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December 24, 2009

a feeling for what matters

Appropriations posting

Emotion, feeling, affect, sentiment—attachment, love—desire, passion, drive—what is really there for embodied minds? What is there really?

Brevity of response to such vague questions (“really”?) risks misleading on subtleties: In Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged online, there are at least 7 senses of ‘emotion’; 23 senses—23!—of the noun ‘feeling’ (distinct from the verb, which can be either transitive or intransitive).

Today, what I think, could be annuled by some reading next week. I may feel differently about the matter next month. (I do have enough available to me that’s unread, no matter how much I’ve read, that I’m glad to have the revisable medium of the blog.) I’ll let you know about major changes here. You could help me, you know, to do better with feeling, rather than just leaving me to my own designs.



One can be affected or affect, be receptive or be active—and it seems to me that good sense goes for a balance of feeling (noun) and expression. ‘Modulation’ may be not a pretty word, but it fits a good sense of “good sense” that one tries to balance response with receptiveness or, conversely, to stay sensitive to feeling one’s effects in [inter]action. We want to be attuned to the quality of balance in openness vs. assertion. Like relaxed breathing, we feel good about having an easy balance of receptive feeling and desire attuned to each other like any two complements—like any two persons in intimacy, in a family, between friends.

Likely, though, immediate feeling has its own way (like a separate intent, if not a possession acting apart from self-presence) in situations calling for action now, no time for dwelling with a spectrum of response, too, let alone a virtue of attunement between opening and asserting (both being a kind of acting: acting to be or stay open, acting to be or stay assertive). Emotion and feeling seem to firstly belong to what imposes itself on self-presence.

‘Emotion’ firstly associates to unpleasant agitation, rather than pleasant noticing of the quality of experience; and associates with compulsion to act, rather than openness to experience. But intense need to act is the extreme expression of the more-general association of feeling with enactivity, which pertains to simple perception, as well. Passive sensation is an abstraction from our actively-embodied presence shown also in simple perception of things (which can be retrospectively differentiated from the perceiving, which can be in turn understood as a difference between meaning and sensation—more abstraction). Passive sensation is accidental in a condition of lived time that is always enactive (and the accident will be immediately interpreted, not left to lack of meaning). The primacy of perceiving, in relation to its elemental sensing, is always interested. Abstractible sensation normally happens in actively experiencing, finding things as what they are in the experiencing, which may be reflectively differentiated into the thing experienced and the experiencing as such.

Value and feeling have made each other through all the years of growing up. Receptiveness is toned in advance by degree of interest in reception. One may be touched to a degree relative to desire to explore touching, letting oneself be touched. Simple perception is easily toned by complex feelings of another’s appeal (value, relative to my life) or association with what’s dismissed. Perception is likely colored by affections associated with what’s valued (desired, preferred); or associated with attachments (first, necessary; later, chosen, tender or useful). Just being there—being granted—can be an implicit valuation relative to what one prefers (if not an implicit judgment of what one’s willing to bear). Constructive granting and bearing (i.e., making, creating) grow relative to each other.

So readily complex we minds can be that it might seem pointless to say anything briefly at all about feeling—let alone about desire or passion.

Love, anyone?



Consider the physiology of emotion: At peace, in homeostasis, one is intruded upon by hormonal framing. Love this: Emotion, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a physiological departure from homeostasis that...manifests itself in neuromuscular, respiratory, cardiovascular, hormonal, and other bodily changes preparatory to overt acts which may or may not be performed.” Behaviorists likely love that.

But you thought it was about what we said, when in fact we heard each other from out of The Deep of our separate ontogenies honed over the years to want whatever, to desire highly and lowly, assimilating (keeping this, dismissing that), aggregating, composing, accomodating, and equilibrating those simple affections and fears, elations and anxieties, hopes, guilts, arousals, or sorrows one evinces.

So many kinds of feeling there can be.

“I feel safe with you.” Safe is a feeling? It’s ‘feeling’ 2c for M-W: “appreciative or responsive awareness or recognition,” which exemplifies a common fact about “feeling”: It’s entwined with cognition, interpretation, judgment, valuing. “There is safety with you.”

Commonly, though, “feeling” is just the undifferentiated prominence of attention. “That” is keeping my attention, my feeling its importance. “It is my opinion,” therefore “I feel”..... Feeling dissolves into tone of embodied interest, mind alive to some importance, as if overt valuing is simply perceiving, and overtly finding importance is reliably informed by one’s feeling for the matter.

A feeling for words would be about capability as a mind turns in words.

We could go on endlessly together, I feel.