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quinta-feira, 2 de fevereiro de 2017

Our Feelings. Why Do We Have Them?


Feelings and emotions exist only for our own enjoyment in terms of passion, love, friendship, etc. Would that exclude any negative feelings? No! There is a deep and complex reason involving all the functions of our brain that has been evolved, turning our lives full of behaviours to either be adjusted to any natural environment, or not, and to the social relations.

Keywords: evolution, feelings, emotions, Darwin, brain, neuroscience

Part I

Why are there feelings? Our emotions? Why are we rational and emotional beings and not merely rational?

The answer to the questions, though it may seem initially sound strange and apparently senseless to the reader, yet it seems to me that it's related to one of the most powerful instinctis which are inherent to the human being: their survival of the kind.

The conception of survival, however, should be more ample than it's supposed when in relation to us, human beings, for, eating, drinking, sleeping and procraeting are not enough. It's like we went far beyond these four requisites needful for our surviving. We need far more... And this further is linked to our well-being phisically and mentally, happiness and satisfaction.

Feelings and emotions are there in large numbers in our minds; they affect our bodies, our behavior, our lives. There's no room to explain one by one on the basis of our survival as animal beings. I will give examples of some. It's important to stress out the "statistical character" too of this article, in the sense that I am speaking about characteristics of populations. The characteristics of an individual may represent one tendency in a whole population, in a majority, where exceptions don't strike. When I speak about some feeling or emotion, the reader must think in ample terms, in general. For instance, when I speak that love is the most important link among parents and children and that without it mankind would have already been extinguished, I keep out the few cases where children have been forsaken at birth or when still yong.

Darwin's Theory of Evolution has always been badly explained and ill regarded by most people. In the beginning of 20th Century, here in Brazil, it was forbidden speaking about it at schools, there was prejudice in all countries, but among scientists it just only evolved since its conception in 19th Century. An abysm was created among the knowledge of Science in this area and all of what the ordinary people think and fancy about how living beings modify themselves, about how they adapt themselves, how they survive, etc... And all of that it's related only with the bodies of these beings; just fancy how great deal of ignorance there's when the subject is about the correspondency between evolution and mind.

The most complex living beings in our planet, fowl and mainly the mamals, have utmost complex brains and are adapted to manage outliving over negative stimulli, destructive of the environs. Insects, fish and reptiles are born in a maturity stage enough to move and explore the outside world, apart from that, their number of young ones is great enough so that not all of them way not be preyed upon by the predatories. The thing is different with the mamals: few young-ones and fragile, they need for a long term learning about their environment, to the end that some day they may alone withstand the perils of this environment and bear forth. Then come emotions. Some of them are basical and we share with beings that are less complex fear and aggressiness. Fear is important, for it's an alert challenge to some peril in the environment; who might survive if one feared nothing? It's necessary the existence of aggressiness because nothing can be only passive; to withstand some danger, a menace, requires prompt responses too what involves aggressiveness. Specially in the human beings, nature was "capricious" in the emotional aspect: we feel merriment, sadness, hatred, passion, guilt, satisfaction, love, affection, we've faith, hope, etc.

We have the ability to go about sex-intercourse even without the aim to procreate. We seek for because we like it, because it does us good, because it assuages us. We go so far as to the point to relish one dish just to gratify ourselves though we may not be hungry, or better, without the momentaneos necessity for survival; out of pure pleasurable. We go about pleasure-seeking, camping, meeting people whom we like, amusing ourselves, because all of that is part of our leisure, of our well-being. The word "liking" is always present; feelings are often present.

There's working... It ought to be understood like an activity that is inherent to the human being, no matter it's manner or it's goal: from the man two hundred thousand years ago on his preying upon a prey for hours, to our to-date man at an office-room replet with electronic-appliances which aids him in his everyday tasks, all is working. All that mean an activity envolving the generation of some good or realization of some indispensable job for our survival, even indirectly. It's the case, this last, of the societies that modernize themselves and the fruit of working came to be "symbolical", money, wherefrom we get what we need. Would there be working for us should we not like it? Should we not like it or should we not feel anything about its fruit? There doesn't exist just the act of working, feelings and emotions,
conquest which lead us into satisfaction which are extremely beneficial to us are all at stake.

I mean that we're on the search for activities, conquests, things that do us good for our happiness and welfare. If we fall now, we have further chances, we've our self-love and we live onwards, on their trail. We have faith, hope, we dream.

About the negative feelings, the violent and negative emotions? See, no adaptive system like the brain which views the command over one body that will endure by it, shall only in a positive manner respond in the sense of positive feelings over an environment wherein the outward stimulii are positive and negative too. None will love an enemy!

To capture an animal it's necessary a good deal of agressiveness and we often make use of cruel recourses whereby, if we stopped to think, we wouldn't eat even a tiny sea-fish! One may fancy how hugely our societies grew and developed themselves at the cost of many deaths or exploration where our forefathers utilized much of the human capacity for the destruction towards their enemies. And destroying envolves much of negative.

