We claim that if a complete philosophy of evidence-based practice is intended, then attention to the nature of causation in health science is necessary. We identify how health science currently conceptualises causation by the way it prioritises some research methods over others. We then show how the current understanding of what causation is serves to constrain scientific progress. An alternative account of causation is offered. This is one of dispositionalism. We claim that by understanding causation from a dispositionalist stance, many (...) of the processes within an evidence-based practice framework are better accounted for. Further, some of the problems associated with the health research, e.g. external validity of causal findings, dissolve. (shrink)
Medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) remain recalcitrant to the medical profession, proving less suitable for homogenic treatment with respect to their aetiology, taxonomy and diagnosis. While the majority of existing medical research methods are designed for large scale population data and sufficiently homogenous groups, MUS are characterised by their heterogenic and complex nature. As a result, MUS seem to resist medical scrutiny in a way that other conditions do not. This paper approaches the problem of MUS from a philosophical point of (...) view. The aim is to first consider the epistemological problem of MUS in a wider ontological and phenomenological context, particularly in relation to causation. Second, the paper links current medical practice to certain ontological assumptions. Finally, the outlines of an alternative ontology of causation are offered which place characteristic features of MUS, such as genuine complexity, context-sensitivity, holism and medical uniqueness at the centre of any causal set-up, and not only for MUS. This alternative ontology provides a framework in which to better understand complex medical conditions in relation to both their nature and their associated research activity. (shrink)
What is the connection between dispositions and ethics? Some might think very little and those who are interested in dispositions tend to be metaphysicians whose interests are far from value. However, we argue in this paper that dispositions and dispositionality are central to ethics, indeed a precondition. Ethics rests on a number of notions that are either dispositional in nature or involve real dispositions or powers at work. We argue for a dispositional account of value that offers an alternative to (...) the traditional fact-value dichotomy. We explain the place of value within a structure that explains the possibility of ethics. Elsewhere in this structure, we argue that moral responsibility is a precondition for ethics and that it is a dispositional notion depending critically on what Mumford and Anjum have called the dispositional modality. Moral responsibility in turn depends on there being both agency and normativity. We argue that intentionality and agency are preconditions for agency and that value is a precondition of normativity. All these notions are dispositional and make best sense if there are real dispositions or causal powers of agents. (shrink)
In the twenty-second series of The Logic of Sense, Gilles Deleuze references a remarkable essay by Günther (Stern) Anders. Anders’ essay, translated here as ‘The Pathology of Freedom’, addresses the sickness and health of our negotiation with the negative anthropological condition of ‘not being cut out for the world’.
Anders, Rudi I enjoy mixing with people who hold different beliefs from mine. Belief is a very complex and rather odd thing. I am particularly interested in the psychology of belief. Sometimes belief is the cause of terrible conflict and suffering.
Anders, Rudi Mathematics is objective and unambiguous, but as soon as mathematics is applied to anything in the human world, human values complicate the issues. Two apples for two people equals one apple for each person, but compassion for a starving person, or other human values, can alter the outcome.
Anders, Rudi Mental conditioning is like gravity; it feels so normal and ever-present that it often goes unnoticed, but it influences much human behaviour. I am not free when I am not aware how my ideas and attitudes are absorbed from my culture, family, the media and peers. It takes courage to stand alone.
