The Epistemontology of Friendship and Love
Ataraxia vs. Apatheia
Armor Dark Saber
The recent hurtful experience of witnessing the painful journey of my son from a moribund state into the irreversible death and transfiguration and the concomitant expressions of empathy and love from friends and family everywhere gave me the opportunity to reflect further on the co-existence of both abstract metaphysical and practical existential aspects of transcultural love and friendship as recently identified in the various expressions of condolences from family and friends worldwide, all now briefly analyzed below from a biopsychosocial perspective. Because of the wide transcultural spectrum, ranging from my readers I have never personally met to biological filiations, I am trying myself to understand if friendship and love qualia may be an essential part of the inherited and/or acquired survival instinct or does it transcend the primitive function of keeping the human species together for the common defense against survival threats against their collective biopsychosocial integrity in order to guarantee the survival and continuation of the species to reproductive age and beyond. Or is it part and parcel of another metaphysical, impersonal, apatheic logical elaboration of the language faculty that expresses a ratification of value and commitment to defend universal values and entities as varied as other species, objects, principles or goals? This metaphysical language processing conceptualize into analytical, abstract, symbolic and sentential representations (metaphors) of the real time existential experience of the grieving actor (whether inherited, acquired and ‘revealed’) which will stoically and dispassionately bear on his decision making processes to rationalize the painful quale when accessed? Does it express an abstract but genuine love or an equally genuine existential friendship? Is there a difference? Do we need to choose or do we consciously will, as an adaptive defense mechanism, an ataraxic state to mediate but inevitably execute a compromise between the ontologically, existentially experienced angst and the epistemologically, rationally idealized in abstraction? Before we proceed further in this brief analysis, we need to know what is the western cultural norm for describing existential love.
Quoting from 1 Cor. 13:4–7, NIV, Apostle Paul described love in the famous poem in 1 Corinthians, thus: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.” It is self-evident this metaphysical universals-laden quote does not describe the behavior of most of us mortal members of the human species. This kind of conscious impersonal behavior is drawing heavily from both co-existing, neutrally valence-coded brain data bases. What guides a human being to preferentially transcend his pitiful real time human existence and learn also to objectively love those objects, principles, or goals they value greatly and are deeply commit themselves to their defense and preservation even when it is possibly threatening their own preservation, e.g., the historical prophets? This is to be distinguished from the essentially subjective, emotional, consciously interpersonal bonding outreach of some volunteers with e.g., objects, political or spiritual convictions, animals, etc. This should not be confused with psychopathological cases of paraphilia where sexual delusions become part of the subjects mindset.
Argumentation and Conclusions.
We have all experienced the interpersonal expressions of love at the ontological level as essentially a biological human effort, not very different from the extinction of hunger or thirst driven by neuro-hormones and characterized by probable sexual attraction and attachment. The latter is better characterized as the psycho-social and cultural acquired component influenced also in its instantiation or embodiment by hormones promoting an experience of mental well being, e.g., oxytocin, vasopressin, neurotrophins, pheromones, etc. The signs and symptoms of this physiological arousal are characterized by transitory, trivial cardio-respiratory dysfunction. An important variation of this interpersonal element is that seen when the epistemological component is in control, i.e., where the experience of affectionate feeling of intimacy and empathy is not accompanied by physiological arousal. Is the emotional component totally absent? Quare. When my international friends from HiQ listings and extended distant family that I have not seen or heard from for a long time send cards and e-mails of condolences, do they truthfully say what they mean and mean what they say or is it just a culturally-imposed, emotionally-neutral protocol/language script being followed?
Interestingly, in my mental perambulations in search of tranquility and adequacy of response to suffering, I discovered the Pyrrhonians epistemological approach most convenient because the situation could be handled in theory as an impersonal relation because, why assume the love expressions from the stranger are not truly qualia experienced by the sender? Why not suspend judgment on dogmatic cultural or theological beliefs in the absence of factual evidence or credible intuitions? But more important, one can rationalize the situation and ask the Epicureans question, why should I worry about an intention I do not even know it exists? This was the same type of rational liberation from the anguish of the unknown I managed to experience when viewing the dying scenario of my son before my teary eyes, a sort of conscious self-induced tranquil apatheia as long as I have no rational way to establish either the physical torment of my dead son or the truth of the intentions of the condolence senders. In retrospect, if I have consistently acted with respect, consideration, praised the trustworthy, being compassionate and affectionate with dissenting colleagues and friends and consciously have practiced virtuosity (most of the times ), why should I worry? If I have consciously behaved that way I need not be concerned about the valence of love and friendship of others as long as I am able to love and be a good, friendly sentient being. This conscious, tranquil mental state is described by the Greeks as the ‘ataraxic’ state.
Is this the functional role of the metaphysical, logic-based, universally valued metaphor abstractions that the language faculty codes for our human species to consciously(?) access when in need to search for an adaptive BPS tranquil state, however immanent and transient?
In closing, a note to my local and international friends, family and colleagues, please accept my sincere thanks for your cards, phone calls and e-mails offering your condolences for the untimely death of our beloved son. Your thoughtfulness will be long remembered.
Dr. Angell O. de la Sierra, Esq. In Deltona, Florida Winter 2012