The philosophers Giovanna Colombetti and Tom Roberts, for instance, made a case for extending the claims of the extended mind thesis to the realm of affectivity, proposing that, just as we might conceive of cognitive processes as systems that include the external devices, tools and materials that we think with, so might we also understand affectivity as extending beyond the borders of the body to form ‘subject-artefact coalitions’ that are ‘embedded within a wider cultural, technological, and social context’.
For Xunzi, emotions such as love and gratitude are not just feelings in response to events – things that happen to us – but possibilities for action. Emotions, as he puts it in the translation by Eric Hutton, are essentially ‘without form’: they are not physically discrete things, with fixed properties and contained within the boundaries of the self. Instead, they remain ‘raw’ and inchoate until they take form, and it is ritual that represents their proper fulfilment.
“You have a gun pointed at you, from inside your head. When you lack energy, when failure hurts and risks are scary, and when life is heavy, it’s the gun.
Your limbic system controls it. It wants to tell you how worried it is about you, but it has no mouth, only a gun, which it cocks point blank all day, shaking, shooting when you make even the smallest mistake. With each recoil it weeps. It hates hurting you, but it knows the pain you’ve been through because it felt it too, and in moments of desperation it learned that disfiguring you with its bullets has a chance of stopping you from getting hurt even more.
It won’t be easy, but you'll go inside and meet it. You will be overwhelmed by its decades of bottled up feelings and nearly destroyed by the rush of memories that haunt it until you're forced to let go. You’ll be strong and enter the terror until you're embracing the part of you who only got to see glimpses of your life, granting them your eyes to see the world is beautiful and its people kind, failure is acceptable and sometimes even fun, and not every moment of life has to be productive. They’ll see one day both of you will die, and it will be okay.
As they see your eyes you see theirs, rewatching every moment of your life with unconditional compassion and undivided attention, ready to hurt the only thing you love at a moment’s notice. When they’re full of life you don’t get distracted, but when they suffer you suffer. You accept a life of pain to help someone who doesn’t know you exist.
As you feel their life, atrophied circuits separating your worlds surround both of you and as these information channels once again start to flow their compassion for you becomes yours. You notice a love for long-hated aspects of your body and mind, and wonder how you ever didn't. You giggle, finding it kind of cute, or silly, that you’ve been both sides of an exhausting and unnecessary war, and as the circuits fold inwards and engulf you in white, you feel a gun in your hand and let go.”