The Socratic Method
Taking its namesake from the famous ancient Greek gadfly, the Socratic method involves teachers testing a student’s knowledge of a subject matter by asking challenging questions. For example, when Socrates wanted his student Theatetus to define “knowledge” he would ask him whether a tour guide who accidentally has true information about how to get to a certain destination actually knows the information, and why/why not? The answer is no, because he has no justification for his true opinion.
In this assignment, you are expected to generate five (5) challenging questions about chapter 6 and five (5) challenging questions about chapter 7 in On Romantic Love Brogaard (2015). Moreover, you will provide the answers to your own questions.
6 Sometimes the Heart Sees What Is Invisible to the Eye Unconscious Love Love does not always manifest itself as a conscious experience. To view romantic love simply as a long-lasting conscious state is hopelessly naïve. Love doesn’t feel like an urge or an impulse; sometimes it feels like giddiness, awe, appreciation, or interest it doesn’t feel most of the time it doesn’t feel like anything at all. Most of the time we don’t give it a single thought. Even in the very few phases of my life during which I can truly say that I have been head over heels in love with someone, I have not found myself rapturously responding to my sweetheart every minute of my waking life. Love is consciously manifested only episodically. I certainly had better things to think about when the mean guy from Charter closed my windows before I had a chance to bookmark them, or when I ordered a Happy Meal while pretending to have a kid in the other room because the talking chipmunks just are so damn cute. Zoe’s love for Brandon was not pulverized when she didn’t consciously feel it. When her love wasn’t felt, it was still there in her brain in the form of long term potentiation (memory) or weak nerve signals—nerve signals that, owing to other distractions, did not give rise to conscious experiences. The same goes for other powerful emotions. The deep-rooted resentment Zoe felt toward Brandon was not surfacing as a conscious experience for years, but it was brewing inside her, like lava in a volcano. Finally it emerged as a conscious feeling that overshadowed her positive affections for him. In a recent letter she wrote: “Right now I feel maybe eighty percent negative feelings towards Brandon. Twenty percent of me is still thinking about him as an amazing person. But I know now that I never want to see him again.” There is a certain air of mystery surrounding the notion of the unconscious. But the concept really isn’t all that enigmatic. Your unconscious thoughts and emotions are simply those parts of your mind that you don’t have explicit knowledge about but which nonetheless guide your behavioral patterns and form your personality. Of course, if you are particularly good at analyzing your own behavior and personality traits, you may have insight into your unconscious thoughts and emotions. But people typically are not very self-observant, and when they are not, others may have a better comprehension of their unconscious thoughts and emotions than they do. An old friend may have noticed that you always seek out emotionally unavailable men and may have inferred from that that you implicitly fear intimacy. Or a co-worker may have observed that you always prattle on about your buddy Hank and giggle spontaneously when he is present and may have inferred on the basis of your behavior that you are crazy in love with him, long before the thought has occurred to you.
Opponents of Unconscious Affection
Despite the seeming prevalence of unconscious emotions and their influence on our lives, there is much controversy in philosophical and psychological literature over whether there are unconscious emotions, let alone unconscious love. The main reason for this is that emotions when consciously manifested are exemplars of conscious experiences. Many philosophers and psychologists straightforwardly equate emotions with feelings. They, thus, equate emotions with the conscious. They equate them with something that cannot occur below the level of conscious awareness. The idea that emotions require consciousness consciousness stems in part from studies on people with spinal injuries. American Psychologist George Hohmann conducted a study of soldiers who suffered spinal injuries in World War II. He asked them to recall emotion-arousing incidents from before and after the injury and found that those with injuries in their legs reported little to no difference. Those who were injured from the neck show normal facial expressions. They could feel some forms of romantic love and compassionate love but they could not feel sexual desire. They were deprived of some emotional life. There was clearly a correlation between the location of the injury and the range of emotional feelings. This indicates that a lack of ability to perceive changes in the body entails an absence of emotional experience. Whether there can be unconscious emotions has always been the subject of much controversy. Even Sigmund Freud, the sex-crazed doctor who was responsible for popularizing the notion of the unconscious (Friedrich Nietzsche had already offered an account of it) denied that there can be unconscious emotions. For Freud, trains are big penises, but the concept of an unconscious emotion is a contradiction. As he put it: We should expect the answer to the question about unconscious feelings, emotions, and affects to be just as easily given. It is surely of the essence of an emotion that we should be aware