Anders, Rudi When I see a colourful sunset, my mind goes to a spectacular purple sunset I saw near the Mexican border many years ago. That memory stops me from being fully aware of the scene in front of me. No two sunsets are the same and my memory is stopping me from fully appreciating the spectacle before my eyes. Famous and spectacular places don't work for me because expectations and memories get in the way, but when I walk (...) alone in nature I find my mind stops chattering and I begin to effortlessly notice the shades of green in the foliage, the patterns in the bark on the trees and the sounds and fragrances. It sometimes feels as if am absorbed by the surroundings. When this happens I don't bother with the names of birds or flowers because even that distracts from direct experience. (shrink)
Anders, Rudi Sometimes it is nice to do something totally unconnected to the usual bustle of life, such as a walk in the park. This time I visit a German Lutheran church in Melbourne; I have never entered it before. The exterior and interior consistently retain the traditional design. The bluestone gives it a sense of permanence - timelessness. I rarely like modern churches; mixing modern and traditional never works for me. This church is not large and has an (...) intimate feel to it. The people are all smiles. I like people, regardless of their beliefs. Family groups look like they feel at home, and visitors like me are made welcome. I sit and admire the skill of the craftsmen who attended to every detail in the church. They didn't have the modern machines we take for granted. (shrink)
Anders, Rudi The articles in AH I like best are the ones with which I disagree to a greater or lesser degree, because they force me to re-think and clarify my position. One such article was by John Perkins, titled 'Let's admit that Islam is a problem'. Although the article is very well-written, and I admire John's fact-finding regarding Islam, I think he misses the elephant in the room. Namely, Christian Europe and North America killed far more people than (...) Islam ever did. Buddhist and Shinto Japan did shocking things in the last world war. Jews in Israel ignore the rights of Palestinians. The atheist communist Soviet Union was as bad as Christian Czarist Russia. There is gross injustice in Hindu India. I don't think Islam should be singled out as a problem. I agree that religion can be a problem but the many atheist dictators, for example: Napoleon Bonaparte, Mussolini and Stalin, are also a problem, so atheism as such is not a guarantee of justice. (shrink)
All health care systems face problems of justice and efficiency related to setting priorities for allocating a limited pool of resources to a population. Because many of the central issues are the same in all systems, the United States and other countries can learn from the successes and failures of countries that have explicitly addressed the question of health care priorities. We review explicit priority setting efforts in Norway, Sweden, Israel, the Netherlands, Denmark, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the (...) state of Oregon in the US. The approaches used can be divided into those centered on outlining principles versus those that define practices. In order to establish the main lessons from their experiences we consider the process each country used, criteria to judge the success of these efforts, which approaches seem to have met these criteria, and using their successes and failures as a guide, how to proceed in setting priorities. We demonstrate that there is little evidence that establishment of a values framework for priority setting has had any effect on health policy, nor is there evidence that priority setting exercises have led to the envisaged ideal of an open and participatory public involvement in decision making. (shrink)
The World Medical Association’s revised Declaration of Helsinki endorses the view that all trial participants in every country are entitled to the worldwide best standard of care. In this paper the authors show that this requirement has been rejected by every national and international committee that has examined this issue. They argue that the consensus view now holds that it is ethically permissible, in some circumstances, to provide research participants less than the worldwide best care. Finally, the authors show that (...) there is also consensus regarding the broad conditions under which this is acceptable. (shrink)
Many religiously minded materialist philosophers have attempted to understand the doctrine of the survival of death from within a physicalist approach. Their goal is not to show the doctrine false, but to explain how it can be true. One such approach has been developed by Peter van Inwagen. After explaining what I call the duplication objection, I present van Inwagen’s proposal and show how a proponent might attempt to solve the problem of duplication. I argue that the very features of (...) the view that aid the proponent in responding to the duplication objection entails the possibility of an impossible state of affairs—that two distinct persons can at the same time be identical with the same bundle of material simples. The religiously minded materialist is caught between the horns of a dilemma. One’s view regarding human persons must be robust enough to account for personal identity over time, and so not fall to the duplication objection. At the same time, the view must not entail the possibility of two persons temporarily having complete coincident existence. (shrink)
