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Category Error, Aurino!

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Posted by Alan on September 19, 2002 02:38:32 UTC

Hi Aurino,

you are confusing two separate categories of phenomena!

"alcoholism is not a disease, it's just "socially unacceptable behaviour"."

If alcoholism were a disease, it would have a proper patho-physiological description as such. It has no such description; because if it did, it would be in the same category as influenza and malaria and so forth.

It would be treated by Doctors, not "treated" by psychiatrists; if it were a disease.

You wrote:

"There's absolutely nothing wrong with drinking your life away if that's what you want to do. "

Here you are invoking the category "moral values". This is a different category to the category "physical medicine".

Now the cat is out of the bag: what you really object to is "people drinking their life away". That is a moral value you are imposing, Aurino. You are laying down the moral law on "right" and "wrong" behaviour. If you want to do that, just please do not disguise it as a medical disease.

They tried that with "drapetomania" or something, that supposedly caused slaves to run away.

Szasz points out that if people think "health values" justify coercion; but that "moral values" do not; those who want to coerce others will expand the list of "health values" at the expense of "moral values". And so the Islamic State of Sharia Law has its analogy in USA as the "Therapeutic State" of psychiatric law.

Whether "drinking your life away" is right or wrong depends on who defines "your life" and how they define it; and on what set of values they are promoting.

The irony is this: people who "drink their lives away" may actually be "drinking away" the "fake play-act-for-society life". They may be drinking away a life that doesn't feel genuinely theirs anyway.

Suddenly, "alcoholism" becomes seen as a self-responsible STRATEGY. But the real conflicts behind this behaviour will not be seen unless each person takes responsibility for his own behavioural strategy.

Consider someone who over-works. Suppose his physical health suffers. Do you think that person should pretend they suffer from an illness and take drugs and carry on over-working? Or how about they take responsibility for themselves, realize what they are doing and reduce their work load? Or juggle their priorities as they see fit.

People should not be patronised by self-appointed saviours bent on "curing" them of fictitious illnesses invented as a ruse for concealing conflict or for evading reality and personal responsibility.

Your own statements are evidence that so-called "mental health" is moral, not medical. To confuse medical metaphors with medical reality is a category error.

Morality is not medicine. Ivan Illich goes even further than Szasz: see his book "Medical Nemises. The "Expropriation Of Health". See the evidence for the scale on which Doctors are making people sick!

Quoting "There's absolutely nothing wrong with drinking your life away if that's what you want to do." I didn't say that.

I just said that the correct category to put such issues in is "morality", not "medicine".

And any rules of acceptable behaviour must not be imposed on us by a self-selected modern-day inquisition bent on "curing" heretics with medicalised torture.

Rules must be honest rules.




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