Friday, December 04, 2009

Pressing Your Love Button

We had a student present a senior thesis on reductionism in philosophy of mind and the love button example came up.

TheWife and I went to a showing a couple weeks back of a Bangladeshi artist who has moved to the area. Very nice work in a wide variety of styles. We came to his newest work, multi-media collage in deep colors and TheWife fell in love with one particular piece. Not "I like that. That's really pretty." but head-over-heels, obsessed, "Cannot live without seeing that everyday. Must have painting." kind of love.

The idea here is that some environmental factor, a combination of color, texture, light, and shadow upon the retina caused a neurological state which was the experience of love, of being unified with the thing, of being related to the thing in a deep way, a yearning to be with it, and a deep appreciation of it. When we first met, the same sort of feeling swept over us both and here we are ten years later.

Suppose I could implant in your brain a device to electrically bring about that state whenever I push a button on a remote control I have. I have your love button and can make you fall in love with something or someone at the push of a button. The only difference is that the correlated neurological state is not being triggered by an environmental stimulus that you did not expect, but by the conscious decision of someone else.

Does this mean love is just a neurological state? Would it be love at all or a false sense of love? Suppose I could use it to make someone actually love a thing they didn't love, but wanted to love? If someone, say, had fallen out of love with a person s/he was married to, but knew that his/her life would be better if the love came back. Would that be real love if it felt the same after pushing the button as it did when they were first dating? Does the wanting to love something make a difference?