Monday, December 31, 2007

Varieties of subjective experience

In this posting about why men get turned on by seeing female flesh, I hypothesized that it was because our mirror neurons are triggered and reverberate in sympathy with how (we imagine) the woman feels. I said that we aren't interested in what she's thinking, and we're not interested in any deep emotions she may be feeling. We're just interested in the subjective experience of the sensations that are transmitted through her skin. (Isn't that sentence itself a bit of a turn-on?)
[In talking this over with a female friend, I was told that many women (who wonder whether it's normal or whether it shows signs of latent lesbian tendencies) are more turned on by watching women in sex scenes than by watching men. Apparently that's fairly universal and doesn't signify lesbian leanings. Perhaps we as human beings are wired to see women as sensation carriers — perhaps the mirror neurons of all human beings respond to seeing women's skin.]
This suggests that there are at least three domains of subjective experience: thought, emotion, and sensation. There are probably more. Is there a separate domain of subjective experience for each sense: i.e., vision, hearing, taste, and smell, besides skin sensation? Some people feel ravished by music or visual beauty. Great chiefs (and wine connoisseurs) undoubtedly have great senses of taste and small. Can we isolate these subjective experiences? Is there a subjective experience for proprioception? What about the unifying subjective experience of pure awareness? Has anyone done any work on this? What do the Buddhists, the masters of subjective experience, have to say about this?

If there are these different domains of subjective experience, then it's likely that animals have similar subjective experience to ours in a number of domains, even if not in others. So our intuition that animals are like us is probably more right than wrong.

2 comments:

legros said...

I wondered if suggestion and conditioning has no significance in this "subjective experience".
Rather than dissuade that line of rationalizing, the comment from your female friend rather encourages this lie of thinking.
I recall that in my early childhood days, most women in rural Africa dressed to barest minimal and bathed publicly at the "streams" or "rivers"
The exposure of female skin and flesh,apparently, did not seem to evoke those experiences.
Outcries were raised when western missionaries and tourists with an un-similar conditioning could not resist these "exposures" and tried to capture the images for the western audience.
"Ads" then would make use of the virile muscular powerful manhood, and such reasoning appeared to have been exploited in advertisement for the stout drinks back then( from women too!)
Some groups still relate strong ,muscular men with some sexually-evoking thoughts and I am told in slavery and segregation days,some associated big black men ( like myself ?) with such feelings,and some of our youth and the gym industry may share this line of thought.
In conclusion, may be, it is true what you say or,maybe, what is in our minds have been planted.

Blue said...

It's also said that people aren't turned on at nudist colonies. Perhaps. And certainly whether one becomes sexually aroused depends on one's state of mind. So I would agree that the sight of female skin doesn't automatically and under all circumstances elicit a male erotic response. But when it does, I think it does so as a result of mirror neurons and the evocation in the viewer of sensations that s/he imagines in the person being seen.