[ExI] Reinforcing our Prejudices

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Sat Apr 19 00:43:30 UTC 2008

Bryan writes

> Lee wrote
>> What is your opinion of Thomas Szasz's claims, e.g., "The Myth
>> of Mental Illness"?
> One of the interesting aspects of mental illness is that we start
> getting into computational physics, brains, mind, personality, and all
> sorts of interesting mixes of problems. From my understanding of
> Szasz's book, this was not a cybernetic approach to the mind.

No, it certainly was not. So to reply to your comment, I had
to go to the very nice http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Szasz .

> The  cybernetic approach simply means that *anything going
> on in the brain*  is in fact occurring and can ultimately be altered
> whether by mechanical, electrical, or some other intervening
> methodologies.

Why call it a "cybernetic approach"?   In fact, isn't *cybernetics* passe?
I would certainly say that---and virtually everyone here will agree---
if we substituted "materialistic" or "scientific" for your "cybernetic
in that sentence, then that would be correct.

> So what would it matter whether or not an 'illness' (read: problem) is
> social in nature? Or biochemical? Something has to change, no?

Amazingly, Szasz himself answers your question in that wikipedia article.

"The struggle for definition is veritably the struggle for life itself. In the typical Western two men fight desperately for the 
possession of a gun that has been thrown to the ground: whoever reaches the weapon first shoots and lives; his adversary is shot and 
dies. In ordinary life, the struggle is not for guns but for words; whoever first defines the situation is the victor; his 
adversary, the victim. For example, in the family, husband and wife, mother and child do not get along; who defines whom as 
troublesome or mentally sick?...[the one] who first seizes the word imposes reality on the other; [the one] who defines thus 
dominates and lives; and [the one] who is defined is subjugated and may be killed."

NOW AS to whether, as you say, "something has to change", there
are obstacles, both good and bad. The bad obstacles are those folks
who won't consider materialistic intervention in people's brains (even
though the patients are all in favor), a form of anti-tech or anti-science
probably more extreme than anything in the Bush administration.

Among the good obstacles is, of course, the principle people must be
consulted before they're acted upon, whether for "their own good or not".

Yet here is an interesting problem: we know that about 4% of people
growing up are sociopaths. If a vaccine were developed that, when
administered at a young age warded off this condition, ought we to
allow our elected officials to either tamper with the water supply
(as they do with fluoridation), or subject all children to an injection?

My morning personality would say "yes, do it", my afternoon personality
would say "no", and when it gets late enough at night, I'm at "hell yes".


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