Your analysis and writing nicely distills a seemingly complex idea. I like overall what you are trying to convey. Sexy soundbites and concepts dissected out of scientific hypotheses or findings often misinterpret or exaggerate the truth or scope of the work. Skepticism/critical analysis oorah
However, limiting the scope of the functionality of the dopaminergic neurons (of the system under analysis) as merely an outcome (and motivation) system is not necessary nor a benefit to science and society. Of course people shouldn’t say “dopamine=reward=pleasure” and definitely not use this misinterpretation as fact (a little oversimplification or white lie to benefit people may not be that bad, however). Dopamine certainly does not “cause” pleasure (or joy) per se.
However, dopaminergic neurons are connected with activation of brain regions correlated to pleasure, and on the other hand, removing the notion of “reward” puts undue conceptual limits on our understanding of the scope of behaviors generated by this system. But you’re right, once again, dopamine does not mean reward. But dopamine is a critical component of a system involved in behaviors&psychobiology we abstractly (but nonetheless appropriately) connote under reward-related, and to the phenomenology of pleasure. Your use of positive, negative, zero error is scientifically accurate, but the overall reductionism here is not beneficial; and your central thesis, overly eliminativist or revisionary. The data and the field cover scientifically and conceptually richer grounds than ‘salience & motivation & outcome & positive (negative, or zero) prediction error & behavioral correction’ (not intended as a quote).
I sympathize rather than disagree with the writer, yet I comment not to criticize but to discuss. There is a science regarding reward and pleasure, and dopamine is ground zero of it, necessary by theory and in experimental understanding.