I just got through another one of Theodore Dalrymple’s (Anthony Daniels) books, Admirable Evasions: How Psychology Undermines Morality And I am stunned, and just grateful the man is alive.
The book for consideration is Admirable Evasions: How Psychology Undermines Morality and, like most great writers, Dalrymple changes me and reminds me of the limits of my intellect and vision. He also always reminds me of my serious failures in reading English lit–particularly Shakespeare.
Dalrymple reminds me of an emergency physician friend, Greg Henry, who is quite, as they say, erudite.
So this book takes on the task that was previously taken on by Paul McHugh–vetting and dissecting the inadequacies of psychological and psychiatric theory and practice of the past 150 years.
I won’t interrupt this with a discussion of the great McHugh. Just refer you to a pretty good archive we have at JunkScience.com. McHugh is a wonderful writer and great thinker, even so bold as to propose a new method for psychiatry in his book The Perspectives of Psychiatry that expands on his essays that are discussed in the archive.
So Dalrymple, now retired from a corrections and community psychiatric practice in a a down and out part of a British city, takes on psych theories.
I was impressed with his impressive take down of my list of psych frauds–Freud, fraud Freud, but then he just eviscerated the various theories that came after the psychoanalysis nonsense, behavioralism, cognitive behavioral therapy, neuroscience, neurochemistry.
The theme statement through his book was from Shakespeare:
“an admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star!”
The point is that psychiatric practice and methods, psychological methods all are capable of providing an excuse or distraction from bad behavior, vicious (non virtuous) behavior, and conduct that cannot be excused or ignored.
But indeed many of the “theories” of psychiatry create validity for the phony moral philosopher’s assertion of determinism. Our conduct is not our fault, it is the fault of our circumstances or our makeup or some disease that has overtaken us.
Dalrymple says, “Have human beings progressed beyond “attending tho the motions of his own mind” as Dr. Sam Johnson put it and Johnson was a literate and intelligent man, but not a psychologist by calling or claim.
Dalrymple asserts that “psychology is not a key to self understanding, but a cultural barrier to such understanding as we can achieve” and he proceeds in his book to take down exaggerated claims for in sequence of their appearance psychoanalysis, behaviorism, cybernetics, sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, and, of course neurochemistry.
In the book Dr. Daniels manages to clean the house of psych of all its bugs and dust–bad ideas and exaggerated claims.
He also exposes a few charlatans.
I had a such a good time reading the book I was kind of sad when it abruptly ended.
If you care about the progress of social sciences and psych, this book is essential to your comprehensive and wise understanding of what is an area of intellectual inquiry swamped by intellectual passion and charlatanism.
McHugh confirmed my suspicions about the crazy and irrational nature of psychiatric practice and its practitioners, Dalrymple put some meaning into the suspicions. He is a philosopher.
It is my experience that there is a great spectrum of practitioners in psych–from the pedestrian careful ones to the dramatic and showy ones.
I have met a few very intelligent psychiatrists who are good for their patients, but there are so many plodding pill pushers who just move the line along.
I sort of do that, in a minimalist way–I have a corrections practice 150 plus inmates, many of whom claim mental illness.
I give them placebo level treatment for mood disorders, turn on the juice when the jailers tell me they are crazy, as in disorganized and chaotic thought and try to ignore the others. I refuse anxiolytics and refuse to push psychotropics too hard for the side effects and the energy diminishing effects.
There are a lot of incarcerated people whose basic problem is a personality disorder and then they get mood problems as a result of life’s troubles and their lifestyle (including drug) choices.
Less is better than more, usually. Dalrymple is in favor of a light touch in psych–I am in favor of a light drug touch and hope that they will get a behavior touch of a more vigorous nature to help them consider alternatives.
Reading Theodore Dalrymple is always enlightening, but this book is important for considering the history of psychiatric and psychological practice. What he says about what were previously very respected and venerated theories makes one pause.