Piercello's universal equation

Instincts --> (Sense of Identity <-- Intelligence) = Emotions

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

What is this Blog? (1/13/10)

Literally centuries of increasingly precise science and thought experiments have succeeded in illuminating several aspects of emotion, but so far the combined efforts of the philosophers, theologians, neuroscientists, and psychological scientists have yet to yield a general umbrella theory of emotion that gathers all of these islands of development together and links them in a manner fully consistent with everyday emotional experiences, as the rest of us use the term.

The primary purpose of this blog is to offer just such an umbrella theory, using accessible language and clear explanations to reach as broad a readership as possible. Its secondary purpose will be to begin examining the potential policy applications implied by the map the theory provides of the systemic entanglement between human intelligence and emotion.


This theory is descriptive rather than prescriptive, broadly behaviorally predictive without being deterministic, deceptively simple, and appears to be computationally expressible. It suggests that an elegant logical connection exists between instinct and intelligence, and that the emergent complexity of human emotion can be entirely derived from its dynamical operation. Perhaps just as importantly, it can be essentially expressed in clear everyday language, once terminology has been settled upon, for its central point is logical rather than technical.

Essentially, what I am proposing is at its heart a mechanical system. As such, I am concerned with illuminating what and how rather than why; hopefully making this distinction will allow me to avoid picking unnecessary philosophical fights. For example, it is neither necessary nor appropriate for me to make any claims about the nature or existence of God (or the purpose of humanity) as I use the proposed mechanics of the connection between emotion, instinct, and intelligence to explain how it is that ordinary people can become strongly emotionally invested in vastly different conceptions of God, even to the point of being willing to suffer terribly in their defense. Whether or not this argument might actually contribute to more theologically refined discussions about God is an intensely interesting question, but it is also outside the scope of the current presentation.

Similarly, while these mechanics can be equally applied to the role of emotional investments in other subjects such as politics, economics, religion, sports, and patriotism, objects such as possessions and other people, and particular roles such as parent, victim, Christian, scientist, or citizen, to name just a few, and while this reveals a great deal about the untapped individual potential (for good or ill!) that completely permeates the human race, superficial judgements on the value or correctness of individual subjects are not the direct focus of my effort here. My first priority is to express the mechanics themselves–as I see them–as clearly as possible so that others can begin to engage my idea from within their own areas of expertise.

Unfortunately, clarity in this case does not equal simplicity. There are many conflicting sets of terminology to choose from, but none of them quite outline the concepts I need in the ways in which I wish to string them together. The logical connection at the heart of the theory is so simple as to be meaningless without context, as illustrated by the equation at the top of the blog, and therefore requires careful conceptual preparation. The fundamental nature of the theory ensures that it will draw in expert challenges from an enormous number of disciplines. Finally, the conflicting emotional reactions of various sets of readers to different parts of the argument couples with the way in which those components interact to make it almost impossible to present in a single, linearly written form that will make sense to a wide range of readers.


All of that having been said, I believe I can defuse some of these problems by laying a little conceptual groundwork before pressing on with emotional specifics. Because I am proposing a new logical synthesis rather than a technical breakthrough, most of my initial conceptual building blocks are available off-the-shelf, so to speak, and their widespread conventional acceptance will temporarily allow me to sidestep the burden of supplying rigorous proof in this space. I believe the bulk of the needed context can be provided by five preliminary ingredients, each of which will hopefully become small clusters of short introductory blog posts: 1) the fundamental philosophical value of coherence; 2) the logic of complexity, emergence, and bottom-up organization; 3) the basic architectural logic of intelligence; 4) the universally accepted existence of biologically hardwired instinctive drives; and 5) a light overview of the field of emotion theory. Another framing element that may eventually need to be included for a wider readership is a philosophical justification for the whole endeavor in the first place.

Once those pieces with their discussions of concepts, terminology, and definitions are available, it should become possible to construct the emotional centerpiece, weaving it together with the background information and the existing theoretical approaches to emotion.

At that point, a third section or cluster may be devoted to examining the applications and implications of the theory, including what it may mean for informed democracy, liberty, law, and government.

Helpful navigational links to these sections will become embedded in this post as those different sections are organized and constructed over time. New posts will appear on top as they are written, but their chronological sequence will not necessarily reflect their proper place in the overall argument. For structural reasons a clear introduction of many of my argument's conceptual components creates chicken-and-egg type problems of presentation, so for now I am simply letting the posts write themselves in whatever order they prefer; I'll be filling the gaps as needed, and as my own research progresses.

For those who prefer a more organized reading experience, I have created a "Table of Contents" heading at the top of the sidebar where I will be listing the posts (as they are written) in what I believe will be a more helpful reading order, concluding with a link to my loosely categorized, expanding list of references and related reading. As the blog expands, I will also be directly connecting those posts to each other by adding appropriately placed links (for example, next up in the suggested sequence is the thesis proposal), and I'll eventually add tag functionality for a way of searching posts by topic once things really get rolling.

One final caution! The clarity of my writing improves dramatically when I reword and revise over an extended period of time, so rather than waiting to post until everything is perfect (my purpose is conversation, after all) I intend to continue editing until I am satisfied, indicating the most recent revision of each post with a date at the end of its title. Major revisions to content will probably generate new posts, but wording changes in the service of clarity will not.

Posting will be sporadic, given my ongoing graduate studies in another field, but will hopefully be more frequent than it was last semester. Wish me luck!

Continue to the thesis proposal

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