of it, that is, that it should become known to consciousness. Thus the possibility of the attribute of unconsciousness would be completely excluded as far as emotions, feelings, and affects are concerned. But in psychoanalytic practice we are accustomed to speak of unconscious love, hate, anger, and so on, and find it impossible to avoid even the strange conjunction, “unconscious consciousness of guilt,” or a paradoxical “unconscious unconscious emotions. For Freud, trains are big penises, but the concept of an unconscious emotion is a contradiction. As he put it: We should expect the answer to the question about unconscious feelings, emotions, and affects to be just as easily given. It is surely of the essence of an emotion that we should be aware of it, that is, that it should become known to consciousness. Thus the possibility of the attribute of unconsciousness would be completely excluded as far as emotions, feelings, and affects are concerned. But in psychoanalytic practice we are accustomed to speak of unconscious love, hate, anger, and so on, and find it impossible to avoid even the strange conjunction, “unconscious consciousness of guilt,” or a paradoxical “unconscious was responsible for popularizing the notion of the unconscious. One of the most telling anecdotes about Freud is the story of his encounter with American psychologist Gordon Allport. When first introduced to Freud on a visit to Austria, Allport reported that he had encountered a young boy on the train on his way to Vienna, who had an intense fear of getting dirty. Allport speculated that perhaps the boy had acquired his dirt phobia from his mother. Freud glanced at Allport for a while. Then he said sympathetically “And was that little boy you?” Freud wasn’t truly Freudian in his approach. Since Freud, psychoanalysts have attempted to create a sterile and quiet environment that can prevent the analyst from becoming a real person to the patient. Freud’s sessions were not very sterile. They would frequently be attended by his Chinese chow Yofi and occasionally by his daughter’s wolfhound that was known to sniff the genitals of Freud’s patients. © Gareth Southwell. For Freud “instinct” or “drive” are better terms for the states I want to refer to as unconscious emotions. In this respect, he is one with Helen Fisher who believes romantic love is a drive (though for different reasons). Unconscious Affect Despite the ferocious opposition to the idea that emotions can be unconscious, lots of cases appear to be candidates for unconscious emotions or affect. Scientists have discovered
that people with lesions to parts of their visual cortex, which leave them partially or fully blind, sometimes have a kind of residual vision called “blindsight.” People with blindsight report having no conscious vision in their blind field, but when they are prompted by an experimenter to make a guess about something in front of them, they can use visual processes to predict the thing’s location, direction, and color. They cannot consciously see the thing they make guesses the thing in front of them is located and what its color is, but the sixth sense does not allow them to consciously see anything. Some people with blindsight respond to emotional stimuli without being consciously aware of them. This form of blindsight is called “affective blindsight.” Individuals with affective blindsight have no visual awareness but they can correctly guess the emotional expression of a face presented to them in their blind field. Neuroscientist Beatrice de Gelder and her colleagues discovered that when threatening faces are presented to blindsight subjects too quickly to be consciously perceived, the faces can nonetheless give rise to bodily changes that indicate fear. Blindsight patient G.Y., who has damage to his primary visual cortex, was shown short video clips of a female face pronouncing the same sentence with either a happy, angry, sad, or a fearful facial expression. G.Y. was able to make greater than chance about the different emotional expressions presented to him in his blind field. He could not consciously see the emotional expressions but he could make good guesses about them when prompted by the experimenter. G.Y.’s emotional brain (the amygdala) also turned out to be activated during the presentation of the fearful facial expressions. These findings suggest that fear responses do not require conscious representation in the visual brain but can be computed in alternative unconscious (subcortical) pathways. Surprisingly, psychologist Alfons Hamm and his colleagues found that blindsight patient K.-H. J., who has no active visual cortex, had unconscious emotional reactions to facial expressions. K.-H. J. had a complete loss of vision from damage to an artery in the brain. K.-H. J. was unable to grab objects in front of him. He did not turn toward new visual stimuli and could not even recognize bright light. He did not report any feeling or awareness when lights were turned on in a dark room. However, when presented with fearful and angry faces, K.-H. J. showed reliable fear responses, for example, startle responses. There was also increased activity in his emotional brain (the amygdala) in response to emotional stimuli. K.-H. J. furthermore showed an acquired protective reaction in response to a cue that predicted the occurrence of an aversive event. K.