Mental States

Their are many states that a human being can be in besides perfect homeostasis.  One can be tired, hungry, inebriated, elated, worried, exhausted and a hundred other things.  All of these effect the way that we act, what we do and what we say.  In western society, many of these can also be used as excuses for ones actions.  People are considered less responsible for the stupid things they say and do while they are drunk, and an angry conversation from the night before can be blown off when one party apologizes, explaining that they were tired or hungry and did not actually mean what they said before.  What most of these things do is take away our filters.  We are less willing to simply accept things, and go through less effort to filter what we say when we are tired or hungry or drunk.  We say and do things without considering their ramifications, of because we care less about the ramifications at that point in time.  If we are less responsible for our actions when we are in these states, then it must mean that the thing that makes us us is what is being lost when we are in our states, which implies that our personality is thus defined not by our impulses, imagination and thoughts, but rather by our filters, inhibitions and better judgement.

The question then becomes, is this something that is alright with us?  Are we willing to accept that we are defined by what we don’t do instead of what we do?  In Asian cultures this norm is reversed, with people being considered to be more their true selves when they have the filters removed.  Thus the conundrum is this?  Are your impulses you, which implies that one is not truly themselves when they are inhibited by the structure and filters of every day life.  Or is it instead that the filters that you have, the restrictions you place on your actions what defines you, implying that people who are tired or drunk are less human and more animal, having cut themselves off from themselves. 

I have a few opinions on the subject but I’m not going to really discuss them right now, instead bringing up a scientific study that may shed a little light on the subject.  Through scans of the brain, and the amount of times it took signals in the brain to be sent to various parts of your body it was found that the signals to do things were sent a few hundred milliseconds before the decision to do so was made in the conscious part of the brain.  If the conscious part of the brain decided to do the action, then nothing would change, as the action had already begun.  On the other hand, if the consciousness decided not to do an action, a sort of emergency break signal would be sent out to part of the body that the signal to begin had been sent to and the action would cease.  Their are many implications to this, such as the fact that consciousness can never actually directly cause the body to make an action without the action being suggested to it by the non conscious part of the brain first, but relevant to the discussion above, the implication is clear.  The only real choices your consciousness has are choices to stop.  You are only exercising your free will when you inhibit or stop yourself from doing something that your body wants to do.  What that means for the philosophical question is debatable, but it adds an interesting element to the question and makes me lean on the side of our inhibitions defining who we really are. 


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