It has been suggested that focusing on procedures when setting priorities for health care avoids the conflicts that arise when attempting to agree on principles. A prominent example of this approach is “accountability for reasonableness.” We will argue that the same problem arises with procedural accounts; reasonable people will disagree about central elements in the process. We consider the procedural condition of appeal process and three examples of conflicts over coverage decisions: a patients’ rights law in Norway, health technologies coverage (...) recommendations in the UK, and care withheld by HMOs in the US. In each case a process is at the center of controversy, illustrating the difficulties in establishing procedures that are widely accepted as legitimate. Further work must be done in developing procedural frameworks. (shrink)
Background: Sharing of tissue samples for research and disease surveillance purposes has become increasingly important. While it is clear that this is an area of intense, international controversy, there is an absence of data about what researchers themselves and those involved in the transfer of samples think about these issues, particularly in developing countries. Methods: A survey was carried out in a number of Asian countries and in Egypt to explore what researchers and others involved in research, storage and transfer (...) of human tissue samples thought about some of the issues related to sharing of such samples. Results: The results demonstrated broad agreement with the positions taken by developing countries in the current debate, favoring quite severe restrictions on the use of samples by developed countries. Conclusions: It is recommended that an international agreement is developed on what conditions should be attached to any sharing of human tissue samples across borders. (shrink)
The term “globalization” was popularized by Marshall McLuhan in War and Peace in the Global Village. In the book, McLuhan described how the global media shaped current events surrounding the Vietnam War  and also predicted how modern information and communication technologies would accelerate world progress through trade and knowledge development. Globalization now refers to a broad range of issues regarding the movement of goods and services through trade liberalization, and the movement of people through migration. Much has also been (...) written on the global effects of environmental degradation, population growth, and economic disparities. In addition, the pace of scientific development has accelerated, with both negative and positive implications for global health. Concerns for national health transcend borders, with a need for shared human security and an enhanced role for international cooperation and development . These issues have significant bioethical implications, and thus a renewed academic focus on the ethical dimensions of public health is needed. Future developments in science and health policy also require a firm grounding in bioethical principles. These core principles include beneficence; nonmaleficence ; respect for persons and human dignity ; and attention to equity and social justice. According to the World Health Organization , global ethical approaches should monitor and update ethical norms for research, as necessary; anticipate ethical implications of advances in science and technology for health; apply internationally accepted codes of ethics; ensure that agreed standards guide future work on the human genome; and ensure that quality in health systems and services is assessed and promoted. (shrink)
This article tries to present a broad view on the values and ethicalissues that are at stake in efforts to rationalize health policy on thebasis of economic evaluations (like cost-effectiveness analysis) andrandomly controlled clinical trials. Though such a rationalization isgenerally seen as an objective and `value free' process, moral valuesoften play a hidden role, not only in the production of `evidence', butalso in the way this evidence is used in policy making. For example, thedefinition of effectiveness of medical treatment or (...) health care serviceis heavily dependent on dominant individual or social views about thegoals of the particular treatment or service. There is also a concernthat a reliance on EBM in health policy will occur at the expense ofwidely shared social values like equity and solidarity. Moreover, thereis a concern that when economic considerations and rational proceduresbecome more influential, various `outside' groups third parties likeinsurance companies and policy makers will get a stronger influence onmedical practice which may lead to a change in the patient-providerrelationship. The authors conclude that social values and patientpreference should be explicitly addressed when health policy making isbased on economic and other scientific evidence. (shrink)
In this paper, the author argues that the requirement to conduct randomised clinical trials to inform policy in cases where one wants to identify a cheaper alternative to known effective but expensive interventions raises an important ethical issue. This situation will eventually arise whenever there are resource constraints, and a policy decision has been made not to fund an intervention on cost effectiveness grounds. It has been thought that this is an issue only in extremely resource poor settings. This paper (...) gives an example from the United Kingdom illustrating that this is also a problem faced by richer countries. (shrink)
This paper gives an account of theory structure in the biomedical sciences with particular emphasis on cardiology. Rather than regarding theories as axiomatizable sets of statements (the so-called received view), theories are regarded as answers to questions which are accepted as legitimate and interesting by scientists within a field of investigation at a given time. This account of theory structure is used to distinguish between theories which are quite liable to be revised during the course of scientific investigation, here called (...) theories within the field, and theories which are more securely established, here called theories of the field. These latter theories can also be regarded as patterns of reasoning which are applied again and again to answer the questions of the field. It is argued that the distinction proposed in this paper fits our intuitive understanding of what it means for a theory to be securely established within a field of research. Several examples are given which show the problems of justifying clinical intervention solely on the basis of theories within the field. (shrink)
