Some conscious creatures have affectivity -- the ability to feel emotions. An affective creature may be in one (or more) of several affective states. Affectivity is more than the possibility of being in one of several emotional states.

I will sometimes refer to an affective creature as a ``being''. It appears that affectivity is a characteristic of primary creatures, and of God, alone -- secondary creatures cannot be affective.

Affectivity appears to involve the soul; it may be that creatures without a soul cannot have emotions. However, a creature without a soul may have a state system equivalent to the affective state system of an ensouled creature -- it could be in states analogous to emotions but without actually feeling the emotions.

A being moves between affective states over time. These transitions may be influenced by information within the being, both remembered information and fresh observations.

Decisions taken by a being may be influenced by the being's affective state as well as non-affective information held in the being.

Affective Values

There is are aspects of affectivity to which value judgements may be attached, which it appears may not be produced in a secondary creature. In particular, there is an apparent aspect commonly described as `happiness'; in fact, it is probably a complex collection of aspects which for some purposes may be summarized as a single continuous quantity, the happiness of the being. Such a collection of aspects may be found in most beings, but is not identical from being to being, and the way in which they may be collected together to be observed as a single happiness quantity will be different from being to being. Aspects contributing to happiness include contentment, joy, fulfilment, and exhilaration.

It is possible for a creature to evaluate affective aspects of states to produce an ordering in which one state is regarded as better than another. However, since there are many aspects of state which have affective values, it is not always possible to produce overall affective ordering of states.

It is possible for an affective aspect of state not to contribute to overall happiness, or even to contribute negatively to the overall happiness. This occurs when the being gives a higher importance to the apparent state of other beings than to aspects of its own state. For example, a being may be happy to forgo things that would normally be desirable as contributing to its happiness, in preference for things that would make another being happier, there being a causal connection between the happinesses of the beings concerned. This occurs, for example, in friendship.

Affective Meaning

To an affective creature, items of information may have significance in affective terms -- they may signify something more than what they simply mean in logical or representational terms.

Affective Intent (desire)

Creatures with affectivity may take actions with the intent or purpose of changing their state to one to which they give a higher affective value than their present state.

[John's essay index]
Contact me

For other essays, see the index to this collection; and for some other thoughts, my thoughts index.

[John's home] Last modified: Sun Jun 10 22:28:51 GMT Daylight Time 2007