UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
Why do we have feelings?
Question Date: 2006-03-06
Answer 1:

It seems that your question presupposes that we all have feelings. Think about it. How do you know that I have feelings? You can ask that of any other person. Although it is a basic assumption that most people are conscious and not zombies without feeling, many philosophers propose thought experiments that show we can logically show how our own feelings are the only things we can really know.

People have feelings because it makes our lives richer. Can you imagine eating a delicious ice cream sundae but not have the experience (feelings, consciousness, or any other favorite word that's hard to define) of how good it tastes?

This question relates to an answer I provided earlier in the year:

Why are people and dolphins the only mammals that have sex for pleasure?

Your question gets at the heart of what many cognitive scientists in the fields of neuroscience, philosophy, and computer science are trying to address. This great mystery in science is consciousness. In particular, your question is related to the mind-body problem. The issue here is what, if any, neural states in our physical brain lead us to have subjective experiences in our mind, which are called qualia by many people in the field of cognitive science.

Besides humans and dolphins, other mammals such as certain monkeys have sex too. Sex usually leads to euphoric pleasures that are related to the release of certain neurotransmitters in our brains. These neurotransmitters help us relax and make us feel good.

The mammals you mention all have neocortex, which is associated with higher levels of consciousness. For example, ants do not have neocortex. Higher levels of consciousness probably lead us to do certain things for the simple pleasures, such as art, food, and sex.


Answer 2:

Different feelings seem to be controlled in different parts of the brain.For instance fear is a well studied emotion, necessary for our survival. For example if you were not scared of being run over by a car you may just walk out into the street in front of an oncoming truck. Fear seems to be controlled in the Amygdale.

Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2020 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use