TITLE: Philosophical Therapy as Preventive Psychological Medicine Paper Given at a Conference at Columbia on mental illness organised by William Harris, planned for a published volume in preparation (so please do not cite before publication).
AUTHOR: Christopher Gill (University of Exeter).
"What contribution was made to the treatment of mental illness in antiquity by philosophical essays on the therapy of emotions? To what extent can we – moderns – recognize in these essays a credible response to mental illness?"- Christopher Gill
"Abstract Background : Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), one of the most profound and influential modern philosophers, suffered since his very childhood from severe migraine. At 44 he had a mental breakdown ending in a dementia with total physical dependence due to stroke. From the very beginning, Nietzsche’s dementia was attributed to a neurosyphilitic infection. Recently, this tentative diagnosis has become controversial. Objective : To use historical accounts and original materials including correspondence, biographical data and medical papers to document the clinical characteristics of Nietzsche’s illness and, by using this pathography, to discuss formerly proposed diagnoses and to provide and support a new diagnostic hypothesis. Materials : Original letters from Friedrich Nietzsche, descriptions by relatives and friends, and medical descriptions. Original German sources were investigated. Biographical papers published in medical journals were also consulted. Key words : Nietzsche ; history of neurology ; CADASIL ; hypothesis."
Ethnobotanists, people who study the relationship between plants and people, have long documented the extensive use of medicinal plants by indigenous shamans in places around the world, including the Amazon.
Nur Svsc 's insight:
Differences of values, attributes and conceptual frameworks between Western medical science and indigenous healing traditions is fascinating to me; diagnostic criteria, 'bed-side manners' and cures rest on totally different notions regarding the body, illness/sickness/disease, well-being and of course, Nature.
In some, if not all cases, assertive community treatment programs seem to promise much better management of condition, further independency and higher quality of life than the institutional alternatives. Here's an example.
Is neurodiversity a scientifically valid notion or one of the latest chapters on the book on political correctness? I tend to lean towards the former-- though not without the fear of endorsing yet another superfluous categorization of ontological kind.
"In many cases, addiction theorists have now progressed beyond stereotyped disease conceptions of alcoholism or the idea that narcotics are inherently addictive to anyone who uses them. The two major areas of addiction theory-those concerning alcohol and narcotics- have had a chance to merge, along with theorizing about overeating, smoking, and even running and interpersonal addictions."
Eric Michael Johnson's extensive article on the primatologist Frans de Waal, who studies those curiously philosophical themes of community, politics, well-being and morality among primates. The article has a brief introduction of De Waal and his latest book 'the Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society' followed by an interview with the author about his work in the past 30 years.
"http://www.egs.edu/ Jacques Derrida speaking about forgiveness in his Paris seminar 'A Critique of Psychoanalysis', a reading focusing on texts from Gilles Deleuze. Public open video lecture with students of the European Graduate School EGS, Media and Communication Studies department program, Saas-Fee, Switzerland, Europe, France, 2004"
"In Cochas Grande in the Andes of Peru, Irma Poma documented how her Mother, Angelica Canchumani, teaches her traditional knowledge of how to heal with the herbs that Mother Earth offers us. The women of the Poma - Canchumani family, have inherited healing hands that allow them to communicate with the medicinal plants and the spirits, which can make sick and heal. Facilitated by: Irma Poma and Angelica Canchumani."
I doubt Freud's substance (ab)use might have possibly left any significant impression on his theories: almost all of his widely-acknowledged works were written years after he had quit cocaine altogether (1896). Besides Freud is known to have denounced, in retrospect, his interest in cocaine and did not visit its medicinal qualities in writings post-1896. Nevertheless, his paper 'Über Coca' and Howard Markel's book 'An Anatomy of Addiction' (which deals with those more personal aspects of Freud's use), are both intriguing reads: What new insights does a physician obtain from self-experimenting with a potentially dangerous substance? How does he/she incorporate those insights to current theory and practice in order to restore health either by administration of cocaine or in its absence, after an episode of abuse? In other words, the timeless conundrum of the pharmakon and the medical appropriation of the boundaries between the tonic and the toxic, the normal and the pathological.
