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Name: Carlos
Status: student
Age: 20s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2000-2001

This may seem a rather strange question...

How is it that sensations (pain,joy,taste etc) exist?

If you take a mechanical system ,can you construct feeling/sensation or is feeling/sensation derived directly from something fundamental?

ie Is it, that it just is? Or can it be shown to be a logical consequence of physics?


You can design physical systems that can be related in some crude ways to human senses. Touch, sight, hearing, taste, etc. Joy is not a physical sensation but an emotion, so we will avoid that topic altogether.

Physical pain or pleasure can be thought of as merely genetic programming built around the physical signals that our sense organs transmit. If bitter things generally provided nourishment, and sweet things were poisons, humans and other animals long ago would have developed a liking for bitter tastes and an avoidance of sweets. The pleasure associated with mating is built in too, to encourage reproduction. Although we find freezing water extremely unpleasant, it is unlikely that fish living in Arctic waters are in a constant state of pain or discomfort. The senses generally provide the means for an organism to achieve survival and avoid damage or death, and the "good" or "bad" associated with certain sensations are instinctual to a large extent.

Perhaps some will consider this an overly simplistic view of our being, but given the difficulty with implementing machines that can reproduce our abilities in even the crudest manner, I think it might suffice. The gap between a living being and a complex machine is very large for now, so I think it is premature to declare that we cannot just be very complex machines.

When that gap is closed, whether a machine can experience joy, I do not know.


Donald Yee Ph.D.
180 Richmond Field Station
San Francisco Estuary Institute

It has been only very recently that the study of the physiological basis for feelings and sensations [and other functions of the brain] has been made possible. A new technology, Positron Emission Tomography (PET) makes it possible to actually observe the chemical activity of various parts of the brain when the individual has various disease conditions or is experiencing various moods. Excellent reviews of PET can be found on the Internet at:,

Vince Calder

I would put them as logical consequences of evolution. This is an old philosophical question addressed by Aristotle to the extent that how we perceive our environment is determined by what snses we paraphrase him...That we have eye, ears, a nose, and a tongue makes sight, sound, smell, and taste meaningful.


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