I was at home in the United States a few weeks ago at an all-time depressed low. When i came back to Germany, i read Robert Solomon’s book A Passion for Justice and was somehow suddenly propelled into a very old and much more joyful, calm and hopeful mood; one which has now lasted for a few weeks. It was not the content of the book that did the trick, but rather the style in which it was written. In fact, the book reminded me of Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor’s books: a calm, rested and assured, though perhaps slightly melancholic hope for a good life. This was my general mood many years ago (i cannot quite figure out how long ago) and has now suddenly returned after having fallen into oblivion over the years. The mystery that my mood so unexpectedly changed for the better is not the subject of this post, but rather my current attempts at keeping it going, along with the attendant question of how exactly this happened.

I used to revel in despair, being subjected, but also subjecting myself to wide swings of mood (some would say i was partly or mostly bi-polar). Although my fundamental and biological predisposition has most likely not changed, the mood swings and consequent lows have. I still find myself contemplating un-enjoyable ideas and possibilities; but rather than abdicate and allow myself to slip into despair, i now can muster just enough oomph to veer off to more hopeful thoughts. I must continually monitor and reason with myself (something i didn’t used to have to do, afaik), but i certainly can keep happy.

This situation requires, of course, a careful analysis of the concept of a mood. For the time being, however, the following practical observations will have to suffice. My mood seems to be a rather long-term feature: it is not over in a day, the previous one having lasted many years (the onset of which i will have to examine in one of these posts). A mood can perhaps be likened to a Thomistic inclination: in a good mood, i tend to more readily think positive; in a worse mood, my thoughts easily fall into hopelessness. I can also control these very moods, though only by degrees: i cannot switch a bad mood into a good one (the the reverse seems to work much better) but i certainly can encourage a good/bad mood or slowly let it slip towards neutrality (or worse). I suspect there is a difference of type between the good and bad moods (ie they are not exact mirror images of one another, and hence should probably shed the moralizing designations as soon as better ones come to mind). This difference might result from a second order inclination towards the negative mood. The inclination analogy is probably not quite ideal itself.

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