Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Opinions and Peace of Soul

Dennis Mangan writes:

G. C. Lichtenberg said that the only thing necessary for peace of soul is to have no opinions whatever, and it is often very tempting to go that route. I've agonized at times over the effect something I've written is going to have on someone, and I have not always been very diplomatic in language. So for now I will just carry on, and hope that I learn from my mistakes as I go.

Being a logic-chopper (better than being an Islamo-headchopper!), I cannot resist submitting Lichtenberg's aphorism to analysis. I think it is just false. Having no opinions is sufficient, but not necessary, for peace of soul. One can hold and express opinions and have peace of soul as well. Case in point, me. When I meditate successfully, I flush all discursive formations (that includes opinions) from my mind. I attain peace of soul, albeit of a somewhat low grade. But I still have all the opinions that I have worked out, including opinions about meditation, its usefulness, etc. -- its just that they are being held dispositionally rather than occurrently. I may not be en-acting them, but they are there to be en-acted.

And when one is not meditating, one can still hold opinions in a manner consistent with peace of soul by holding the opinions in a detached way. Such detachment is not easy to achieve, but it can be achieved.

I grant, however, that if one were to disembarrass oneself of all opinions likely to stir up controversy, one would achieve a sort of peace of soul -- but would it be a peace worth having?
I say no. What is of value is the peace that "surpasseth all understanding," not the peace that is beneath all understanding. There is an infralogical and a supralogical peace. Go for the latter.
I hope I am not being too cryptic.

To my blogger-buddy Mangan I would say that he ought not worry too much about what other people say or think about him. I myself admire his cojones for taking strong stands on issues of importance. To me, it is self-evident that truth counts for more than human feelings. If people are offended, that is their problem. And if anything is clear, it is that there are huge numbers of people nowadays who are inappropriately offended: offended by things that they ought not be offended by. Consider the student who is offended by a teacher who, simply doing her job, corrects spelling and grammatical mistakes. Or a PC-head who is offended by a reference to a certain promontory as 'Squaw Peak' when that is the name for it. Or an anti-Semite who is offended by the fact that I merely look like a Jew. Or another PC-bonehead who thinks that the purely descriptive phrase, 'illegal alien,' is derogatory.

These people need to be opposed, and there is no way to oppose them without making enemies. But if one values truth, then one has to run the risk of making enemies.

So blog on, but with detachment from the outcome.