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Polymeron comments on Not for the Sake of Happiness (Alone) - Less Wrong

49 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 22 November 2007 03:19AM

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Comment author: Polymeron 27 March 2011 10:08:11PM *  2 points [-]

Thank you; you've made some very good points that deserve a proper reply. However it's getting late here and I will need more energy go over this properly. I'll definitely consider this.

As a quick opener, because I think there's an open point here: It seems to me that all emotions serve as behavioral feedback mechanisms. But even if I am mistaken on that, and/or happiness is not desire fulfillment feedback, what would you think its evolutionary role is? It's clearly not an arbitrary component. Not to make the fallacy that any explanation is better than no explanation, I would nevertheless be interested in playing off this hypothesis against something other than a null model - a competing explanation. Can you offer one?

Comment author: Marius 28 March 2011 03:23:39AM 1 point [-]

I agree that emotions do serve as behavioral feedback mechanisms, but that's not all they do. They have complex social roles, among other things, including signaling, promotion of trust, promotion of empathy, etc. This social role is probably just as important in the case of happiness as the marker of "needs satisfied". In the case of grief, the social role is probably far more important than any feedback role. In addition to these roles, happiness contains an element of contentedness: "you are at a local maximum, and would be better off staying at this local maximum than risking matters to satisfy more needs". Thus, many slaves are content until they see the chance at freedom. There is a joy in great/beautiful/religious things that science currently lacks a good explanation for. There may be many other roles for happiness, as well.

Comment author: Polymeron 28 March 2011 04:02:31PM 1 point [-]

I have to agree that happiness (and other emotions) have come to have a strong signaling component. I'm now even more interested than before about the mechanism by which it operates - just what triggers this emotion. I've also been thinking quite a bit about grief, which didn't fit as a pure feedback mechanism (otherwise you'd expect to have the same emotion for a person going away for life and that person dying), and your comments on that finally drove the point home.

I will need to consider all this further and revise my hypothesis. Thanks again for the insight!