Larry Becker in an online philosophy discussion (Stoics list, 21 Oct 1999) mentioned the "subliminal blues" that he sporadically noticed in himself. (Rather, his subliminal state became "liminal" on occasion! --- ^z)
This is an important point, often overlooked in intellectual circles: we're all creatures of the flesh. Rational as we may (like to) think of ourselves, our judgments are constantly colored by our health, our environment, and our interactions with other people. Often the shading is quite subtle: a slight crankiness one day, a cheerful mood another, a propensity to get bored on a third. Should this be of concern? Or is it just part of the spice of life, an emotional MSG that enhances the flavor of a nourishing meal?
Few of us would want to give up the pleasures of the body, the raptures of love, the beauties of the arts, and the thrills of intellectual discovery. But are these joys mere aberrations of brain and body chemistry, the flip sides of depression, irritation, or indigestion? Do positive feelings justify themselves? Or could they be misdirected --- perhaps, most arguably, when they come from drugs, from dalliances, from time-wasting distractions, or from other activities far below our potential as sentient beings?
Human emotions, a Stoic Sage might contend, can be useful indicators and pleasant rewards, but should not be mistaken for ends in themselves. Emotions below the threshold of conscious perception are singularly treacherous in that they can lead us to act in ways we will regret later. True? Can it ever be wise to hand oneself over to passion? Or should one always retain some level of detachment, some ability to step back from the brink of total emotional commitment? Is such an internal monitor analogous to a computer's Operating System: the highest-priority set of supervisory routines which maintain control over all executing programs?
Friday, December 24, 1999 at 18:49:35 (EST) = Datetag19991224