[ExI] Wrestling with Embodiment

Ben Zaiboc bbenzai at yahoo.com
Wed Feb 1 14:23:42 UTC 2012

Kelly Anderson <kellycoinguy at gmail.com> asked:

> ... if you had never experienced sad, how would you know the true
> "meaning" of happy?

I call Bullshit on this.

It's like saying "If you never knew Green, how would you ever know the true 'meaning' of Red?"

Sad, Happy, Green, Red, don't have 'meanings' beyond the experiences themselves (and any significance that we secondarily attach to them, such as Red = Danger, etc.).  They are just experiences, some more preferable than others (which is often an individual thing, overlaid on evolved responses).  They don't derive any more or less significance by being compared to each other.  So the only thing that makes sense is to say "If you've never been sad, can you be happy?".

Suppose I invert your question, and say does sadness only derive 'meaning' from happiness? (In other words, can you only be sad if you've been happy?)

Do you think it makes sense to say that if someone has never had any happiness in their lives, or very little, that makes their sadness somehow less significant than that of someone else who has been happy loads of times?

If someone has had very little experience of pleasure, is whatever pain they experience therefore less painful than that experienced by a hedonist? (your example of a leper is a good example: Do lepers feel less pleasure than other people, purely because they feel less pain?)

I say no, absolutely not.

> And would beings that did not have emotions be
> able to understand those of us who do know emotions?

I can't really comment on the likelihood of 'beings without emotions', although I suspect it's not very, but in general, what you are saying here is "would beings incapable of X be able to understand other beings capable of X?".  I think the answer is "Of course not", at least with regard to X.  
Is a cat capable of understanding my behaviour when I'm looking for the tin-opener?  I know that the answer for at least one cat is a big "No".  It can associate certain sequences of action and sounds with food, but that's a long way from understanding what I'm up to when looking for a tin-opener, and why I sometimes don't need one to produce food (it can't even understand the cat-flap, never mind ring-pull tins, although I may be dealing with a very dim animal here, even for a cat!)

Seeing as almost all of our behaviour is driven by emotion, any being without an appreciation of emotions would likely find our behaviour incomprehensible.

Ben Zabioc

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list