Tuesday, August 23, 2011


In an article in the Washington Post about philosophical counseling, we find the following nugget of ancient wisdom: "Epictetus, the original cognitive therapist, ... argued that humans often mistake their feelings for facts and suffer as a result."

Pangrammaticism digs that point, but is, of course, much more sophisticated. Suffering is a result of the tension between our desires and our beliefs. Our desires shape our feelings, just as our beliefs shape our thoughts. Thoughts are "about" facts and, here's the crucial point, feelings are "about" acts. It is when the act cannot be immediately carried out (sometimes because we lack the courage) that we begin to "feel". The precise relation between an act and our feelings about it is determined by our emotions (which are a kind of readiness to convert feeling into action and vice versa.)

It is convenient for us to think that our feelings indicate facts. But we must resolutely keep our feelings indicating acts, which we can then lucidly carry out or not. Of course, the whole field of psychology has contributed to our suffering in precisely this way: it has taught us to treat our feelings as facts.

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