Decision analysts sometimes use the results of clinical trials in order to evaluate treatment alternatives. I discuss some problems associated with this, and in particular I point out that it is not valid to use the estimates from clinical trials as the probabilities of events which are needed for decision analysis. I also attempt to show that an approach based on objective statistical theory may have advantages over commonly used methods based on decision theory. These advantages include the recognition of (...) uncertain data, the introduction of a third alternative, namely suspension of judgement, and the possibility of modifying the choice of probabilities based on a clinical trial with reference to other available knowledge. I have not, however, shown in detail how this modification is done, but I think the concept is sufficiently promising to be applied to an actual clinical decision problem. (shrink)
This article presents a case study from the history of cardiology, namely, the development towards the acceptance of the coronary theory of angina pectoris. I show that the arguments which were considered decisive against the theory were not answered at the time the theory was accepted. I also point out that the experimental and practical success of the theory cannot be used to support the initial choice because, in the subsequent development, the field researchers became preoccupied with new questions and (...) problems. In spite of this, there is a sense in which the field of angina research has progressed, but it remains a challenge to exactly characterise in what sense this is the case. (shrink)
In this issue, Alex London and Kevin Zollman provide an analysis of an influential approach to the ethics of international research, known as the “fair benefits” approach. According to them, the fair benefits approach suffers from a fatal flaw: it is either too vague to be useful, or worse, is internally inconsistent. The fair benefits approach was developed based on a presentation I gave at a workshop organized in Malawi in March 2001 by the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center’s (...) Department of Bioethics. In this presentation, I made what I still think is a valid point, which was accepted by the diverse group of participants and formed the basis of the subsequent publications: One should not .. (shrink)
It is a remarkable fact about the development of medical ethics from the 1960s until today that there has been a dramatic shift from a position where it was taken for granted that the physician knows best, to a position where much greater emphasis is put on the patient’s treatment preferences. This shift is evident with regard to physician attitudes towards disclosing a cancer diagnosis. For example, in 1961, a survey of cancer physicians showed that almost 90% of the physicians (...) reported that their usual policy was not to tell their patients that they had cancer . The survey was repeated in 1979, and it showed a complete reversal in attitudes over this 20-year period. 90% reported that their usual policy was to tell their patients that they had cancer .One common way of justifying the new approach is to claim that patients have a right to make their own treatment decisions, referring to the basic value of patient autonomy. However, it is immediately obvious that physicians should not respect all choices made by patients. Consider the following case: A thirty-eight-year-old man with mild upper respiratory infection suddenly developed severe headache, stiff neck, and high fever. He went to an emergency room for help. The diagnosis was pneumococcal meningitis, a bacterial meningitis almost always fatal if not treated. If treatment is delayed, permanent neurological damage is likely. A physician told the patient that urgent treatment was needed to save his life and forestall brain damage. The patient refused to consent to treatment saying he wanted to be allowed to die .Very few, if any, physicians would respect this person’s treatment choice. The reason is that this patient is not competent to make his own decisions. Respect for autonomy only requires that the choices of patients who are competent to make their own decisions are honoured. Judgements about which patients are competent to make their own decisions therefore become crucial. (shrink)
This chapter will examine two puzzles that percolate Husserl’s On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time (PITC). They concern: (1) whether or not memory is pictorial and (2) whether or not the temporal determinations (past, now, future, etc.) are categories. Considering these aporetic discussions helps us to understand the time diagrams Husserl uses, as well as some of the motivation behind Husserl’s talk of the two intentionalities of retention and his talk of the time-constituting flow. Moreover, this approach (...) to PITC helps to highlight the role that aporetic considerations play in phenomenological investigation more generally. (shrink)