The second medical figure of Markel's book on cocaine addiction is William S. Halsted, the highly successful surgeon remembered today as one of the founding staff of Johns Hopkins Hospital. But not only is Halsted's sense and use of cocaine remarkably different from Freud's, his story inspires a different set of questions as well: is the highly-functioning addict a rarity because of the chemical properties of substances and the gloomy psychology of addiction? Or do we need to broaden our medical perspective to define forms of 'substance use' other than abuse and dependency, to allocate new spaces of meaning and value for the medicinal use of organic or synthetic material? Could (the restoration of) health be about the ability to set (new) normativities proper to one's ever-changing interactions with the biological and cultural surroundings, rather than complying to rigid categories of norms and functions imposed over the diversity of individuals, metabolisms, experiences?
Are there not innumerable healths, even to a single body?
"The Greek names of diseases, illness, infections and conditions stand as a timeless testament to the greek pioneers of medicine. The ancient Greeks were medically proficient to identify and name several diseases."
Neuroscience tells us the thing we take as our unified mind is an illusion, that our mind is not unified and can barely be said to “exist” at all. Our feeling of unity and control is a post-hoc confabulation and is easily fractured into separate parts. As revealed by scientific inquiry, what we call a mind (or a self, or a soul) is actually something that changes so much and is so uncertain that our pre-scientific language struggles to find meaning.
Buddhists say pretty much the same thing. They believe in an impermanent and illusory self made of shifting parts. They’ve even come up with language to address the problem between perception and belief. Their word for self is anatta, which is usually translated as ‘non self.’ One might try to refer to the self, but the word cleverly reminds one’s self that there is no such thing.
A good book on the subject is 'The Dalai Lama at MIT' -- a 2008 collection of the papers and research discussed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2003, a unique dialogue between Buddhist practioners and neurosecientists on the issues of perception, subjectivity, concentration, emotion and perspectivism.
"Over the centuries anatomy has become a visual vocabulary of realism. We regard the anatomical body as our inner reality, a medium through which we imagine society, culture and the human condition. Drawn mainly from the collections of the National Library of Medicine, Dream Anatomy shows off the anatomical imagination in some of its most astonishing incarnations, from 1500 to the present."
Never Let Me Go is easily one of the best movie releases of 2010, adapted from the latest book by Kazuo Ishiguro, also known for his novel the Remains of the Day (1989; 1993). Because I can kill with bare hands people who spoil movies and give away books' endings, suffice to say that it's a beautiful sci-fi story with themes relevant for this topic as well. Although, it is beyond me how a movie with such narrative layering gets to be promoted with a trailer this flat and awful. As much as it seems to be some salute to old-school trailers (over 2 minutes of bold revealations about the story line and introduction of characters, perhaps a sign of the director's confidence in the total affect of the final work), it quite literally hurts the story, presenting it in linear fashion and with campy sentiment. Just skip the trailer and watch Never Let Me Go. Subtle and strong.
"This is the first in a series of three lectures in which French philosopher Michel Foucault examines Western culture's conceptual development of individual subjectivity. He gave these lectures, in English, at UC Berkeley, beginning on April 12, 1983, roughly a year before he died."
Foucault re-visiting the main argument of the College de France lectures he gave the year before, which got published in 2005 with the title 'Hermeneutics of the Subject' (Hermeneutique du Sujet, 2001). Very, very good read.
image credit: Epilepticus sic curabitur ('The way to cure an epileptic') Sloane Manuscript, collection of medical manuscripts, end of the 12th century - British Museum, London.
"The surgical treatment of epilepsy is not a recent innovation. As early as ancient Greek and Roman times, and in the Middle Ages, trepanation (the opening of the skull) was occasionally carried out on people with epilepsy. There were many different reasons for doing this, however"
“As Western categories for diseases have gained dominance, micro-cultures that shape the illness experiences of individual patients are being discarded, Dr. Sing Lee says. The current has become too strong.”
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