Tuesday 31 October 2006

Peculiar Tastes

David Hume famously argued that rationality had everything to do with formal consistency of our choices, and nothing to do with the content of our individual preferences; Hume thought motives and preferences were immune to choice and argument. In this view, there is no way you could rationally judge a preference:

'Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger. 'Tis not contrary to reason for me to chuse my total ruin, to prevent the least uneasiness of an Indian or person wholly unknown to me. (Treatise of Human Nature, III.3).

This view has more or less become common currency among economists and rational choice theorists. But even they reject as mad some behaviors based on highly unusual preferences - what do you think, for example, of the man who fucked up his whole life for the pleasure of having a naked woman with rubber gloves clean up his house?


Friday 6 October 2006

In madness they mistrust

A short notice of a short paper investigating whether clinicians hold an essentialist view on mental disorders, i.e. whether they consider that mental disorders represent natural kinds possessing "an underlying reality or true nature, shared by members of [the same] category". What is your guess? Well, clinicians doubt it, at least much more than for other medical disorders.

Adapted from The Cure of Folly, by H. Bosch, 1475

The 19th century German psychatrist Emil Kraepelin submitted to the medieval Cure of Folly. Adapted from The Cure of Folly by Hieronymus Bosch, ca. 1475, now at the Museo del Prado, Madrid. See commentary on the original painting by C. G. Gross.


Friday 8 September 2006

the "Autism Epidemics" Scare is back

10 years ago, a supposed Autism Epidemics was blamed on peanut butter, mercury in vaccines, drugs, asbestos, television (or whatever you're mad at) ; today, claims of an autism epidemics are back, more solidly grounded. An Israeli study disclosed this week reveals that father's age increases the risk for autism.


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