The lie detector test has long been treated with suspicion by the law. Recently, several authors have called this suspicion into question. They argue that the lie detector test may have considerable forensic benefits, particularly if we move past the classic, false-positive prone, autonomic nervous system-based (ANS-based) control question test, to the more reliable, brain-based, concealed information test. These authors typically rely on a “comparative advantage” argument to make their case. According to this argument, we should not be so suspicious (...) of lie detection evidence if it has comparative advantages over the epistemic methods currently utilised by the legal system. In this article, I add to this growing support by making a novel comparative advantage argument in favour of brain-based lie detection evidence. The argument focuses on the P300 concealed information test (P300 CIT), which has several unique properties, and on the effect it may have on pre-trial bargaining in criminal cases rather than in-court evidence. The thesis is that P300 CIT could allow for innocent defendants to credibly signal their innocence to investigators and prosecutors during pre-trial bargaining more effectively than current proposed methods for doing the same thing. I defend this argument from a number of objections, and suggest that it opens up an interesting avenue in the ongoing debate about the merits of this technology. Although the argument is presented with the criminal law in mind, it could form part of a more general cumulative case in favour of this technology. (shrink)
More than four years ago, Anders Breivik launched his apocalyptic raid in Norway. His killing raid was not an action standing on its own but a statement to invite people to read his manifesto called 2083. A European Declaration of Independence. The highly despicable and disgusting mission of Anders Breivik addresses us whether we like it or not. Maybe there are good reasons to read and analyze Breivik’s ‘oration?’ He confronts us with many questions we cannot simply run (...) away from: What about the Islamization? How could this happen in secular Norway? What about the role of religion in European societies? In this article, I will argue that Breivik’s plea can only happen from within a secular society in which the homogeneity already has been lost, which allows him to deal with religion and politics on a very specific basis. In no way whatsoever, the context of our secular society forced Breivik to do what he did. However Breivik could only construct his actions and ideas within the (Christian) democratic context he lives in. I will analyze this with the writings of Hannah Arendt on political theology and the complex relationship between politics and religion and a late secular society. (shrink)
On 22 July, 2011, we were confronted with the horror of the actions of Anders Behring Breivik. The instant reaction, as we have seen with similar incidents in the past—such as the Oklahoma City bombings—was to attempt to explain the incident. Whether the reasons given were true or not were irrelevant: the fact that there was a reason was better than if there were none. We should not dismiss those that continue to cling on to the initial claims of (...) a wider Jihadist plot behind the actions of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols as Islamophobes (or merely lacking common sense): for, it is often easier to rely on reason—no matter how fictional—than not to have anything to cling on at all. In many ways, it is even better if the reason is fictional: for, if grounded in a certain fact, or reality, it can then go away. However, if it is in the realm of the imaginary, it is then always already metaphorical: thus, can be applied to any and every situation. And it is this, if we echo Friedrich Nietzsche, that gives us our “metaphysical comfort”; that we can know what is going on. This is why conspiracy theories are so popular: underlying them is the logic that someone—no matter how implausible—is in control of the situation. One would rather believe that all acts of terror stemmed from Osama bin Laden (and the narrative worked even better when he was in a ‘cave in Afghanistan’) than if they were the actions, and decisions, of singular individuals. For, if there is a head organizing everything, it can be cut off; there is no controlling a mass of singularities. As Jean Baudrillard continues to teach us, the term ‘mass’ is not a concept. It is a leitmotif of political demagogy, a soft, sticky, lumpen-analytical notion. A good sociology would attempt to surpass it with ‘more subtle’ categories: socio-professional ones, categories of class, cultural status, etc. This is wrong: it is by prowling around these soft and acritical notions (like ‘mana’ once was) that one can go further than intelligent critical sociology. Besides, it will be noticed retrospectively that the concepts ‘class’, ‘social relations’, ‘power’, ‘status’, ‘institution’, and ‘social’ itself—all these too-explicit concepts which are the glory of the legitimate sciences—but also only ever been muddled notions themselves, but notions upon which agreement has nevertheless been reached for mysterious ends: those of preserving a certain code of analysis. To want to specify the term ‘mass’ is a mistake—it is to provide meaning for that which has none.1 And it is this lack of meaning—this nothingness of not only the mass, but our inability to know in general—that truly scares us. For, if we are never able to legitimately make a generalizing statement, this suggests that we can never actually posit beyond a singular, situational, moment. Hence, we can never claim to know anyone: at best, we can only catch momentary glimpses. It is for this very reason that the insanity plea Breivik’s lawyer will attempt is the one that horrifies us the most. For, if Breivik is insane, this foregrounds our inability to understand, know. And as Aristotle has taught us, it is more important that something is plausible than if something were probable—in this context, we would rather have Breivik as a calculating mass murderer than someone who was completely out of his mind. This is especially ironic in the light of the