How Do We Know How Something Feels?

United States
December 8, 2008 10:09pm CST
The other day in my philosophy course, we talked a great deal about if robots could have feelings and emotions in the same sense as humans do. This made me think a bit more in depth than it probably should have; thus, leading me to come up with a question pertaining to this topic... How do we know how something else feels? I know we say that inanimate objects (i.e. robots, tables, walls, laundry baskets, etc.) have no feelings for obvious reasons, such as lacking life but still... Unless we ourselves are said inanimate object, who are we to say whether it can feel or not? For example, a tree doesn't cry when someone cuts it down, yet we recognize that the tree feels itself being cut because it's a living organism, but if we punch a hole in a wall, or something of that nature, how do we know for a fact that the wall doesn't feel anything? One could argue that because the wall is merely a 'thing' and not a living organism, it therefore would not have feelings. But just because we can't document its pain, doesn't mean that the feeling isn't present. I'm sure that there's plenty of scientific "proof" as to why things don't have feelings, so my argument may be completely obsolete. Feel free to argue my points and to say that they're completely ludicrous, because I, too, am a bit skeptical of them. Make of it what you will. ;)
1 response
@Quirkly (95)
• Canada
9 Dec 08
Well just because someone has feelings, doesn't mean you necessarily can know how they feel either. In the same way that humans can mask and hide their feelings (some better than others), perhaps inanimate objects and constructs have feelings which they can mask to the point that even science that we know can detect them. Because that'd be really weird. We can abstract human and animal emotions well because of communcation, but with inanimate objects, it's a different story altogether. Whether a human hurts a hand, or a foot, or their head, it is up to their mind to decide what's hurting, and what reaction or action to take in explaining this pain. What would something say, like a chair do. It's composed of several inanimate objects, for our sake say a simple metal frame, and a cushion. So is it the frame that has the feelings, or the cushion...or is it the idea of both of them together as chair, that has the feelings? I think things get so complicated at that level that our mind can't comprehend it, so it just writes it off as undoable, thus we think that inanimate objects have no feeling.
• United States
10 Dec 08
Great insight. :) It is insanely complicated, I definitely agree with that!