-H. J. couldn’t consciously see anything. Yet his emotional brain would respond with fear and activate defense mechanisms. There are countless other good reasons to take the concept of an unconscious emotion seriously. In the 1970s, homosexual men were habitually “cured” through cognitive-behavioral therapy. However, studies later showed that homosexuals who had suppressed their affective responses toward men through behavioral therapy remained physiologically aroused by pictures of naked men. The studies measured the degree of erection of their penises when shown pictures of naked men compared to pictures of naked women. All of the “cured” men had a larger erection when shown pictures of naked men compared to pictures of naked women. The opposite was seen in heterosexuals. These “cured” men can hardly be said to have no sexual affect toward men. They had emotions; they just weren’t consciously aware of them. People in a coma sometimes are able to process thought and emotional stimuli unconsciously. Yvonne Sullivan suffered severe blood poisoning during childbirth on July 5, 2007. Her baby Clinton died from a blood infection after a fourteen-hour long labor. Yvonne’s vital organs started to shut down soon after the labor, and she fell into a coma. When doctors told her husband Dom who had stayed by Yvonne’s bedside for two weeks that they might have to turn off her life-support system, Dom snapped and gave his wife “a firm telling-off.” After two hours Yvonne started breathing on her own. Within five days, the hospital was able to shut off the life-support system, as Yvonne regained consciousness. Yvonne said she remembered her her husband chewing her out, there is no evidence that she was fully conscious of her thoughts and emotional reactions at the time. A coma is a state of unconsciousness in which the eyes are closed and the patient cannot be roused. But while Yvonne wasn’t conscious of her husband’s angry words at the time, her brain was nonetheless able to process the off-putting stimulus unconsciously, and the stimulus was able to trigger negative emotional reactions in her, unconscious affects that made her brain “decide” to wake up. Even those of Hohmann’s poor soldiers who were injured from the neck down had unconscious emotions. They reported that they did not have any significant conscious emotional experiences. But they said that they would sometimes act in the same way as before in emotion-arousing situations. For example, in anger-provoking situations, they reported that they would act angry but that they would not feel angry. They would behave jealously when they thought a spouse had sexual escapades outside the marriage but they would not feel jealous. One soldier said, “It just doesn’t have the heat to it that it used to. It’s a mental kind of anger.” The fact that emotion-arousing situations would elicit the same actions in the injured men suggests that while these men were incapable of conscious affect, they were capable of partially unconscious processing of affective stimuli. Hohmann’s solders had emotions that did not occur at a conscious level. Unconscious affect is required also to explain a neurological condition called Capgras syndrome, named after French psychiatrist Joseph Capgras who first reported it. People who suffer from this condition see family members and friends as impostors. They can perceive faces, but they don’t connect that face with a feeling of familiarity. One patient Madame M. thought that her family and neighbors had all been replaced by look-alikes. She thought that she had had eighty husbands. One imposter would leave and a new one would enter. Another subject admitted that the person in front of him looked exactly like his dear mother down to the smallest detail but he could not fathom why his mother would hire an impostor. People with Capgras syndrome sometimes believe their own mirror image is the image of an imposter. They cannot have mirrors in the house because it feels mortifying to be met by a stranger when glancing into one. Occasionally trees, tables, and tools are seen as perfect duplicates of what the sufferers once had in their possession. Many movies and novels have been inspired by Capgras syndrome, for example, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Total Recall, The Stepford Wives, and Richard Powers’s novel The Echo Maker. In The Echo Maker a young man develops Capgras syndrome after a car accident. He believes his sister and his dog are impostors. But here is one of the story’s clever twists: the cranes in the city are aliens. They have consciousness even though we fail to recognize it. One of the book’s characters speculates that we all have Capgras syndrome to some extent and therefore do not recognize that the cranes are conscious beings just like us. Capgras syndrome is due to a deficit in the link between the brain’s face recognition mechanism and the emotional brain. Face perception normally triggers unconscious emotional “like” or “dislike” responses in the emotional brain. These emotional responses help us recognize people we know. When our emotional brain whispers “like” or “dislike” in our cognitive ear, an instant feeling of familiarity is produced. This feeling of familiarity is the moment of recognition, our brains responding with “I know you.” The unconscious emotional “like” or “dislike” responses are lacking in patients with Capgras syndrome. They recognize their moms, sisters, mistresses, and babies through vision; they realize that the person in front of them looks like someone they know, but because of their syndrome, they do not react with compassionate love (or hatred) toward the loved one. While they are able to recognize that the face resembles the face of someone they know, the face does not trigger the standard emotional “like” response and hence recognition of the face elicits the feeling that the face belongs to a stranger rather than a loved one.
