[ExI] Wrestling with Embodiment

Ben Zaiboc bbenzai at yahoo.com
Tue Feb 14 09:34:55 UTC 2012

Kelly Anderson <kellycoinguy at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Wed, Feb 1, 2012 at 7:23 AM, Ben Zaiboc <bbenzai at yahoo.com>
> wrote:
> > 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.
> Sweet. I like an active conversation! Let's see what we can
> agree upon!
> > It's like saying "If you never knew Green, how would
> you ever know the true 'meaning' of Red?"
> Not exactly analogous because Green is not the opposite of
> Red. 


Green is exactly the opposite of Red.  Have you never seen a colour wheel?

I don't understand you saying it's not.  What do you think is the opposite of Red?

> If, on
> the other hand, you said "If you don't know what UP is,
> your
> appreciation of DOWN is probably limited." then maybe that
> is not
> quite so full of shit. Happy and sad are opposites, and if
> you can't
> appreciate sad, then happy becomes the new base line. So if
> all you
> experience is happy. Then there are times when you are more
> happy, and
> times you are less happy. Less happy times might then be
> described as
> "sad".

OK, but none of this means that an absence of one produces a corresponding absence of the other.  Higher happiness being your baseline doesn't mean you are LESS happy.  It just means your baseline is happier than someone else's.  Your ability to experience 'happy' isn't compromised.  In fact, I'd say you are more happy, not less.

> Now if I say I can see red and green but not xrays or radio
> waves, and
> apply that analogously to the happy-sad spectrum, then what
> you have
> is simply an optimist... :-)  They would be somewhat
> sad-blind. They
> would still have to experience a continuum of emotions for
> the words
> to have any meaning. Can you or I really appreciate infrared
> or
> ultraviolet? Only in a limited way.

So you're saying that my inability to see infrared means my ability to see whatever I /can/ see lacks some kind of meaning?

This makes no sense at all.

It would mean all the millions of things and ways I can't see make my current perceptions totally meaningless.  Suppose there are depths of sad and happy that we are totally unaware of.  Then suppose there are not.  Do these two possibilities change our current experience in different ways?

> Linguistics is all about the relationship of words to each
> other. Have
> you ever noticed that the dictionary uses words to define
> other words?
> Where do you start understanding? Everything in
> understanding words is
> related to experience, and to the words we have previously
> been
> exposed to. While you could give a machine the equivalent of
> some sort
> of endorphin rush of happiness... if they haven't had
> sadness, would
> they appreciate it as much? I think not. So they could have
> the tokens
> "happy" and "sad", but it might not have the same meaning to
> them as
> it does to us. In fact, they probably don't have absolutely
> identical
> meaning to you and I.

By this logic, electric shocks don't hurt people who have never experienced an orgasm as much as those who have.

> > 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?)
> >
> Yes. When I have met people in Haiti and Brazil who have
> never
> experienced wealth, they are still glad to have a little
> money. But
> they don't understand what it's like not to have to worry
> about where
> your next meal comes from. 

This just demonstrates that people who have never experienced something, don't know what that thing is like.  It doesn't demonstrate that they experience less of the opposite.

> Likewise, we have a hard time
> getting into
> the mind of people who are ALWAYS worried about where there
> next meal
> is going to come from. This different experience of the
> poverty-richness spectrum gives meaning to both parties, and
> makes it
> difficult for them to fully understand each other.
> Thankfully, the
> neo-cortex gives us the ability to run a little simulation,
> but it
> really isn't QUITE the same as actually having BEEN in
> abject poverty.

Yes, I have never been in abject poverty, and agree that I can't really understand what that's like.  This doesn't reduce my ability to enjoy the modest level of affluence that I have.  On average, I'm happier, not less happy, for not having been abjectly poor.

> > 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?
> >
> No, 

So you do think that sadness derives meaning from happiness (see further above), but you don't think that sadness is made less significant if less happiness has been experienced?  These are the same thing, and you've answered both No and Yes to the same question.

> it merely makes them less familiar with the subject. The
> saddest
> people I have ever met still have some happiness. But when
> your
> baseline is at a different place than mine, that makes the
> meaning of
> the words we use slightly different, at least to degree. If
> I put you
> into the life of any of 80% of the people on this planet,
> you would
> find yourself very sad, very quickly, because your baseline
> is
> different from theirs. You would probably not enjoy living
> in a
> favela, but some of the happiest people I've ever met live
> there.
> Different experience... leads to different feelings in the
> same
> context... leads to different definitions of the words.
> My ex-brother-in-law lives in a bed in an open air hospice
> in
> Singapore. He has no ability to walk or even move much due
> to a
> brittle bone disease. Yet, he experiences some happiness,
> for example,
> when we visited him he seemed happy about the fact. I would
> guess his
> life is not as happy as mine has been. He derives pleasure
> in
> different ways than we do. He has had to adapt to a sadder
> base line
> in his emotional life. Things that would make you and I very
> sad are
> simply part of his daily life. So, does "happy" and "sad"
> mean exactly
> the same thing to him and I? Not exactly.

If what you say is true, then everybody will be as happy as everybody else, because people who are 'unhappy' will by that token, be 'happy', and people who are very happy will be correspondingly less happy, so it will all even out.

I honestly think there are people who are much happier, and others who are much unhappier, than average, and they aren't that way by virtue of experiencing a more-than-average amount of the opposite state.  It's pretty obvious, really.

> > 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?)
> >
> <tongue slightly in cheek>
> Yes. Lepers feel less pleasure.

OK, so lepers aren't such a good example after all.  Their condition means they feel less sensation altogether, not just pain.

Ben Zaiboc

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