Thursday, September 15, 2011


If we had an infinite amount of knowledge, everything that we did, every word we said, and every communication we had with another person would be perfect, correct, and progressing humanity toward peaceful ends.  But this is not the case, and it never will be.  Even with the advent and exponential growth of the internet we are only human.  However, being human is still wonderful and filled with potential. The key is awareness. 
If you have ever accidentally hurt someone's feelings, then you have thought or maybe even had to explain later, "Oh, I wasn't thinking." This common phrase is more than a colloquialism.  It is true.  You weren't thinking.  Perhaps at that moment feelings took over, or the ego, or maybe it was just a matter of momentum.  Words literally flew from your mouth before you could edit them.
So if we are to think, feel, and live at the same time, how can we do this?  Many methods exist with the same goal.  At their very base lies the same techniques as well.  Meditation or deep relaxation is the starting point.  To further develop or level of empathy and compassion, step two is to find the compassion you have for those closest to you, your mother or another loved one, for example.  And, of course, you must find love for yourself.
From this center you can then extend that sensation to other friends, then strangers, and finally to "enemies."  With a strongly developed ability for compassion, you can never not think.  You are always aware that other people are literally interconnected with you and your happiness.  You find it imperative to treat them as if your happiness depended on it, because it does.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Test for the “Human”

Christine Rosakranse
Response for 369 - Nass
Test for the “Human”

    Any test for humanness is a difficult one because the definition of human is different depending on which aspect of the individual you are studying.  Of course, there is the biological component of a human being, and that is well-defined.  We have certain DNA and the expression of those genes leads to common physical traits.  Mutations do occur and there are outliers of the system, but they lie well within a range of possibilities.
    However, the ontological essence of humanity remains out of the scope of the Turing test.  He relies on transmitted communications in order to remove the face-to-face interaction, but that would be exactly where humanness lies.  To be honest, I would argue that humanness is a spectrum.  On the one end, you have a rock, inanimate and unfeeling.  At the fully human end, you have an entity that hopes, worries, loves, and that is capable of engaging with other members of humanity. 
    I always think of Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation when this question arises.  He progresses through the seasons trying to become more “human”, playing chess, painting, and even have conjugal relations with another crew member.  But throughout all of that practice, he submits that he is not human.  In the movie, he gets the emotion chip, one of my favorite deus ex machina devices ever.  They do not explain how it works.  They just pop it in and boom - manic, all-feeling Data is born.  I would say that at this point he became human, and would pass any Turing or Nass test.
    This is not to say that anything with emotions is human.  I know my dog worries a lot about treats, and the scarcity of treats, and all beef related items in the world.  But it’s how one worries that makes a thing human or not.  On my spectrum, though, a dog would be more human than a rock, less human than me, but not because she can’t use grammar. 
    Perhaps my test would be: To what extent does the entity have the ability to create an explanatory narrative?  We constantly distinguish “what matters”, using a combination of logic and very nearly arbitrary rules.  I think a computer wouldn’t be able to say which is more important, a rainbow or a cricket.  And a human would, coming up with some narrative, that may or not make sense to a computer, but that would make sense to another human being.  

Thursday, April 28, 2011

What is science?

