Thursday, March 20, 2014
Monday, March 10, 2014
"Certainly, it can come as a jolt to discover that, with a single exception, we have no extant descriptions of the Battle of Badr that date from before the ninth century AD. We do not even have Ibn Ishaq’s original biography of Muhammad—only revisions and reworkings. As for the material on which Ibn Ishaq himself drew upon for his researches, it has long since vanished. Set against the triumphal hubbub raised by Arab historians in the ninth century, let alone the centuries that followed, the silence is deafening and perplexing. The precise state of play bears spelling out. Over the course of almost two hundred years, the Arabs, a people never noted for their reticence, and whose motivation, we are told, had been an utterly consuming sense of religious certitude, had set themselves to conquering the world—and yet in all that time, they composed not a single record of their victories, not one, that has survived into the present day. How could this possibly have been so, when even on the most barbarous fringes of civilisation, even in Britain, even in the north of England, books of history were being written during this same period, and copied, and lovingly tended? Why, when the savage Northumbrians were capable of preserving the writings of a scholar such as Bede, do we have no Muslim records from the age of Muhammad? Why not a single Arab account of his life, nor of his followers’ conquests, nor of the progress of his religion, from the whole of the near two centuries that followed his death?"
Tom Holland, In the Shadow of the Sword
Sunday, March 9, 2014
"See, we all got what I call a life trap, this gene-deep certainty that things will be different, that you'll move to another city, and meet the people that'll be the friends for the rest of your life, that you'll fall in love and be fulfilled. Fucking fulfillment, heh, and closure, whatever the fuck those two... Fucking empty jars to hold this shitstorm, and nothing is ever fulfilled until the very end, and closure... No, no, no. Nothing is ever over."
True Detective, Episode 1x03
"My own preferred term for the enemy of God is misotheist. [...] Since God is not a person or an interlocutor, to be hostile to God means really to marshal the negative emotions of hatred toward an entity that is absolutely outside the human sphere, something intangible [...] Thus, the most immediate effect of God-hatred is on the misotheist himself, for whom it serves a therapeutic function. Although seemingly directed at the figure of God, misotheism reflects a passionate concern for the affairs of man. [...]
Simply put, misotheism is a response to suffering, injustice, and disorder in a troubled world. Misotheists feel that humanity is the subject of divine carelessness or sadism, and they question God's love for humanity [...]"
Bernard Schweizer, Hating God: The Untold Story of Misotheism
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
"The position of the psychiatrist around 1900 was not a particularly happy one. Although he was better able to classify the psychosis and predict their outcome than his predecessors a century before, he still suffered from the same ignorance of the causes of mental illness and he still had to be content with the same miserable methods of treatment. If he worked in an institution or a clinic he saw only severe and hopeless psychoses, and although anatomy and physiology had been so helpful to his medical colleagues, they had failed to teach him anything about the nature of these illnesses except in the case of general paresis. His patients were prisoners, and in a way he himself was a prisoner caught up in the difficulties of the field in which he had chosen to work."
Erwin H Ackerknecht, Short History of Psychiatry (1959)
The state of psychiatry now is, of course, dramatically better from what it was in 1900. Our treatments, although far from curative, have restored majority of psychiatric patients back to functional lives, and the neuroscientific understanding of the causes is progressing rapidly. I was, however, struck by the last line of the passage, which resonated with a chord in me. I am not certain whether he refers to patients as prisoners in a literal sense, but there is a literal sense in which a small subset of psychiatric patients can be called prisoners: the patients who are admitted in inpatient units against consent because their state of mind (suicidality, mania, psychosis, etc) poses an acute and significant danger of harm to self and/or other. Majority of these patients when they are discharged acknowledge and recognize the need for the admission, nonetheless, dealing with these prisoner-patients is unfortunately a difficulty of the field of psychiatry, one which takes an emotional toll on a psychiatrist with moral sensitivity, and a responsibility from which a psychiatrist cannot flee.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
My article 'Mental Illness vs Brain Disorders: From Szasz to DSM-5' has been published in the February 2014 issue of Psychiatric Times.
Unfortunately (free) membership is required to read the article on the website, but if you are even remotely interested in psychiatry, and you are not already a member, it would be worthwhile to sign up for Psychiatric Times, as it is a popular online resource and one of the most widely read psychiatry journals.