One often hears comments to the effect that "even if a computer could somehow think, it could
never feel." And Dreyfus (1978), among others, has argued that this imposes strict limitations on
the potential power of computer thought. After all, what is intuition but a sense of what "feels
The weakest point of such arguments is that they do not refer to any particular definition of
emotion. Without a definition of emotion broad enough to apply, at least potentially, to entities
substantially different from human beings, how can one make a fair judgement as to the
emotional capacity of computers?
One might argue that no such general definition is possible; that the only wayto understand
human emotions is through human biology, which is inherently applicable only to entities
substantially similar to human beings. This argument is bolstered by the numerous vagaries and
self-contradictions which plague psychoanalysis and other classical theories of emotion, and also
by the many impressive achievements of molecular psychology. However, it is nonetheless not
implausible that there is a general structure of emotion.
In his 1887 classic Laws of Feeling, Paulhan made an intriguing suggestion as to what this
structure might be. And more recently, Mandler (1985) has outlined a theory very similar to
Paulhan’s, and gathered together a great deal of data in favor of it. These theories are preliminary
and incomplete, and they are not essential to the main ideas of this book. However, they do
indicate how one might develop a theory of emotion compatible with the ideas of the previous
MacCurdy, a psychoanalyst, expressed Paulhan’s core idea excellently in his 1925 Psychology
of Emotion: it is precisely
when instinctive reactions are stimulated that do not gain expression, that affect is most
intense. It is the prevention of the expression of instinct either in behavior or conscious thought
that leads to intense affect. In other words, the energy of the organism, activating an instinct
process, must be blocked by repression before poignant feeling is excited.
In his own words, Paulhan’s general law of feeling is simply that
desires … only give rise to affective phenomena when the tendency awakened undergoes
Throughout Laws of Feeling, Paulhan implicitly assumes that "tendencies" are the stuff of mind.
Since he never actually defines the word "tendency", I see no problem with reading "tendency"
as "behavioral pattern".
In the language of the preceding chapter, a "desire" is an instruction passed down the motor
control hierarchy. Very low-level instructions probably do not deserve the label "desire", but
there is no rigid cut-off point: the higher the level of an instruction, the more it is a "desire".
Paulhan’s hypothesis is that emotions occur only when such an instruction is not obeyed. This
disobeyal may be due to mental incapacity or to the uncooperativeness of external reality.
Emotion would never occur in an all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly-running machine, because
all of its internal instructions would invariably be fulfilled. Livesey, in the first volume of his
1986 Learning and Emotion, has sketched out similar ideas, although his analysis is less specific
and hence less controversial.
Paulhan apparently did not try very hard to apply his theory to particular emotions. He
considered this to be an elementary exercise. Unfortunately, Icannot agree with him on this
point: I have found this "exercise" to be formidably difficult. However, Paulhan did make two
clear definitions, so let us consider these: happiness is the feeling of increasing order;
unhappiness is the feeling of decreasing order.
Paulhan did not define order; in the present context, it seems most straightforward to define
the order of a set of patterns X as the sum over all x in X of the average, over all neighbors (y,z)
of x in the mind’s STRAM, of IN[x;(y,z)]. This implies that the "feeling of increasing order" is
the "feeling of increasingly simple representation of the contents of one’s subjective world."
To put it rather pedantically, this means that happiness is the feeling of recognizing patterns
more effectively than in the immediate past; and, on the other hand, unhappiness is the feeling of
recognizing patterns less effectively than in the immediate past. Or, more intuitively: happiness
is the feeling of increasing unity.
The only puzzling thing about this is that, according to Paulhan’s definition, all emotion
derives from inhibition; and therefore the "feeling of increasing simplicity" must mean the
inhibition of those patterns which are rendered unnecessary or impossible by the advent of
increasing simplicity. Is happiness, then, the feeling of stifling all the fruitless attempts to order
the world which are rendered irrelevant by success? And is unhappiness, the feeling of stifling
the habits instilled by a previously successful simplifying order of the world, in favor of further
This may seem a little bit bizarre. I would argue that, at any rate, this is one important
meaning of the word "happiness." For instance, it explains, in a very rough way, why young
children (who are continually presented with highly novel stimuli) obtain such pleasure from
exploring and understanding. And, conversely, it also explains the human tendency toward
closed-mindedness: the intrusion of novel patterns into a mental world of familiar ideas and
routines will usually, at first anyhow, cause a decrease in the simplicity of one’s representation of
Next, let us consider the experience of aesthetic appreciation, of "beauty." One may define the
beauty of X to Y as the amount of happiness gained by Y from the patterns which Y perceives in
X, and this is not unsatisfactory, but it would be nice to have a definition which provided insight
into the internal structure of the beautiful object. This we shall draw not from Paulhan, but from
a loose interpretation of the work of Georg Simmel.
