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Rescooped by Luka Tomas from Philosophy everywhere everywhen
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The Mind’s Compartments Create Conflicting Beliefs: Scientific American

How our modular brains lead us to deny and distort evidence

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If you have pondered how intelligent and educated people can, in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence, believe that evolution is a myth, that global warming is a hoax, that vaccines cause autism and asthma, that 9/11 was orchestrated by the Bush administration, conjecture no more. The explanation is in what I call logic-tight compartments—modules in the brain analogous to watertight compartments in a ship.

The concept of compartmentalized brain functions acting either in concert or in conflict has been a core idea of evolutionary psychology since the early 1990s. According to University of Pennsylvania evolutionary psychologist Robert Kurzban in Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite (Princeton University Press, 2010), the brain evolved as a modular, multitasking problem-solving organ—a Swiss Army knife of practical tools in the old metaphor or an app-loaded iPhone in Kurzban's upgrade. There is no unified “self” that generates internally consistent and seamlessly coherent beliefs devoid of conflict. Instead we are a collection of distinct but interacting modules often at odds with one another. The module that leads us to crave sweet and fatty foods in the short term is in conflict with the module that monitors our body image and health in the long term. The module for cooperation is in conflict with the one for competition, as are the modules for altruism and avarice or the modules for truth telling and lying.

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Rescooped by Luka Tomas from Philosophy everywhere everywhen
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Depression and the Limits of Psychiatry

The recent revisions to the DSM's definition of depression are based on a questionable conception of what is "normal." Why is that dangerous?

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At the center of that critique is Foucault’s claim that modern psychiatry, while purporting to be grounded in scientific truths, is primarily a system of moral judgments. “What we call psychiatric practice,” he says, “is a certain moral tactic . . . covered over by the myths of positivism.”  Indeed, what psychiatry presents as the “liberation of the mad” (from mental illness) is in fact a “gigantic moral imprisonment.”

Foucault may well be letting his rhetoric outstrip the truth, but his essential point requires serious consideration.  Psychiatric practice does seem to be based on implicit moral assumptions in addition to explicit empirical considerations, and efforts to treat mental illness can be society’s way of controlling what it views as immoral (or otherwise undesirable) behavior. Not long ago, homosexuals and women who rejected their stereotypical roles were judged “mentally ill,”and there’s no guarantee that even today psychiatry is free of similarly dubious judgments.   Much later, in a more subdued tone, Foucault said that the point of his social critiques was “not that everything is bad but that everything is dangerous.”  We can best take his critique of psychiatry in this moderated sense.


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