarette. My need for more accessible thinkers led me to Damasio, Darwin, and my more recent realization of Hume’s take on animals. (Now, I may be able to add Spinoza, but his kinship to Descartes still spooks me on this).
Canine cognitive research is mushrooming across the globe now, and they should verify animal’s having a rich subjective experience.
FWIW, what Damasio says about our need to use emotion to value a choice up or down – that we do not choose/act solely on reason – is a total confirmation of Pirsig saying that values are the ultimate category, and that western philosophy lost sight of this with Plato/Ari. Values (emotions) naturally connect us with reality, while reason artificially dissects and divides.
Just 4+ min into Brook’s interview w/ Rose, he describes how to buy furniture IN EXACTLY THE SAME MANNER Pirsig describes how to get a stuck screw loose (this is one of the practical highlights of Pirsig’s Inquiry into Values, only he articulated the notion 35 years ago while analistic philosophers were busy dissing him).
Mark Linsenmayer says
The connection to Hume is interesting. Yes, it looks like they share a common view of the capacities animals, though they talk about it in different contexts. Both humans and animals have on this account the same principle driving value judgments, i.e. pain/pleasure (or will to power, if you prefer) augmented by associations. For Spinoza, humans can to some degree escape from the tyranny of emotions by looking at matters a different way, i.e. looking at the associative complex more carefully. So a dog will hate the vet, who brings him pain through shots, whereas a man can reason that the shots are in his long-term interest despite the pain.
Hume also shares Spinoza’s suspicion of reason as wholly separate from emotions (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hume-moral/) and both see morality as a social construction rooted in our natural dispositions. According to http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hume/, Hume seems to agree with this point by Damasio:
“Reason, Hume maintains, can at most inform us of the tendencies of actions. It can recommend means for attaining a given end, but it can’t recommend ultimate ends. Reason can provide no motive to action, for reason alone is insufficient to produce moral blame or approbation. We need sentiment to give a preference to the useful tendencies of actions.”
…though here he’s talking about the motives of moral action in particular, and Damasio was talking about the psychology of making any decision.
I’m not sure what Hume’s view on our duties towards animals is; he says at the above link that ” We approve of benevolence in others, even when their benevolence is not, and never will be, directed toward us. We even observe benevolence in animals.” Overall, his account is descriptive rather than normative, i.e. like Spinoza, he says that we have certain tendencies and create certain more detailed moral systems for social purposes, and there are surely multiple possible moral systems that would work just as well to keep a country humming.
This I agree with, and I think it leaves Hume, and Spinoza, and us in approximately the same boat: i.e. we have certain facts we need to recognize, such that animals feel. Then we have our current social ethic, which is that it’s not OK to make animals suffer needlessly, but since they’re not people and lack higher thinking capacities, we can still eat them and test on them and whatever, but in our case in particular the moral zeitgeist seems like it’s slowly on the move, such that there are plenty of vegetarians and we should at least probably feel weird about the way animals are treated in the meat and other industries. I personally would be extremely surprised if Americans at least are still eating meat 200 years down the road. If anyone can find more specifically where Hume addresses our duties towards animals, I’d be glad to see it.