Why do I use my time in something apparently so irrelevant like writing about the hysterias of a leftist woman? Simple reason: because we lack what in The Divided Self Laing called a “science of the persons.”
After Romanticism the genre of confessional autobiography cropped up. Unfortunately, by pretending to approach the subject on the basis of abstract principles, psychoanalysis, academic psychology and psychiatry usurped the study of the inner self and approached our souls from the impossible viewpoint of objectivism. This category error permeates the academia: to understand concrete people it’s necessary a subjective history of the person.
Oliver Sacks recognizes this in his area of expertise, neurology. In a recent entry in another of my blogs in Spanish I refer to Sacks’ Musicophilia. And in another of his very acclaimed books, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Sacks complained that in classical neurology we will find a thousand descriptions of the pathologies that correspond to the left hemisphere of the brain for a single pathology about the right hemisphere. He adds:
And yet, as Luria says, they are of the most fundamental importance. So much so that they may demand a new sort of neurology, a “personalistic,” or (as Luria liked to call it) a “romantic,” science; for the physical foundations of the persona, the self, are here revealed for our study. Luria thought a science of this kind would be best introduced by a story—a detailed case-history.
Sacks approaches the hardware problems of the despised right hemisphere of the brain, the hemisphere of the emotions; Laing, on the other hand, approached software problems: the cognitive distorsions through which some see the world. Sacks’ field of study is the damaged brain. Laing’s field, like my own, are the damaged minds. One studies the hardware, the other the software. In another of my blogs I have delved deeper into it.
So why do I post a long entry about a leftist that I met, a woman with no societal influence except her vote to Zapatero’s party? Because the best way to illustrate the failures of judgment should be, according to Laing and Sacks, personalistic.
In the psychology departments I wouldn’t be allowed to enter into this type of incursion about a non-notable person. I would like to quote Sacks again to illustrate this astronomical mistake in academic psychology. In the chapter about the man who, due to a neurological problem—his eyesight abilities were healthy—mistook his wife for a hat, Sacks wrote:
Neurology and psychology, curiously, though they talk of everything else, almost never talk of “judgment.” And yet, judgment is the most important faculty we have. An animal, or a man, may get on very well without “abstract attitude” but will speedily perish if deprived of judgment. Judgment must be the first faculty of higher life or mind—yet it is ignored, or misinterpreted, by classical (computational) neurology. And if we wonder how such an absurdity can arise, we find it in the assumptions, or the evolution, of neurology itself. For classical neurology (like classical physics) has always been mechanical. Of course, the brain is a machine and a computer—everything in classical neurology is correct. But our mental processes are not just abstract and mechanical, but personal, as well—and, as such, involve not just classifying and categorizing, but continual judging and feeling also. If this is missing, we become computer-like, as Dr P. was.
“Doctor P.” was the curious patient who, due to a neurological problem that made him to forget what human faces were, mistook his wife for a hat. (In the above quotation I didn’t use ellipsis between the unquoted phrases.) What Sacks says after the above quote hits the nail:
By a sort of comic and awful analogy, our current cognitive neurology and psychology resemble nothing so much as poor Dr P.! Our cognitive sciences are themselves suffering from an agnosia essentially similar to Dr P.’s. Dr P. may therefore serve as a warning and parable—of what happens to a science which eschews the judgmental, the particular, the personal, and becomes entirely abstract and computational.
As a remedy to this hemiplegic neurology, Sacks recommends the study of the brain’s right hemisphere. Nevertheless, unlike the left hemisphere, the right one cannot be studied with IQ-like tests, but through personalized case-histories. Sacks thus illustrates the neurological dysfunctions in the diverse areas of the right hemisphere. His work showed me stuff about the mind that I hadn’t fully digested a few years ago when I read another of his books, An Anthropologist on Mars. Incidentally, all of my Sacks books were gifts by Tere! On this one I must be grateful to her…
The above are key quotations to make my point. Just as present-day neurology is hemiplegic, academic psychology is hemiplegic too. While a few psycho-biographies about the pathologies of politicians are available, it is considered improper to analyze a casual acquaintance.
I believe that this is a gigantic mistake, as my study of Tere will demonstrate. To analyze a far-leftist bitch like her is, in the “software,” the “hardware” equivalent of analyzing the brain lobe of someone who mistakes his wife for a hat.