This may seem a rather strange question...
How is it that sensations (pain,joy,taste etc) exist?
If you take a mechanical system ,can you construct feeling/sensation or
is feeling/sensation derived directly from something fundamental?
ie Is it, that it just is?
Or can it be shown to be a logical consequence of physics?
You can design physical systems that can be related in some crude ways to
human senses. Touch, sight, hearing, taste, etc. Joy is not a physical
sensation but an emotion, so we will avoid that topic altogether.
Physical pain or pleasure can be thought of as merely genetic programming
built around the physical signals that our sense organs transmit. If
bitter things generally provided nourishment, and sweet things were
poisons, humans and other animals long ago would have developed a liking
for bitter tastes and an avoidance of sweets. The pleasure associated with
mating is built in too, to encourage reproduction. Although we find
freezing water extremely unpleasant, it is unlikely that fish living in
Arctic waters are in a constant state of pain or discomfort. The senses
generally provide the means for an organism to achieve survival and avoid
damage or death, and the "good" or "bad" associated with certain sensations
are instinctual to a large extent.
Perhaps some will consider this an overly simplistic view of our being, but
given the difficulty with implementing machines that can reproduce our
abilities in even the crudest manner, I think it might suffice. The gap
between a living being and a complex machine is very large for now, so I
think it is premature to declare that we cannot just be very complex machines.
When that gap is closed, whether a machine can experience joy, I do not know.
Donald Yee Ph.D.
180 Richmond Field Station
San Francisco Estuary Institute
It has been only very recently that the study of the physiological basis
for feelings and sensations [and other functions of the brain] has been
made possible. A new technology, Positron Emission Tomography (PET) makes
it possible to actually observe the chemical activity of various parts of
the brain when the individual has various disease conditions or is
experiencing various moods. Excellent reviews of PET can be found on the
I would put them as logical consequences of evolution. This is an old
philosophical question addressed by Aristotle to the extent that how we
perceive our environment is determined by what snses we possess...to
paraphrase him...That we have eye, ears, a nose, and a tongue makes sight,
sound, smell, and taste meaningful.
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Update: June 2012