Kuhn and Lakatos

    Kuhn’s account of paradigm shifts describes anomalies and inconsistencies as their root.  This argument suggests a single model for change.  Whether or not Kuhn believes this to truly be the only model would definitely color my ability to believe in his logic.  His definitions, I find also, are too restrictive. 
    He further explains that, as demonstrated by astronomy, the holes in a theory serve as a latching point for a new theory, without which it is unlikely for a new theory to hold.  Retooling is an expensive process (intellectually and otherwise).  Not just any theory would be considered for study.  Something must be the catalyst for change.
Another way to state this is that “crises are a necessary precondition for the emergence of novel theories” (pg. 77).    This is a very logical way to think about these changes.      However, when he writes “To reject one paradigm without simultaneously substituting another is to reject science itself” (pg. 79), I cannot agree with him and neither can Lakatos.  Suggesting that you work within one paradigm until you create a new one once again calls to the no-interregnum argument against Kuhn’s formation.  And while he does admit to a possible period of confusion, he does not call this science. 
    Lakatos, on the other hand, counters this by first introducing a concept from Popper that “all theories are not only equally unprovable but also equally improbable” (pg. 95).  Dogmatic falsificationism assumes a “psychological borderline” between theory and factual prepositions.  Once again, psychology comes into the realm of discourse because science can never be a “pure” exercise free from human foibles and intentions.   “There is no natural (i.e. psychological) demarcation between observational  and theoretical prepositions” (pg. 113).  He instead changes a paradigm from solid to “background knowledge.”  
    One interesting side note comes from a footnote which states that some might see “methodological falsificationism as an existentialist philosophy of science” (pg, 113, footnote 2).  Adding sophistication to methodological falsificationism involves distinguishing between interpretive theory and explanatory theory (pg. 129).  Lakatos then replaces the notion of a single theory as being scientific with the necessity for a succession of theories to be scientific.  I think that this is a better representation.  Taking Kuhn’s view of science-no science-science to explain periods of confusion does not account for the intricacies of science and for the entire process. 
    Lakatos uses the word “metaphysics” which represents an interesting focus for discussion, which in this case describes methodological rules as being “....motivated by the metaphysical principle that any explanation is only approximate because of the infinite complexity of the factors involved in determining any single event.”

So two questions we could ask are:  To what extent does seeing methodological falsificationism as an existentialist philosophy of science affect the researcher?  Does seeing science in a succession of theories make more sense than claiming individual theories as scientific?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Defining Emotion by Looking for Commonality

The selected readings represent the challenges, but also possible directions for determining a universal validity in emotion research.  Each of these papers presents emotion as a difficult concept to nail down.  Emotion, in and of itself, is complicated by the highly regulatory and compensatory nature of the human brain.  Not only do we have automatic responses (reflexes and impulses) to strange stimuli, but we also have cognitive responses to how we should feel about those feelings.  Nielsen and Kaszniak demonstrate that each stage of emotional response is judged and in turn those judgments are reflected upon and perhaps judged again, according to an individual’s past development or emotional awareness (as mention in #1 of the notes section).

This can be an alternate to the current definition of natural kinds.  We can look at the primitives of emotion without the over-layering of cognitive response.  In some ways, valence and arousal act in this manner to describe emotions along axes of intensity. 

In the Robinson and Clore paper, we can see that the extent to which a feeing, memory, or belief affects our self-report of emotion and alters an initial automatic response must be taken into account when comparing pre and post reports of an emotional experience. Due to the fact that we cannot literally “relive” an experience, self-report must deal with “accessibility principles.” Robinson and Clore present four types of knowledge that are accessed when individuals self-report.  Stereotypes imposed by culture as well as those developed by a person over the course of their lifetime represent a strong molding force in the report of emotion.  This represents a semantic driving force, as opposed to episodic influences.  The episodic influences have to deal with the tendency of the vividness of a memory to fade over time (evanescence) so experiential knowledge is not always accessible, leading to reliance on semantic beliefs (situation-based or identity-based).

Later on in the paper in the Literature Review, a paper related to my interests was introduced.  I find the results related to “online” versus noncurrent measurement of emotion as experienced by different genders to be non-intuitive.

In Moore, Romney, Hsia, and Rusch, we see that some terms that were researched more closely correlated across languages, such as happiness and sadness.  However, envy and shame represented different dynamics.  This could be because of the dependence of envy and shame on past acculturation, pointing to the “incommensurability among the languages”, but only, I would argue due to differences in the cultures that arises for non-natural kinds of emotions. 

So my main question from these readings is then:
If we were to train someone to not let past conditioning color their current experience, to fully feel in the moment, would they ever feel envy or shame? Anger?

--Christine Rosakranse