Here is part one of an essay on the question why we feel.
It is, in fact, an extremely difficult question. When I first asked this question, I thought it would be easy enough to answer and promised a post about it. But I have to admit it was a tough task. Sometimes I asked myself if a post about Wheeler’s theory of quantum foam wouldn’t have been easier.
Critics would be very appreciated.
There’s no particular song of the moment this time, I can’t remember all that I’ve listened to while writing this post, but there surely were some Chris Coco songs among them, as well as Arvo Pärt, Granian and James Marsters.
Humanity perceived by itself
I am but a solitary, dishonest man –
A nympholept who loves his principles
Till they have to stand up and fight fear.
I am but a loving, erring human –
An obsessed who stalks affection,
Till he notices it is a mirage.
Why do we feel?
Grammatically, this question is of the most simple structure, but for what concerns content it’s one of the toughest ones.
As Fireball suggested in a comment, there may be two answers: first, a depressive one (god is sadistic) and second, a real answer (biochemistry).
The answer I propose to this question is however a bit more complex I fear. I could of course now go into detail of our limbic system’s functioning – the hippocampus, the amygdala, the septal nuclei and so on – but then I could simply copy/paste a Scientific American article here (which however is one of the few magazines I’d recommend reading).
Let me focus on a quite particular feeling for a moment: empathy.
Empathy is an essential part of human nature – yet we share it with animals among which are the primates, so it’s nothing that would make us particularly special. The ability to put oneself into another one’s position, to feel what the other person feels, is due to the mirror neurons and must have been a huge advantage, or – according to Darwinism – it would have disapeared. The ability to understand another being completely would (almost) never be possible on the basis of pure logic. Understanding others through the pure knowledge of facts would be impossible, as we almost never have all the information to be able to judge objectively. Now, you might say that our feelings can betray us, too. Of course they can, nothing in life is certain. But I’d say we rather take the risk of reacting to a wrong feeling then to a lack of facts – which however everyone has decide for himself.
[part two will follow]