Tommy - "mental illness"
- Dear ((((((((((((((((Tommy)))))))))))))))))))),
Firstly, may I thank u sincerely for your willingness to discuss this topic. Although at first it may appear to be off topic, philosophy is philosophy and true philosophical discussion will always include Sartre;))
I agree with Ronnie (R.D. Laing) in that thoughts of dualism must be rejected when it comes to being-for-oneself in a truly authentic experience of being in the world. While ever there is a distinction between mind, brain and body, there is no-thing complete. Being ever mindful of avoiding dualism, I am reluctant to distinguish between the mind and the brain and reject the suggestion that the brain contains no actual memories or sense impressions. While the likes of Ronnie, Thomas Szasz and Deleuze rejected the medical model of mental illness, I felt that to merely argue a one-sided case without significant knowledge of the medical model, was in itself a failure on my part. Consequently, I read and watched as many documentaries as I possibly could to gain some form of understanding.
Magnetic imaging has allowed us to observe the workings of the brain and work at a powerful pace it does. When the subject, wired up to show the brain's magnetic imagery, is shown a photo with familiar faces, a snap shot memory of a past experience, brain activity becomes frantic, as if some-thing, some entity, frantically sorts through an entire storehouse of snap shot memories or roles of file, of faces and dialogues to restore to thought a reminder of that occasion, event or process. As the mind has no recognition of this frantic process at that exact moment in time, the brain must take over thinking, the brain reconstituting and presenting the audio/visual recording of an event or process the mind had long forgotten. From birth, sense impressions, existential experience, active and reactive thoughts and emotions contribute to the structuring and development of the brain, where as Williamson pointed out, the brain is "essentially organized to filter and unify sensory information", ensuring that coherent responses can be made (p.17; "Mind, Brain, and Schizophrenia" by Peter Williamson MD; University of Western Ontario, Canada, Oxford University Press 2006).
While the brain plays an active part in thought processes, remembering, understanding and responding, I do not suggest for one moment that there exists a "naturally" dualistic state between brain and mind, or mind, brain and body. For while the mind, brain and body may appear to work independently, the activity of mind, brain and body share an interactive process and communication, where parts of the whole can have an affect upon other parts in this interactive process i.e. thought affecting the brain and body or the brain and body affecting thought.
Of course, the question is, can improper or harmful thoughts; thoughts creation of an "unnatural" dualistic, alienated or delusional state, be defined or considered to be an illness? If one has cancer or syphilis, the physical ailment and pain there from can affect one's thoughts, where in turn, thoughts can seemingly have an affect upon the physical form. However, a positive shift in focus of thought can cure what is defined as mental illness, while positive thought alone cannot cure cancer or syphilis.
Got this far when visitors arrived, but will begin this discussion again in the morning and sincerely welcome your comments.
Oh just a quick note, here is something else i wrote the other morning :-
Anxiety, helplessness, while totally in the "present", unlike the
majority of human beings, the subject is drowning in his/her own "emotion", anxiously "obsessed with
self and his/her position" or "lack" of position/direction or "lack or loss of self" (Buddhism), the subject in "bad faith" (Sartre) is unable to see beyond the point of now, in hopelessness, the subject is unable to look, plan or position his/her self in the future (Taylor, Heidegger & Deleuze), where with indecision and in "fear", the inability to either "fight " power struggles (Ronnie Laing) or take flight, the subject is stuck continually either releasing or withholding excessive amounts of dopamine, where as if with evidence of the self's "death wish" (hum perhaps Jung and or Freud etc), the excessive release or withholding of dopamine kills off the grey matter of the brain (neuroscience). This then becomes the self-fulfilling prophesy (Ronnie), where with the killing off of grey matter the subject descends into madness, into ultimate and inescapable death.
If one is overwhelmed by feelings of helplessness and hopelessness and fails to fight/stand up for oneself in power struggles or alternatively take flight/remove oneself from a hostile environment, could it be said that one has taken up a position of bad faith? Is a failure to make choices or face responsibility dwelling in bad faith?