In his essay on "The Face", Simmel (1959) proposed that "the closer the interrelation of the
parts of a complex, and the livelier their interaction (which transforms their separateness into
mutual dependence)," the greater the aesthetic significance of that complex. It seems to me that
this "unity out of and above diversity," this "interaction" and "interrelation of the parts" is very
well summedup by the concept of structural complexity. After all, an entity is not a priori divided
into "parts"; the mind divides it into parts as part of the process of perception and comprehension
— the "parts" are patterns. And the "degree of interrelation" of the various patterns is, I suggest,
simply the amount of pattern tying together the various patterns — in other words, the structural
complexity. Thus, it seems reasonable that the beauty of x to y is the happiness associated with
that portion of St(x) which is perceived by y. Simmel’s conception of beauty as emergent order
coincides perfectly with Paulhan’s idea of happiness as increasing order.
Free will and consciousness are often considered identical. Conscious decisions are considered
freely willed. However, this point of view is unjustified. The first argument against free will is
that, physiologically and psychologically, it is clear that conscious decisions are far from
unpredictable. They are influenced very strongly by unconscious memories and biases, i.e. by
parts of the brain which have no direct role in consciousness. This argument might be
contradicted as follows: perhaps other influences bias consciousness, but they do not determine
its behavior completely. They influence the likelihood of consciousness making one decision or
another, but this only permits us to predict the outcome of consciousness in a rough probabilistic
But, if this is the case, then how does consciousness actually make a choice? Empirically,
there is no way of distinguishing between the hypothesis that a choice is made by free will, and
the hypothesis that it is made at random subject to the probability distribution induced by
So the existence of free will is essentially a moot point. I suspect that, in the future, it will be
more fruitful to analyze free will as an emotion. To see how this might be done, consider
Nietszche’s analysis of "freedom of the will" as
the expression for the complex state of delight of the person exercising volition, who
commands and at the same time identifies himself with the executor of the order — who, as such,
enjoys also the triumph over obstacles, but thinks within himself that it was really his will itself
that overcame them. In this way the person exercising volition adds the feelings of delight of his
successful executive instruments, the useful ‘underwills’ or undersouls — indeed, our body is but
a social structure composed of many souls — to his feelings of delight as commander. L’effet
c’est moi: what happens here is what happens in every well-constructed and happy
commonwealth; namely, the governing class identifies itself with the successes of the
commonwealth. (1968, p.216)
The feeling of free will, according to Nietszche, involves 1) the feeling that there is indeed an
entity called a "self", and 2) the assignation to this "self" of "responsibility" for one’s acts. It is
easy to see how such a feeling would fallunder the category of happiness, because it certainly
does serve to impose a simple "order" on the confusing interplay of patterns underlying mental
action. But what is this pattern called the "self", which the mind recognizes in its own
operation? Given a definition of "self", free will could be defined as the emotion resulting from
the "belief" or "recognition of the pattern" that, in the absence of the self, effective pattern
recognition (i.e. happiness) would not be possible. But even then the question why this belief
would emerge would not be answered. Clearly there is a great deal of subtlety involved here, and
we do not yet possess the tools with which to probe it.
EMOTION, COMPUTATION AND CONSCIOUSNESS
Regarding the emotional capacity of computers, Paulhan’s theory yields an ambiguous verdict.
Emotion is analyzed to involve a certain characteristic structure. One may say that this
characteristic structure only becomes true emotion when it enters consciousness, in which case it
might well be that a quantum computer but not a Turing machine can experience emotion. Or, on
the other hand, one may say that this structure is always emotion, whether or not it is
consciously experienced. Essentially this is a matter of semantics.
Mandler (1975) has made a similar point, observing that emotions have a "hot" aspect and a
"cold" aspect. The cold aspect is the abstract structure of nonfulfillment of expectation. The hot
aspect has to do with the presence of certain chemical factors which cause the vivid, visceral
experience of emotion. One might say also that the cold aspect has to do with mind, the hot
aspect with body. It may be that consciousness is a prerequisite for "hotness". The hot aspect of
emotion is the bodily effect of the abstract mental nonfulfillment of expectation. The means by
which this effecting takes place — by which structure affects chemical levels — is essentially
And, if consciousness is a prerequisite for emotion, is it perhaps also true that emotion is a
necessary part of consciousness? It is well known that, when a person summons something from
long-term memory into consciousness, the limbic system is activated. The exact reason for this is
a mystery, but it is also well known that the limbic system is the center of emotion. This reflects
a psychological concept that goes back at least to Freud, who suggested that it may be
impossible to remember something unless that something possesses some emotional content.
This "Freudian" hypothesis coincides well with the present model of mind. We have
hypothesized that consciousness contains the most "prominent" patterns in the mind, where a
"prominent" pattern is both intense as a pattern, and the object of a great deal of activity on high
levels of the motor control hierarchy. Is it not reasonable that a great deal of activity will center
around those instructions which are not obeyed the first time around? Merely by virtue of their
failure, they will receive more attention — they have to be tried again, or alternatives have to be
In conclusion: all that can be said with certainty is that consciousness and emotion are closely
related. The nature of this relation is not yet clear. It appears that emotion may be understood to
consist of two aspects: "hot" and "cold", or perhaps "conscious" and "structural". Perhaps the
structural aspect of emotion may exist independently of the conscious, hot aspect; but in practice
the two seem to usually occur together.
Kaynak: A New Mathematical Model of Mind
One often hears comments to the effect that "even if a computer could somehow think, it could