Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


I’m Emotional – Katie Crompton

I’ve always thought that emotions are what make us human and that you need them to survive. If we couldn’t feel, how could we communicate and develop relationships? But what if you could live without expressing emotions? My questions on the ties between emotion and life have developed a lot during our metaphysical discussions, particularly when speaking about Heidegger’s theory of being vs. Being. From that topic came this question:

Does expressing emotion mean you are Being?

Before we can try and answer this question, we need to attempt to answer the following questions.

What is Being as opposed to being?

Martin Heidegger says that the difference between Being and being is how you live your life. He says that Being is having complete awareness of your Being while being is merely being a physical thing on the planet. In other words, being is existing while Being is truly living. Also, when you are Being, you are considered to be living an authentic life, while you are not if you are just being.

What is an emotion?

Merriam-Webster defines emotion as:

“the affective aspect of consciousness”


“a conscious mental reaction (as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body”

This may be the literary definition, but science makes this seemingly simple human action a lot more convoluted, as described in this article. This article depicts the difference between Paul Ekman’s universality theory and Lisa Feldman Barrett’s natural-kind view. The article describes these two theories and many more that fit in the middle of this psychological spectrum in much more detail, but in a nutshell, the universality theory says that all human’s express and observe emotions in the same way while the natural-kind view says that emotions aren’t biologically basic and aren’t interpreted and expressed in the same way. It well may be that emotions are just something we can’t explain or have a definitive answer on, which makes this whole concept a little more difficult.

The some of the pictures used in Ekman’s experiments from the article from The Atlantic

How do emotions happen/how are they expressed?

To answer this question, it would make it a lot easier if we could know if emotions are a biological thing or not, but we can attempt to answer this from things we already know.

*Note: I am not in psychology so this is not going to be a scientific explanation at all*

We can all basically agree that emotions are triggered things that happen in your daily life. Happiness from being with friends, sadness from hearing bad news, fear from watching a horror movie, and so on. Even though emotions can also be triggered from memories, it all happened in real life at some point. But what about things that happen in your dreams or just in your imagination? They can make you happy or scared or confused on their own. This then opens the question on reality and if the things that “happened” in your life are really just made up by your mind. As mentioned in the article, human’s have a special power. We have the power to create our own reality on agreeing on things like currency roads and possibly emotions. But did we create the reality or was it created for us?

Where to next?

This is a giant situation chalk full of unknowns. The next thing that should be explored is different definitions of reality and how they connect to the expression of emotions. This would then help us to discover the link between the expression of emotions and being.

Anchorman gif from Tenor



Emotional Confusion

My original question of, “where does emotion come from and what is it?”, it has come to my attention that i will be pondering this for a very long time. Do we have these answers? from my research it has come to my attention that we as people understand where in the brain emotion comes from, and what structure makes it up, yet we don’t have any solid answers on why we feel emotion and aspire for things apposed to other animals of just reacting seemingly unconsciously? Because we don’t have any ways of solving these questions, we only have educated theories of “trusted” scientists and doctors. which really, are just opinions. What ARE emotions?

one interesting theory i came across that seems to be the most mind boggling and opposing opinion of what i thought emotions are. it is called the “James-Lange theory”. composed by psychologist William James, He believes reactions and emotions work hand and hand. most believe that our emotions come first and influence our reactions based on the emotion we are feeling. This theory states the reaction comes before a bodily emotion to the reaction. More of , “we are afraid because we run” as apposed to “we run because we are afraid”…Anger

i find this really interesting as i perceive it in myself as an emotion before a reaction. before i react to something i think about how it made me feel and how i would want to handle the situation. saying that, there are situations where i may be frustrated and i react to something in a way i regret and my reaction came first and the emotions of what had just happened hit me like a wave. lets take on board for a minute if this theory was true, would this be implying that we don’t have control over our actions, but we have control over our emotions? or that we don’t truly have free will, we are more like atoms reacting with things around us?

this opens many more possibilities and questions for me to look into, and has actually changed my own theory a little. although i havent come any closer to finding an answer, this will ponder me for a very long time. i wonder if we even have the technology or the capacity to understand certain things like this, or if we ever will. Something so involuntary and effortless yet so complicated to understand and solve…



Emotion, a “happening” in our brain?

