Neuroscience, know thyself

The New English Review has a thought-provoking article by Theodore Dalrymple (the pen name of psychiatrist Anthony Daniels) who argues that modern neuroscience will not be able to provide a perfect self-understanding, and even if it could, disaster would follow.

Dalrymple is an interesting character, as he’s one of the few conservative writers in the area of mind, brain and mental health who has both experience of working in psychiatry across the world, and a vast academic knowledge.

His writing is distinctly against the mainstream of much modern medicine, particularly in the field of addiction, which, he argues, is often explained by social factors that minimise personal responsibility and disempower the patient.

In this article, Dalrymple argues against the enthusiasm for neuroscience as the ‘great new hope’ which has captured popular imagination in recent decades.

Those who say that we are on the verge of a huge increase in self-understanding are claiming that enlightenment will suddenly be reached under the scientific bo tree. The enlightenment will have to be sudden rather than gradual because, if it were gradual, we should already be able to point to an increase in human contentment and self-control brought about by our already increased knowledge. But even the most advanced societies are just as full of angst, or poor impulse control, of existential bewilderment, of adherence to clearly irrational doctrines, as ever they were. There is no sign that, Prozac and neurosurgery notwithstanding, any of this is about to change fundamentally.

Link to article ‘Do the Impossible: Know Thyself’ (thanks Karel!)

2 Comments

  1. Posted February 16, 2013 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    And psychiatrists have? Pah!

  2. Posted February 16, 2013 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    He’s ‘arguing from the position of personal incredulity.’


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