Good and Bad Emotions & Reorganization

So, what would a "good" emotion be about?

Let's think about thirst and drinking. Consider 2 questions:

1.) How long does it take you to drink enough to fill your stomach to the
bloating point?

2.) How long does it take your digestive system to distribute the newly
ingested water so that water balance is restored throughout the body?

For most of us the answer to question 1 is something like: not very long.
And the answer to 2 is something like: a lot longer than drinking-to-bloat.
Thus, if drinking is triggered by intrinsic error, and goes on until that
error is eliminated, you are likely to drown in the water you are drinking
or drown amid a desperate attempt at reorganization. This is not a very
effective arrangement. The same kind of reasoning applies to chowing down
at the golden arches.

What we need is something which stops the drinking and eating when "enough"
has been taken on, which will be long before the intrinsic variable has
returned to the proper level. (We also need a system which estimates how
much is enough.) When we've eaten or drunk enough, this unit gives the
signal, which feels like satisfaction. And indeed, such satisfaction units
have been found in the hypothalamus. Some of you may recall that folks
have even wired both rats and humans so that the creature could give direct
electrical stimulation to one of these satiation centers by pressing a
button or a bar. This looks like the beginnings of one kind of good

My sense is that the nutrition story is even more subtle (at least for
endotherms, who tend to eat on schedule while ectotherms do not (I think,
it's been a long time since I've read this stuff)). You really don't want
to wait for intrinsic error to set in. You want to keep your body's
systems away from intrinsic error. So you learn to initiate eating without
sensing intrinsic error. What sets you to eating, or seeking food?
Hunger, but hunger is a learned sensation; it is not directly coupled with
intrinsic signals for nutrition deprivation. You aren't going to get those
signals until things are really really bad.

* * * * *

As for emotion systems, Paul McLean (who certainly did not know PCT) likes
to talk about the reptilian brain, the old mammalian brain, and the new
mammalian brain. In doing so he's talking both anatomically and
phylogenetically. The basic vertebrate brain has a certain set of
structures which allow it to discriminate some variety of sensory inputs
and produce some variety of motor outputs. With this it can control a
reptile in a certain environment. To get a mammal you add structures on to
the reptilian brain, structures which allow greater discrimination on both
the input and output sides and which may often inhibit the old reptilian
stuff, which still remains. Note that reptiles are ectotherms while
mammals are endotherms. Mammals require much more energy, but they are
also more stable. Evolution did the same trick to get from a primitive
mammal (e.g. a rat) to a higher mammal (e.g. a dog).

My guess is that Bruce's emotion system is the old reptile within. That
is, it is a fully functioning control system, with inputs and outputs and
reference levels. But it is not very sophisticated. It can't discriminate
many sensory inputs nor generate many different motor outputs; the stack is
very shallow; and it can't do much learning, if any. Instead, it is
surrounded by this deep stack that has enormous capacity to learn. That
old reptile within isn't an emotion generator, but much of what it does is
sensed as emotion in this phylogenetically newer and more powerful stack.


William L. Benzon 518.272.4733
161 2nd Street
Troy, NY 12180
What color would you be if you didn't know what you was?
That's what color I am.