Emotions hit us like a train every time something happens to us, generally a reaction to another persons actions or events that take place. These emotions affect our actions and thinking very drastically in good and bad ways from crying or laughing to fight or flight. It is the motivation inside us to actually do something and aspire. It is how we decide right from wrong. Emotions help us to understand the world by assisting our minds in comprehending things beyond logic.They are a very important tool for survival, without fear we wouldn’t feel danger and would die more often. This proves that emotion is something we need, but what actually IS emotion? Why do we naturally feel it?  where does it come from? do we decide our own emotions in our consciousness?


This topic for me sparks up an endless amount of questions that seem unanswerable and give me a headache, and its hard to know where to start. I visited a Stanford university page on psychology and emotion to see what view a professional has on this topic.

“constructionist approach to the science of emotion centered on three key ideas: (1) an emotion word (like anger) refers to a conceptual category, populated with situation-specific instances that are tailored to the environment; (2) each instance of emotion is constructed within the brain’s functional architecture of domain-general core systems; (3) the workings of each system must be understood within the momentary context of the rest of the brain and the body.” – Dr. Lisa Feldman-Barrett

This statement claims that each instant of emotion is constructed within the brains functional architecture of systems. this bold and unexplained statement leaves me with too much curiosity. do we consciously construct instances of emotion? how does our brain do that? WHAT is it creating?

Emotions are expressions of energy that contain specific energy codes. These energy codes are created by our intuitions and thoughts, which allow us to understand them in an authentic way. This process of creating emotion energy codes in an authentic fashion is what gives us the perception of feeling.

yet even if you are faking an emotion, and don’t really feel that way, the real authentic feeling stabs you in the stomach and you might suppress it. Where does the authenticity come from? is that your underlying true self showing his opinion? there is no choice in that authentic emotion, where does it come from?  the fact that there seems to be a force of uncontrollable emotion in existence, it must come from somewhere. many articles are claiming it comes from this “subconscious mind”, WHERE THE HECK IS THAT.

Doctor climbing a ladder to look inside a giant brainit seems to be an answer many of us want to know, but there can only be theories, and to study what is happening in the brain. the limbic system of the brain, which is made up of several structures located in the cerebral cortex, is responsible for these emotions. It structures the levels of chemicals, called neurotransmitters, being manufactured by the body in response to certain conditions the person is experiencing. Here is an example of a professionals explanation of emotions.

it seems to be an answer many of us want to know, but there can only be theories, and to study what is happening in the brain. the limbic system of the brain, which is made up of several structures located in the cerebral cortex, is responsible for these emotions. It structures the levels of chemicals, called neurotransmitters, being manufactured by the body in response to certain conditions the person is experiencing. Here is an example of a professionals explanation of emotions.

This still leaves us all in a confusion of understanding where emotions come from and why. what force is creating them? is it me? Gonna leave this one hanging..




Love: Decades in the Making

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCDa2ffdC-w&w=420&h=315]

Amour is the 5 time Oscar nominated, masterpiece directed by Auteur Michael Haneke. The trailer to the film is embed above, and I will mostly try to refer to the trailer when discussing the film however I will refer  non-trailer scenes at times. I recommend all of you to see the film which opens on 18 January at Fifth Avenue Cinemas.

Amour tells the story of an Octogenarian Parisian couple, Annes and Georges, and their daughter, Eva, who lives abroad. Anne’s bond of love with her husband and the unity of her family are tested as she suffers from multiple strokes which progressively paralyses one side of her body. All of this is told in true Haneke-ian style of minimalism, simplicity, and the cold barren truth. It leaves no time for frivolous scenes and gets straight to punching you in the gut.

