Weblog of a Christian philosophy student

Weblog of a Christian philosophy student. Please feel free to comment. All of my posts are public domain. Subscribe to posts [Atom]. Email me at countaltair [at] yahoo.com.au. I also run a Chinese to English translation business at www.willfanyi.com.

Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Where do our emotions come from? 1: Love

In this series I'll discuss some metaphysical speculations on where our emotions come from: love, anger, jealousy, truthfulness/dishonesty, empathy, and so on. I think this is very important because of the challenges that evolutionary psychology and cognitive neuroscience present to unsophisticated Christian beliefs. It has been noted that religion tends to have the view that our feelings and sinful emotions are just 'there' and we just have to 'deal' with them and repent of them where required. The evolutionary psychology view of our emotions coming from a complex evolutionary history involving reciprocal altruism and kin selection tends to present a compelling, albeit very depressing view of human nature. So this post will discuss the most basic human emotion (and as it turns out God's most basic emotion) love; what emotions are; why a god would feel emotion just like we do; and why we have a distinction between 'head stuff' (e.g. reading a book that you agree with on how to be a calmer person) and 'heart stuff' (e.g. that book having absolutely no effect on your behaviour whatsoever).

Just like infinity is a very different number to any finite number, so very different stuff goes on in the infinite world compared to what goes on in our finite world (i.e. the physical universe).

One interesting point about finite existence is that on a metaphysical level it's quite passive. So while the goings-on of the physical universe are not passive, as we see particles flying around, on a fundamental level the nature of finite reality doesn't seem like it would change. In other words, the universe would just seem to go on forever. Inanimate matter just seems to follow a predetermined course, A causes B, which causes C, which causes D, ad infinitum. Not very exciting on a *metaphysical level* (metaphysical: the world behind appearances).

In the infinite world I believe that reality is metaphysically very exciting. So instead of things passively existing as themselves (what I call the 'A = A distinction of finite existence') in the infinite world there is a basic kind of 'activity' going on. So instead of 'A = A' (passive metaphysical existence) it is 'A => A'. Infinity is, for some reason, endlessly remaking itself, again and again, ad infinitum; it has already done so an infinite number of times in the past and will do so again an infinite number of times in the future.

So in this endless procession, you have infinity, infinity remaking itself (a basic kind of activity), and that infinity remaking itself again and again ad infinitum.

An interesting problem with this, which actually helps clarify things, is that there are no distinctions in infinity. This would seem to invalidate what I just said, because I just said that A => A and if there are no distinctions in infinity then A can't remake itself, because there are no distinctions allowed (see what I mean by 'no distinctions' here). Nevertheless, I think that something like A => A can fit with a world in which there are no distinctions. It would mean that 'A going-to' is the same as 'A arriving-at', but it doesn't mean that the basic activity I'm talking about in 'A => A' can't be going on. So A => is the same as => A, but there's still a '=>' instead of an '=' as in finite existence. So instead of a procession of infinity endlessly remaking itself, the 'previous infinity' and the 'next infinity' actually blend into the same thing because there are no distinctions. What you have is a basic impulse: love, which is A => A distilled into its basic essence without distinction: infinity loves itself.

The way God makes a human is that first of all He gets a finite brain going... He sets up a finite brain that handles reasoning, knowledge, and a lot of other things. Then after the brain exists He connects the brain to infinity, *but* only in such a way that the brain handles most things. So the brain handles reasoning, knowledge, and a whole lot of other stuff, and infinity 'handles' whatever the brain doesn't handle. So there's enough left over for infinity to do stuff that the brain doesn't do. That is, free will and consciousness which can only exist in the infinite world (this is why our consciousness encapsulates in a single thought everything we are, our entire past, personality, habits, choices, everything about us in a single moment, because there are no distinctions in infinity/our consciousness).

This is how you can get conscious beings that aren't God. If it was *just* infinity then you'd have God and nothing else. But by getting the brain to handle a lot of stuff, you can get something that's conscious (i.e. a human) that isn't God, because there are non-infinite parts (finite parts, being infinitely less than God, can make a distinction between God and not-God. Although the finite is from God as well, it's from God in a way that's so insignificant compared to God that a distinction emerges).

So where does love come from, the most basic and primary human emotion? Through the infinite part of us, our consciousness, we tap into the A => A of the infinite world. So we share the primeval love for everything that exists that God has.

Ah, but we don't love paintings, rocks, and galaxies in a way anything like we love other people. Sure, we think nature has some value, but obviously people are worth so much more than a lifeless galaxy.

But this actually goes perfectly with this theology, because there's just so much more *stuff* within a person than in the universe! Actually, you could have a billion universes, to the power of a billion universes, to the power of a googol universes, and what you'd have, in this theology, would be something infinitely, inconceivably less significant than a single person. A googol^googol universes is merely finite, although large. But what I'm saying is that our brain is connected to an infinite soul, to which the finite can have little comparison. So that explains why we love other people so much more than finite stuff. If love is existence loving existence (infinity loving itself), then an incredible amount of love should be given to partly infinite humans compared to finite matter. This also explains why the Bible says that you should love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, much more than we even love ourselves, literally with every fibre of our being, because the absolute infinite = everything.

So we love and know about love because the part of us that's actually infinite is in the eternal process of loving itself, loving existence, loving other people and loving God because infinity loves itself. But through free will, another thing we get from actual infinity (which our finite minds can never understand, as it's an infinite thing) we have the power not to love like we ultimately are, which is sin, and everyone uses their free will to sin, for an extremely powerful reason (see other posts on this site for this).

In the next posts in this series I'll talk about other emotions, like empathy, truthfulness/dishonesty, selfishness, jealousy, anger and so on coming from this infinite process I've speculated on.

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