fact that none of us would say that we have any similarity with Breivik. If that were so, the declaration that he was mad should be no more than a logical consequence. However, we also want Breivik to be accountable for his actions. And in order for that to be so, we need him to be of sound mind. But if that were true, we can then no longer distinguish ourselves from him. And it is precisely this that scares us. For, we are horrified not when there are abnormalities to our way of life. There are usually two different reactions to this—either oppose and destroy it; or subsume it under the dominant logic. We see this most clearly in reactions to immigration: there are either calls for immigrants to ‘pack up and leave’ or pseudo-liberal notions of ‘we are all alike’. Both of which are merely version of “all men are brothers”—the brutal translation of which is that you are my brother if you live the same way as me; otherwise not only are you not my brother, you are also potentially not part of mankind (you might as well be, to echo Giorgio Agamben, bare life ). This is played out in our age of what is commonly termed post-political bio-politics —an instance of horribly awkward theoretical jargon that Slavoj Žižek channeling Agamben unpacks rather elegantly: “ post-politics is a politics which claims to leave behind old ideological struggles and, instead, focus[es] on expert management and administration, while bio-politics designates the regulation of the security and welfare of human lives as its primary goal.”2 Žižek continues: Post-political bio-politics also has two aspects which cannot but appear to belong to two opposite ideological spaces: that of the reduction of humans to ‘bare life,’ to Homo sacer , that so-called sacred being who is the object of expert caretaking knowledge, but is excluded, like prisoners at Guantanamo or Holocaust victims, from all rights; and that of respect for the vulnerable Other brought to an extreme through an attitude of narcissistic subjectivity which experiences the self as vulnerable, constantly exposed to a multitude of potential harassments [….] What these two poles share is precisely the underlying refusal of any higher causes, the notion that the ultimate goal of our lives is life itself. That is why there is no contradiction between the respect for the vulnerable Other and […] the extreme expression of treating individuals as Homini sacer .3 This is why the ones that are harshest towards new immigrants are the recently naturalized citizens of any country. For, if there is no longer any “ideological struggle” and all life is reduced to mere automaton-living, there is the realization that we are all the same—not in a tree-hugging hippie sense—but that the immigrant is the same as us precisely because we are all immigrants. And since all nations, and by extension peoples in a nation (especially those who believe in the notion of nationality, and national identity), have to find some manner, no matter from where or what it is, to distinguish themselves from those around them, the other (in spite, and especially in the light, of its absence) is the most crucial aspect of the discourse of nationality. More precisely, in the interests of what Baudrillard calls “preserving a certain code of analysis” (nationality in this case), what has to be maintained is the absolute otherness of the other. Very rarely is Boris Johnson right: “it is not enough to say he is mad. Anders Breivik is patently mad.”4 However, much like Breivik in his manifesto, he should have stopped whilst he was ahead. By attempting to diagnose Breivik—“the fundamental reasons for their callous behavior lie deep in their own sense of rejection and alienation. It is the ideology that gives them the ostensible cause … that gives them an excuse to dramatize the resentment … and to kill.”—Johnson falls into the same trap that he accuses others of: “to try to advance any other explanation for their actions … is simply to play their self-important game.” More crucially, and this is the point that Johnson completely misses, attempting to rationalize Breivik’s actions—to rehabilitate reason—is a desperate attempt at maintaining his otherness. In fact, we’ll end up going one step further, insist on Breivik’s sanity, put him on the stand, and hope that he will display such a difference from all of us that we can rest safe that we are unlike him and his kind. That, in itself, is a dangerous game to play. One should not forget that the turning point in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is in the central part of her novel where she lets the monster speak. At that moment, the monster moves from an ‘it’ to a fully subjectivized person; with his own stories, historicities, emotions, and so on. In Slavoj Žižek’s reading of Frankenstein , this is the moment where “the ultimate criminal is thus allowed to present himself as the ultimate victim. The monstrous murderer reveals himself to be a deeply hurt and desperate individual, yearning for company and love.”5 But, in the case of Breivik, this goes beyond just a risk of us feeling for him: for, no right-minded person should ever deny another the opportunity to put forth her or his own case. The problem lies with us trying to deny the madness of Breivik’s act by putting him back under reason. The problem is in our inability to differentiate the act from the person; the singular from the universal.6 In our desperation to preserve the notion that we are rational beings incapable of becoming monsters, we’ve had to deny the meaninglessness—in the strict sense of it lying outside of reason—of Breivik’ act; we’ve had to “provide meaning where there is none.” For, if this act were a moment of madness—a moment that comes from elsewhere—we cannot say that it will not descend upon us one day. If Breivik’s actions were that of a sane person, one