The simplist explanation is generally the truth.
Kind Regards & Hugs
----- Original Message -----
From: Tommy Beavitt
Sent: Sunday, February 25, 2007 5:42 AM
Subject: [Sartre] "mental illness"
On 22 Feb 2007, at 01:38, Elaine wrote:
> When a patient with a trauma brain injury or stroke relearns, does
> this relearning restructure the brain?
At the risk of going off topic I would like to respond to this
You seem to be touching on a theme that is central to the century-old
rift that opened up between the Anglo-American school -with its
obsession with physical explanations and empiricism - and themes that
were developed in continental thought.
The former approach tends to concentrate its enquiry into mental
illness on damage to the physical organ of the brain. Medical
procedures based on this understanding tend to focus on chemical or
surgical approaches to fixing the damaged brain, from which it is
thought that mind and other related phenomena are "emergent properties".
Such thinking also tends to discount the free project of what Sartre
would call the being-for-itself to develop itself - presumably into a
functioning, self-conscious, sentient subject.
Heidegger invites the authentic human being to "become what you are"
and writes: "But who are 'you'? The one as whom you cast yourself
free - as who you become."
A good friend of mine, a psychiatrist who was influenced by Laing,
wrote his thesis comparing the brain with the structure of a tree.
Perhaps this is a good analogy for you.
A tree may be damaged, say by a lightning strike, but will often
recover although sometimes in a different shape from before. However,
even if the trunk is now horizontal or split, the essential shape of
the tree will be replicated in its new circumstances: branches
growing from the trunk, twigs from branches etc. Its form will
continue to mirror that of the brain, with a central trunk defining
two "halves" (viewed from any given perspective).
In order for it to recover from the damage it will require several
things to remain the case. Its roots must be still in the ground and
it must still continue to receive sunlight and carbon dioxide via its
In the analogy, the content of the brain is not the matter of the
tree's physical existence but its thoughts. We might compare its need
for blood flow with the mineral and moisture derived from the tree's
roots, but the tree's need for sunlight might be compared to healthy
brain's need for sense impressions - not just any sense impressions
but ones that actually "make sense"!
Here the analogy breaks down somewhat because what it is that makes
sense of sense impressions is the brain itself, or rather the mind.
(Perhaps here we fall to easily into physicalism because the physical
brain doesn't contain any actual memories or sense impressions.)
It seems to me that the human mind inclines itself towards meaning in
the same way that a plant organism like a tree aligns itself to
sunlight. An individual human brain cannot of itself derive meaning,
but a human mind, connected to other human minds through
communication, can. Meaning is a social construct, but it also
depends on an interpretative apparatus local to the perceiving
organism. When the social context distorts rather than positively
contextualises the communication that provides the mind (and
therefore the brain) with its meaningfully sensational nourishment,
this could be analogised in terms of our tree structure as something
that could cause the mind/brain structure to wither. But due perhaps
to a complex interaction between socially derived meaning and
individual interpretative apparatus, it could also take the form of a
cataclysmic breakdown where suddenly *nothing* makes sense.
But such a crisis could also, in the Sartrean sense, become the means
by which distorted social meaning that has resulted in the individual
adopting a bad faith position becomes undistorted. Most of us adopt
bad faith positions, some of us adopt no positions that are not in
bad faith. And these bad faith positions are all socially derived.
It seems to me that Heidegger offers more hope for the eventual re-
integration of the authentic person into his or her time than does
Sartre. His admonition to "become what you are" is not an appeal to
essentialism but rather that certain expressive talents can become so
refined and heightened that it is possible to re-integrate without
bad faith. And certainly no such authentic re-integration could take
place without a full and deep understanding of the previously
inauthentic existence and its causes.
I think that your project to try and understand this is very
interesting and relevant, and that the take on "mental illness" is a
very fertile way to proceed.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]