This is the universe of the mind. It's interesting to strees out the role of consciense into all of these procedures. For example, we're conscious that sex- intercourse is pleasurable: them we go to it, as said before, without the intent to procreate. And we do it consciously too to bear forth descendants... Conscience is that urges us to go over to what I said about eating, drinking, sleeping and procreating: conscious beings seek after these things in an "automatic" way, intuitively. They also seek them to make them into pleasure and satisfaction fountains, however: procreateing would be an exception, but sex in itself wouldn't: and they seek others, such as those pertaining in a higher level of systemic activity, such as leisure,
pleasurable dainties, etc., so as to feel themselves aroused. Sexual-intercourse without intent to bear forth is perhaps the loftiest point over this "scale".

Consciense going farther beyond, needs necessarily at least, of two emotional supports so as to perpetuate itself; two mighty forces; wiz., faith and self-love. What kind of conscious beings would attain perpetuation if they wouldn't trust themselves? In their labour, in their everyday toil? Or, like in the majority of the planet-inhabitants in aught divine to back themselves up? These wouldn't even stand up from bed! And what system would also be able to survive should they not liked themselves? What avail would be there a sturdy body in a feeble mind? Perhaps we're come to a universal matter-of-factness: any conscious being whatsoever in the cosmos will certainly have this type of characteristics. Maybe there doesn't exist anything purely rational.

This article may give us the impression that it relates to our western civilization, given to consumption, inclined to lusts, power and money; it's not so. It refers to that which human beings own in their inward nature, to their mental groundworks whereinto all cultures and civilizations have been created to now. Some of them have been more pacific than others, some have been more merchantilists, while others occupied themselves in the industrial production technology. Mankind's survival however has passed to now by means of a combination of a rational sidewith another emotional. Survival for men comprizes more than their rational nature, all that provides for satisfaction, merriment, joy, conquests, etc. "States" corelating to our emotions and feelings. Evect all of that out of human and our kind will be seen to vanish.

Part II

We must understand  that there's a kind of order, an upward scale of complexity of living beings on our planet, from lowly unicellular life to worms, arthropods, reptiles, fishes, birds, mammals, primates and humans. Among all these, the main difference between us and the other animals is that we have the most complex nervous system. Except for this, our bodies are very similar, in genetics, physiology and biochemistry, to most of other mammals. It's important to bear in mind that increasing complexity doesn't necessarily mean that there is a corresponding "timeline" in the evolutive history of each animal group in relation to the others. For instance, a bird is more complex than an insect, but the latter may be younger as a species. A new species may even evolve to a lesser degree of complexity, in case ecological changes provide for it.

Modern science has now proved without doubt that living beings evolve, or better, they modify, adapt themselves to changes in the environment. The so called "standard model" of biology has firmly married the discoveries of molecular biology, genetics and evolution. It is arguable that this applies to all aspects of our biology, including the basis for our most complex behaviors and emotions.

Biological evolution means that a permanent (gene-coded) change occurs in the form and functions of cells, tissues and organs of living beings. However, since Darwin's time, but especially due to the pioneering work of animal ethologists in the 1930's, such as Konrad Lorenz, we know also that behavior is also subjected to selective and adaptive pressures. Behavior "came into being" on Earth long ago. For example, an unicellular being such as an ameba is able to react to positive and negative stimuli coming from the environment by altering its movements, so as to assure its survival. These kinds of simple behaviors, such as tropisms, have probably existed for hundreds of millions of years and can be found even in organisms without nervous systems, such as plants. However, natural selection has continuously pressed for more and more advanced forms of behavior, which generated the evolution of sensory organs, muscles and specialized neural networks. In terms of behavior, it is equally valid the concept for morphological changes: the more varied is the spectrum of available behaviors, the highest are the chances for survival in changing environments. Diversity is the keyword here. Many theorists suggest, therefore, that brain complexity is essentially related to the complexity of behavioral strategies for survival of the species and to the rigors of competition. This is not difficult to imagine because organisms which have to aqcuire and process a greater amount of information on the environment require more complex nervous systems.

In the “Part I” quoted an example of the bonding which appears between parents and children, and feelings such as affection, love, etc, without which none of us would be able to survive after birth. However, in many situations the drive to protect our younger ones conflicts with our own instincts for survival. At this point, my suggestion is that the brain's rational side becomes so important as its emotional side. Furthermore, reactions such as aggressiveness against predators and toward the defense of the social group as a whole may take precedence over the protection of youth, with a view to perpetuate the species, as we observe in many non-human primates, such as chimpanzees, where infanticide is common and related to the instinctual basis of these kind of defenses.

This is not so in human beings. Because of cultural evolution, this instinctual, emotional basis may be entirely subverted by reason. For instance, a mother may prefer to sacrifice her own life to save her baby's. Or the survival of an entire group may be threatened on the basis of purely rational decisions (such as in war). "Knowing" is rational, "feeling" is emotional, hence these are the two main pillars upon which all our behavior and conscience are based.

In conclusion, Nature found out a way to sort out the problem of living beings which have a family which depends on their genitors in their maturing period. The behavioral strategies which came out after millions of years of hominid evolution and sexual selection involves a complex mixture of reason and emotion. This is probably the basis of our uniqueness among all others species.


SAGAN, CARL. The Dragons of Eden. Penguin Random House: New York, 1977. 263 p.

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