who is in control of his being, his self, we can then locate the otherness in his being. More importantly, this would allow us to distinguish ourselves from that said being. Breivik’s sanity is the only thing that allows us to say that ‘this act of terror is borne out of one with an ultra-right ideology’; and ‘since I am not of that ideology, I would never do such a thing’. By doing that, we attempt to protect ourselves by claiming that people who share Breivik’s ideology are foreign to us, other to us. However, if Breivik’s act was a moment of insanity, his otherness is no longer locatable: and the notion of ‘us and them’ shifts from a geographical, physical, religious, or cultural notion, to one in the realm of ideas. And this is what truly scares us. For, if what is foreign is not phenomenological, then it cannot be seen, detected, sensed. Anders Behring Breivik, Timothy McVeigh, and Terry Nichols, terrify us not merely for the fact that they were white in a white society, but more pertinently that their skin color did not matter: we would not be able to spot them even if they were blue, even if they were right next to us, even if we had known them all our lives. Even as we are grappling with holding Breivik accountable by declaring him of sound mind, what truly terrifies us is that deep down we know that Breivik’s act is a moment of madness; beyond all comprehensibility. And this means that we would not be able to spot the idea; even if it were in our heads at this very moment. We have gone to lengths to rehabilitate Breivik, McVeigh, Nichols, and such perpetrators of massive incomprehensible violence, in order to preserve our difference from them. What we have really been trying to deny is the fact that everyone, at any given moment, could have a moment of madness. And this is the true radicality of Mary Shelley: in allowing us to momentarily enter the head of the monster, she shows us not just the fact that he is like any one of us, but that any one of us could, in the right (or wrong) circumstance, be like him. Perhaps here, there is a lesson to be learned from Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street . The most dangerous thing that one could do on Elm Street was to mention Freddy’s name—once you had knowledge of him, you were open to the possibility of a visit during your dreams. This suggests that Freddy is a combination of externalities (after all, when you die, he survives) and your self (if you have never heard of him, he cannot come for you). In this sense, Freddy would be the manifestation par excellence of what Avital Ronell calls a “killer text”—it is one’s relationality with the text (and the ideas, notions, in the said text) that opens oneself to it, to the lessons of the text, to being changed, affected, even to the dangers of the text. After all, one should never forget Plato’s warning that ideas can corrupt, can be perilous. To compound matters, as Ronell reminds us, “the connection to the other is a reading—not an interpretation, assimilation, or even a hermeneutic understanding, but a reading.”7 Thus, in attempting to differentiate ourselves from Breivik by concocting some reason(s) why we are not like him, we have done nothing but read him, open a connection to him. *** Bang bang, he shot me down Bang bang, I hit the ground Bang bang, that awful sound Bang bang, my baby shot me down. “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” Sonny Bono, 1966. This is the part that we all know and remember. Whilst never quite remembering that this is a song that is not so much about violence, love, but about remembering. For, after the bridge comes the accusatory stanza: “Now he's gone, I don't know why/ And till this day, sometimes I cry/ He didn't even say goodbye/ He didn't take the time to lie.” Bang Bang is a game that the two lovers used to play; and all she has now is the memory of the game to remember him by. And the only reason she has to recall this game is: he never provided her a reason for his leaving, his death. Not that she will, can, ever get that satisfactory answer. This is precisely the game we are playing with Anders Behring Breivik. Even though he has left a 1500 page manifesto, even though we will allow him to use the court-room as his platform, we will continue screaming at him “tell me why …” For, what we want him to say is that we are not like him: what we really want him to do is, “take the time to lie …” Perhaps here, we should allow the echo of the infans to resound in baby . As Christopher Fynsk reminds us, the infans is one that is pre-language, pre-knowing, pre-understanding: it is the very finitude, and exteriority, of relationality itself.8 And thus, it is a position of openness to the fullness of possibility—and nothing else. This would be, in Ronell’s terms, a “connection to the other” that knows nothing other than the fact that it is a connection. The true horror of 22 July, 2011, is the fact that it is not Anders Behring Breivik who is mad, but the act itself that is. And this is precisely why only “my baby” that could have “shot me down.” For, it is an act that is from beyond, a sheer act of madness that—as Plato warns us—is whispered into our ears (and can so easily be mistaken for inspiration, and even wisdom), an act that can both seize, and cease, us at the same time. And what can this utter openness to an other, the other, be but a moment of love, a true ‘falling in love’. At the moment of whispering, nothing can be known as we are babies as our baby shoots us down …. Hence, all attempts at analyzing this event (including this one) are not only futile, but border on the farcical. The real tragedy is that we forget that all of us have the possibility of becoming Breivik. NOTES Jean Baudrillard. In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities . Trans. Paul Foss, John Johnston, Paul Patton, & Andrew Berardini. