The following comment on Sasha's shocking and tragic
death evoked that which follows that quoted comment.
I realize I'm assuming Sasha took his own life and I
don't know that for a fact, but that seems to be the
situation based on the many posts I just read in the
extropian-list archive. I apologize to Sasha's family
if in fact his death was not a suicide...
On Fri, 12 May 2000 09:20:15 -0400, you wrote:
>> Reading between the lines, I gather that Sasha took his own life.
> ...It helps to have strong transhumanist beliefs, though not
> always. In the end it's all about chemical (dis)balances, and
> mental illness can smash even the most rational belief system
> to bits.
IAN: It's tragic for we the living that Sasha,
such a bright, creative, and motivated person
killed himself. It's bewildering and inexplicable.
But just because we don't like it and it hurts us
does not mean it was a symptom of a disease, and
thus that brilliant Sasha had a diseased mind. It
means that Sasha, for whatever reasons, valued
nonexistence over existence. It was a subjective
value judgement. To define subjective personal
value judgements as a disease is to presume that
there is some kind of objective value judgement,
and thus all contrary judgments are diseased by
definition and to be eradicated by corrective and
often coercive "medical" intervention. I tend to
side with Thomas Szasz, that psychiatry is social
control masquerading as a branch of medicine.
As convincing as biological theories of so-called
"psychiatric illnesses" can be, I believe they may
fail under critical analysis. Enjoyment of music can
be linked to neurological conditions, but that does
not mean enjoying music is a brain disease. Feeling
good can be linked to neurological conditions, but
that does not mean feeling good is a mental illness.
So too, feeling bad can be linked to neurological
conditions, but that does not mean it's a disease.
It seems as if biological psychiatry assumes that
all that's needed to be done is show that there are
specific neurological conditions that can be linked
to the mental states some have defined as "diseased."
If serotonin can be shown to be lower in those with
depression or who committed suicide, then it's been
established that depression is a biological disease;
but that does nothing of the sort. The "disease"
label is still a subjective value judgement that
the given behaviors or feelings are not appropriate
and should be corrected. Even if the mental states are
a result of specific attributes of serotonin metabolism
that are genetic, this is no more evidence of a disease,
or genetic disease, than claiming that ugly big noses
are a disease because a big nose can be linked to
inherited biological developmental "abnormalities."
If people are unhappy with their biological state then
they can try to modify it. But just because a person
is unhappy with their nose does not mean their nose
is a disease. Psychiatry should be viewed in terms of
cosmetic, not medical, intervention. Is a big nose
right or wrong? Is suicidal depression right or wrong?
Those are value judgements that need to be left to
the individual. Biological psychiatry is like cosmetic
surgeons going around defining ugliness as a disease
that must be treated with "medical" interventions.
As much as we grieve over the loss of Sasha, and
over realizing how much more he could have contributed
had he chose life over death, we have to respect his
choices, however much they hurt us. It is wrong for
us to tell Sasha his value judgement was a disease;
doing so is imposing our values on others in such a
way that it inflicts injury on those with other values.
GODDARD'S JOURNAL: http://www.erols.com/igoddard/journal.htm
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