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Healing the Soul in the Age of the Brain: Why Medication Isn't Enough Paperback – August 27, 2002
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About the Author
Elio Frattaroli, M.D., is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in full time private practice. He is on the faculty of the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia and is also an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. He studied Shakespeare at Harvard and trained with Bruno Bettelheim at the University of Chicago before turning to medicine. He has written and lectured on Shakespeare as well as on psychiatry and psychoanalysis. This is his first book.
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I read the first half of it and was sufficiently blown away that I had to pause. Also,
the remainder is heavy on the case study and a psychdynamic case study which is a
little bit indulgent. However, the author has a very original and powerful theoretical
framework which inquiring minds should examine. I liked the opening chapters a lot
regarding the philosophy of science and the inherent duality of existence.
I was awakened to the undeniable existence of the subjective after
reading these chapters. As long as there is an "I", the I's interpretation of
reality is all that really matters to that individual, in the way one speaks
of Descartes epiphany. In the end, when you throw away everything you have
ever learned, all that is really cogent and true is that which is
As a matter of fact, this book helped inspire the title of my
poetry website, Subjective Substance.
I really liked the concrete examples that challenged modern brain science.
It really seems that brain scientists are involved in trying to map
responses to brain manipulation to subjective states. For example, their
logic goes, "If we can find that manipulating this region of the brain leads
to the person seeing red, then we can conclude that we can assume that this
part of the brain maps to the color red for all people all the time."
A few of my thoughts on this:
A fundamental problem with this logic is that they are trying to correlate a
subjective state based on an objective manipulation and then throw away the
utility of the subjective report.
If we look at this from an experimental perspective, what they are trying to
do is perform a regression of subjective state on objective manipulation.
The predictor variable is the physical manipulation and the outcome variable
is the subjective state. One problem is that they are still relying on the
subjective report of the patient as the outcome variable! They are still
bound to consider the subjective state as they go about trying to equate
objective with subjective. Now, as long as the relationship between the
manipulation and the subjective state is 100% consistent within that subject
and between all subjects, they are correct in their unification theory. But
otherwise, this correlation is really spurious, because the subjective state
really is the litmus test.
My comment on the book, in my opinion, furthers the ammunition against the
attempt to throw away subjective report as the important thing.