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2007. p. 37. Slavoj Žižek. Violence: Six Sideway Reflections . London: Profile Books, 2009. p. 34 Ibid: 35-36. Boris Johnson. “ Anders Breivik: There is nothing to study in the mind of Norway’s mass killer .” The Telegraph . (25 July, 2011): Slavoj Žižek. Violence: Six Sideway Reflections . London: Profile Books, 2009. p.39. What is killing us is the notion that Breivik’s act is beyond reason, beyond knowing, outside understanding itself. This is why Boris Johnson’s plea was for us to ignore Breivik as a madman. But to do so, Johnson conflates the notion of the act and the person; the singular and the universal. This is exactly the same gesture as insisting on his sanity: the ‘madman’ is merely the absolute other, one that we are not. Avital Ronell. The Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech . Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989: 380. Christopher Fynsk. Infant Figures: The Death of the Infans and Other Scenes of Origin . Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000.  . (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that companies who use functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans for lie detection encounter the same basic ethical stumbling blocks as commercial companies that market traditional polygraphs. Markets in traditional voluntary polygraphs are common and fail to elicit much uproar among ethicists. Thus, for consistency, if markets in polygraphs are ethically unproblematic, markets using fMRIs for lie detection are equally as acceptable. Furthermore, while I acknowledge two substantial differences between the ethical concerns involving polygraphs and (...) fMRI lie detection, I argue that these concerns can be overcome and do not lead to the conclusion that markets in fMRI lie detection are ethically dubious. It is my conclusion that voluntary markets in fMRI lie detection can be justified by consumer autonomy and should be allowed to persist. (shrink)
Wenn es aber Wirklichkeitssinn gibt, und niemand wird bezweifeln, daß er seine Daseinsberechtigung hat, dann muß es auch etwas geben, das man Möglichkeitssinn nennen kann. Wer ihn besitzt, sagt beispielsweise nicht: Hier ist dies oder das geschehen, wird geschehen, muß geschehen; sondern er erfindet: Hier könnte, sollte oder müßte geschehn; und wenn man ihm von irgend etwas erklärt, daß es so sei, wie es sei, dann denkt er: Nun, es könnte wahrscheinlich auch anders sein. So ließe sich der Möglichkeitssinn (...) geradezu als die Fähigkeit definieren, alles, was ebensogut sein könnte, zu denken und das, was ist, nicht wichtiger zu nehmen als das, was nicht ist. (shrink)
This book is the first to discuss, for an English-speaking audience, the ideas of the German-Jewish man of letters, thinker, and activist Günther Anders. Anders is one of few philosophers to deal intensely with the moral consequences of Auschwitz and Hiroshima. He can rightly be called the philosopher of the atomic age, and his thinking a philosophy of modern technology. In biting manifestoes, sharp aphorisms, and penetrating essays, in stirring diary notes and political fables, Anders strikes out (...) the age in which we live. As a twentieth-century visionary, he exposes the absence of the moral and social imaginations that is necessary to prevent our history from ending in a total catastrophe. In the gap between our technical creations and our utter inability to imagine their destructive potential lies the basis for the unstoppable activity of this practical philosopher. From every possible angle, he attempts to comprehend this modern schizophrenia in its roots and consequences. Anders is one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century. He tried to describe and analyze the variety of manifestations of the “self-destructive progress of our technical civilization,” which makes humanity into an “anti-quated” sort. He diagnosed countless important problems, ranging from the world of media to the dictates of the world of machinery, and he investigated their social, political, and philosophical meaning. To read his writings is more than becoming acquainted with a rich and colorful philosopher. It is more than an encounter with a moving and passionate individual. It is ultimately a confrontation with oneself, with our own guilt and responsibility, with our personal hopes and fears, with our lack of imagination and with our need to recover it. (shrink)
Michael Pardo and Dennis Patterson have recently put forward several provocative and stimulating criticisms that strike at the heart of much work that has been done at the crossroads of neuroscience and the law. My goal in this essay is to argue that their criticisms of the nascent but growing field of neurolaw are ultimately based on questionable assumptions concerning the nature of the ever evolving relationship between scientific discovery and ordinary language. For while the marriage between ordinary language and (...) scientific discovery is admittedly not always a happy one, it is an awkward union that nevertheless seems to work itself out with the passage of time. In the following pages, I will try to show that Pardo and Patterson’s primary argumentative strategy ultimately depends on basic assumptions concerning the fixity of language that we should reject. (shrink)
In this sequence of philosophical essays about natural science, the author argues that fundamental explanatory laws, the deepest and most admired successes of modern physics, do not in fact describe regularities that exist in nature. Cartwright draws from many real-life examples to propound a novel distinction: that theoretical entities, and the complex and localized laws that describe them, can be interpreted realistically, but the simple unifying laws of basic theory cannot.