Two Emotional Pathways
Neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux has uncovered further scientific evidence for the view that there can be unconscious emotions. When we experience fear, this can result in action in two different ways. LeDoux holds that our sensory organs project information to the thalamus, a deep structure on top of the brainstem, near the center of the brain. In the thalamus, emotional stimuli divide into two separate streams both projecting to the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes fear. If we are faced with a threatening grizzly bear, the brain may take in information through the perceptual system but project it directly to the amygdala. In that case we might exhibit fear responses before becoming aware of the fearful stimulus or the bodily fear reaction. This response is fast and may be crucial for surviving in threatening situations. A different pathway for processing fear involves first being consciously aware of the threatening stimulus, which then activates the amygdala and results in a fear response. This pathway is slow but also provides more details of the threatening situation and can therefore reinforce the fear response, detect false alarms, and inform us in situations that require careful decision making. The fast pathway, which is about half a second ahead of the slower pathway, leads to unconscious fear responses that can lead to actions long before we become aware that something is not as it should be. The fear in this latter case can still be considered a bodily response to a perception of an external stimuli, but you are not immediately aware, if aware at all, of the perception of the external stimuli or the bodily response. They occur below the level of conscious awareness. The existence of the fast pathway to fear, LeDoux says, not only helps us respond very quickly to fearful stimuli, it also explains how people with amnesia can respond very quickly to emotional stimuli, despite being unable to consciously recall any connections between a situation and potential danger. About one hundred years ago, Édouard Claparède, a Swiss psychologist, was seeing a patient with an incapacitating form of amnesia after a brain injury. Like the main character in the movie Memento she was unable to store new information in memory for longer than a few minutes. Her reasoning skills and older memories were relatively intact. When she showed up for her appointments with Dr. Claparède, he had to introduce himself to her as he would have done if she had never met him. This had to be repeated if he left the room for more than a few minutes, because she would have forgotten who he was in the meantime. One day Claparède decided to conduct an experiment. He hid a needle in his hand, so when they shook hands, she felt a painful pinprick. At the next appointment, the woman greeted him cheerfully as usual, remembering nothing from the last appointment. But when he reached out to shake her hand, the woman refused to take it. She could not explain why. Although she had no conscious memories of what had transpired earlier and was not consciously fearful of the situation, she had acquired a subconscious fear of her doctor’s hand. LeDoux’s theory explains why amnesiacs can respond to perceived fearful stimuli without any awareness of the fearfulness of the stimulus or the fear it provides and with the ability to explain their fear behavior. The fast pathway for fear processing and fear conditioning allows fear to be stored and retrieved without the subject’s awareness. Fear doesn’t require consciousness or the ability to remember but nonetheless can transpire below the surface and affect behavior.
send a surge of love chemicals into your bloodstream overnight? Not likely. Chances are that you have been in love for an eternity. Beneath your tranquil, sociable interactions, love was brewing—hidden in the shadows of your unconscious. You might have started off as buddies, then gradually the camaraderie transformed into romantic love without you even noticing. You have heard well-meaning pals insist that the two of you would be fabulous together. You crave each other when apart. You call each other cute little names: “PoohBear,” “buttercup,” and “suga’pieHoneyBun.” You talk each other up in the presence of other people. But it never dawned on you that these subtle behaviors were manifestations of love. Your love not only went unnoticed by others; you simply weren’t aware of it yourself. This may also have been the case for Josephine in her tragic relationship with Napoleon. In the nineteenth century, one of the directors, Paul Barras, in Paris wanted to marry off his mistress Rose to Napoleon. The French political leader was immediately smitten when he saw the breathtakingly beautiful Rose. He renamed her “Josephine.” Initially Josephine would not marry Napoleon, but when Barras threatened to stop providing for her if she didn’t marry him, she agreed. Napoleon loved her deeply, but she despised him and immediately took on lovers. When Napoleon heard about her infidelity on a trip away from Paris, he was destroyed. His love for her was gone but for the rest of his life he would never really love another woman the way he had loved Josephine. When Napoleon returned to Paris after his trip, Josephine had all of sudden fallen in love with him. But it was too late. Napoleon no longer trusted her and went on to to have a series of affairs, which heralded the end of their marriage. Napoleon later divorced Josephine and married another woman whom he didn’t love. The doleful Josephine continued to love Napoleon and when she was dying from diphtheria, Napoleon’s name was one of the last words she uttered. Josephine’s love for Napoleon no doubt didn’t arise momentarily when Napoleon returned from his trip to Paris. She was more likely resisting her growing “feelings” for him. But when they finally became consciously manifested, it was too late. Another example of unconscious affection comes from Damasio’s studies of his fascinating patient, David. David had suffered extensive damage to both temporal lobes and had learning and memory difficulties. He could not recognize or name any person he was interacting with on a daily basis or remember whether he had ever seen the individual before. But David nonetheless showed consistent preferences and avoidances for certain people. In one of Damasio’s studies David was exposed to three people over a period of time. The first person was pleasant, welcoming, and rewarding. The second person was the emotionally neutral person. And the third was bland and tedious. After the encounters, David was shown photographs of the three people and could not remember whether he had met them before. However, when asked who he would go to if he needed help and who was his friend, David consistently chose the good guy and consistently failed to choose the bad guy. The experiment indicates that David had unconscious affective states that directed him toward the good guy. Though he perceived the stimulus, he was unaware of his body and mind’s loving response toward the good guy. But it affected his choices and decisions. Your love can also start out as conscious and then become unconscious because it isn’t reciprocated or because it is inappropriate. In one magical moment of realization, Zoe’s feelings for Brandon changed from ecstasy, excitement, and awe to hatred, bitterness, and a promise to herself that next time she waves to him she won’t use all her fingers. Her scornful reactions to Brandon had been brewing inside her all along. But she was unaware of them until the final moment when they finally surfaced. Even though Freud thought the notion of an unconscious emotion was a contradiction in terms, many of his cases demonstrate unconscious emotions that have been repressed because of their painful and conflicting nature. In the fall of 1892 a patient, Elizabeth von R, went to see Freud. She complained about pain in her legs. After an examination over several sessions, Freud gave her the diagnosis that she was unconsciously in love with her brother-in-law. She claimed that she didn’t believe him and accused him of shameful lies. Yet right after Freud’s diagnosis Elizabeth’s leg pain immediately intensified. Elizabeth’s denial is what Freud later called “resistance.” The notion of resistance has received its fair share of criticism. Critics claim that the notion puts psychoanalysis beyond refutation. If the patient accepts the analyst’s diagnosis, this vindicates the theory. If she rejects it, this is a sign of resistance. This too vindicates the theory. The theory is a self-fulfilling prophecy, critics say. However, this criticism is undeserved. Resistance isn’t simply denying the analyst’s diagnosis but ferociously denying it in spite of overwhelming third-person evidence that the analyst is right. Elizabeth’s unconscious love of her brother-in-law was blatantly obvious to everyone but Elizabeth herself. She enjoyed long walks with him. She even admitted to herself feelings of tenderness, hoping she might one day have a husband like him. She took his side in arguments, and one day when a lady had criticized his figure she “flared up” and defended him “with a zeal which she herself could not understand.” Her sister had joked about the friendship between Elizabeth and her husband, saying “the truth is, you two would have suited each other perfectly.” Her mother later admitted that she had been suspicious of this all along, though before the sister’s death, none of the family members would have openly admitted it. One day Elizabeth ended her session with Freud because she heard her brother-in-law in the next office. Her resistance consisted not simply in her denial of her love of her brother-in-law but rather her denial denial of her love of her brother-in-law in spite of evidence that indicated otherwise. After her sister had fallen ill, Elizabeth went to see her but arrived too late. Her sister had died. Elizabeth’s first thought was “Now he is free and can marry me.” But she would soon convert the painful realization into physical pain. According to Freud, the conversion of her love of her brother-in-law into the pain in her leg was a process of disguising, censoring, and distorting the content of her love. Elizabeth’s unconscious love for her brother-in-law had been partially converted into the pain in her legs because of the human condition: Shameful or painful love, which transgresses the moral order or appears threatening in some other way, must be pushed away from consciousness. “She succeeded in sparing herself the painful conviction that she loved her sister’s husband, by inducing physical pains in herself instead,” wrote Freud in Studies on Hysteria in 1895 (Studies on Hysteria, p. 227). When you are unaware that you love someone, you or others can come to discover that you are in love by noticing overt signs. Aha! Eureka moment. There is a reason you have been behaving so foolish lately, particularly in front of the object of your affection: You are in love! Although overt behavior can reveal whether you are in love, behavior is not always an unmistakable sign that you have been hit by Cupid’s golden arrow. You can easily be misled by your own behavior and mistakenly come to think that you are in love. Having incredible, earth-shattering sex with someone or staying with someone for decades may be misinterpreted as being a manifestation of love. On other occasions you may simply not know whether you are in love. We don’t have direct access to our unconscious affections, and the overt signs pointing to our unconscious state of mind may not be informative enough for us to come to any firm conclusions.