The best stories are the ones that are built on some basis of truth, and this for me is why Amour is the best Haneke film ever. Haneke’s films, while often fictional, are presented so real that you couldn’t tell that they were just the figments of the director’s imagination delivering a message such as anti-violence or etc. Amour on the other hand is a film that was built on a similar series of events that had happened in Haneke’s life which to me explains why this film has an extra edge over the rest of Haneke’s filmography.

Film can be aesthetically pleasing in many different ways; some like The Social Network are made in a perfect normative form but may not be descriptively perfect to many viewers. Others like Mamma Mia! is perfect in a Descriptive and emotional connection aspect, but sorely lacking or non-existent in the normative department. Mamma Mia horribly shot, and sometimes not even framed in a coherent manner; but it’s funny, emotional, and connects well with the audience.

Amour is both; perfectly made and impossibly impactful. Let’s first focus on the technical aspects of movie. There are multiple things that Amour does so well in this department. The Screenplay is short and to the point, totalling at only 68 pages it is shorter than most screenplays but no less brilliant. The worst thing a movie could do is tell but not show, say too much when a simple shot or action sequence could suffice. In the trailer there is a scene where Anne is playing the piano, and it turns out that Georges is just reminiscing about a healthy Anne. Haneke could’ve easily gone and taken the easy route with some dialogue, making Georges talk about his memory of Anne to indicate that it was a memory. Instead he just shows Georges sitting in a chair pensive, as Anne plays the piano. Then, he turns off the stereo revealing that Anne isn’t really playing the piano but instead Georges is listening to a recording of Anne and remembering her. When we cut back to the piano, Anne isn’t there anymore. To help augment this point Haneke makes masterful use of cinematography, blocking, and production techniques. For example, the natural light streaming through the window hits Anne and gives her an ethereal quality helping make the memory of Anne seem more like a memory and less real. Secondly, the way the shot is framed there is a large grand piano separating us from Anne which acts as the physical manifestation of the barrier separating us from reality and fantasy. Haneke also uses blocking and cinematography in a very masterful way to keep the tone of the movie steady. The movie intended to tell this story of love and loss in its own sombre and steadfast way. Even in moments of anger, Haneke frames the shot so that the angry person is in the background while the calm person is in the foreground so that despite that moment of heated emotion the sombre and steady tone of the movie still permeates through. Another example is that since the entire movie is set in an apartment in Paris it could potentially feel extremely constricting and claustrophobic which destroy the sombre and steady mood intended. So what Haneke does is that he cleverly uses the hallways to shoot into rooms and natural lighting to elongate the rooms, making them seem brighter and ergo larger. This gives us a sense of calm and almost quiet grandeur despite taking place entirely in a small space.

Emotionally the film is no different. What Amour really gets right is that it connects with each and everyone one of you. It is difficult to imagine that a person has gone through his or her life without having known or cared for a terminally ill or since deceased friend or family member. Amour fails to idealise that experience and instead tells the story as it is which is why it evokes emotion among the viewers. It is a humbling experience and makes you appreciate the wonders and value of love and life more than ever. The beauty of this whole movie is that it can be interpreted in so many different ways whether it be the cynicism of life, the enduring bonds of love, the ostracisation of the elderly, or etc. but it doesn’t matter according to Haneke:

Everybody is right! It’s their own interpretation. I try to construct all my films in such a way that each viewer constructs his or her own film. There’s nothing more boring than a film that immediately answers every question that it raises. You forget it immediately after you leave the screening room.

The film connects because it tells a human story in a way that it is believable and relate-able and no matter how you look at this movie you can take a unique touching message away from it. This emotional message is the true and most important part of the movie that makes it so great and so valuable; the normative perfection is just the icing on top that helps us engage with the message and make the movie more visually pleasing.