Friday, October 2, 2009

Joy: A Teleological Examination of Fasting

What I have done with the pursuit of fasting, is pursue self control. Fasting is not fun. So is it for its intrinsic value we fast, or is there an extrinsic value attached to it that propagates its practice?

I will start where undergraduate philosophising leaves us-- we fast because it brings us Joy. Not because it gives pleasure-- surely there is more pleasure in eating. And not because it makes us Happy-- in the sense that happiness is, in my mind, associated with a smile.

Now Joy, it is different. Notice how the Christian faith talks of Joy in Christ-- not Pleasure, and not Happiness. The reason is, that Joy can be experienced through pain (the permanent Joy of parenting is very different from the impermanent pleasure of it), and Joy can reside in a sad heart (I was joyed at giving blood to a severely injured friend but was, at the same time, sad. At his condition.)

The wise seek the telos to everything. The teleological explanation for Fasting, then, is Joy.

What is the teleological explanation for Joy?

I side with Schopenhauer-- Joy is produced by activities and experiences that increase our chances of survival as a species. As a species, not just as an individual. Whence the Joy in parenting and in blood donation. And in religion. And in Fasting.

So by what mode does Fasting increase the chances of survival? The obvious, corporeal answers, and not entirely a specious one, is based on control. It is so trivial that I will not belabor it.

A more abstruse ratiocination links Fasting to a Spiritual Final Cause, or purpose, or telos. This purpose is also shared by Religion, Meditation, Yoga, and Worship. I will leave that analysis to later.

However, to conclude: In my subjective analysis, as mentioned above, there is a direct link between Fasting and Joy. Clearly, fasting has intrinsic value.


  1. I would love to explore mitohormosis and hormosis in general, with regards to calorie deprivation (short term). These have not found much ground in experimental science, yet.

    Pleasure in eating(the act itself) is not universal. But relieving the stress (chemical) due to calorie deprivation can definitely be described as pleasure. Particularly if it is amplified by the techniques of culinary representation (the color,ganishing and presentation aspects).

    Fasting itself is not a joyous experience, but the results can be if they produce what we want to achieve. For that matter, brisk walking or excercising in general is, too.

    And, I'm severely jet-lagged.

  2. Thanks for your comment.

    I like your insights-- always have! Your assertion "Fasting itself is not a joyous experience, but the results can be if they produce what we want to achieve." is profound to me.

    However, I would request that you notice that you are injecting Scientific frameworks into the discussion. In a discussion that is teleological, you are inserting a causal explanation.

    What is the causal exlanation of the duality of a particle? Of the exact value of Pi? Hylomorphic explanations work better on the larger questions, while Newtonian causality only suffices for classical investigations.

    Maybe I am being dense. Try this somewhat junvenile line of thinking--
    Lets say you come upon a cave painting from a million years ago. What made it-- what is the Cause of its existence?

    There are four causes of things,
    Material Cause: It is made of scratches on stone
    Efficient Cause: A proto-human hand caused the scratches
    Formal Cause: The design of the drawing existed in the artists mind before the drawing was carved by his hand. The blue print-- that is the Formal Cause of the drawing
    Final Cause: The Telos. The cause outside the creator. The Purpose. The grand deign that brings the pieces into harmony. In this case, put in a primitive way, the Telos was Communication. You can say self expression, or even Survival. It doesn't matter, it's all the same in this instance.

    Forwarded by Aristotle, this is a gentle and lucid way of easing ourselves out of the dogma of collegiate Science.

    Applying it to Homeopathy (or Hormesis by extension):
    I go to a Homeopath (you'd remember my sister is one), and he supplies me Calcariaphos which effects a cure. What was the Cause of that cure?

    Material Cause: Clearly the said Calcariaphos
    Efficient Cause: The good physician, of course
    Formal Cause: The principal of Hormesis, perhaps
    Final Cause: _________

    There you have it. Lay causality takes you Material or Efficient causes. Analytical application of it leads to the Formal Cause. However, Science, at least "Newtonian" science, stops at that.

    The Grand-Unifying principle of Conciousness, or the conjugal variables I mention on your blog, provide better suggestions for "Final Causes" than does uninformed Sience.

    The belief in the Final cause is the evolution beyond Science. To Spirituality.