email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
"Are You There Alone?""How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses?""My Madness Saved Me"10% Happier365 Days49 Up56 UpA Beautiful MindA Beautiful MindA Beautiful MindA Book of ReasonsA Can of MadnessA Child's Life and Other StoriesA Dangerous LiaisonA Fight to BeA First-Rate MadnessA Good Enough DaughterA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusA Lethal InheritanceA Lethal InheritanceA Life ShakenA Life Worth LivingA Little PregnantA Message from JakieA Million Little PiecesA Numerate LifeA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyA Slant of SunA Special EducationA Tribe ApartAbout FaceAddicted Like MeADHD & MeAEIOUAgainst Medical AdviceAgents in My BrainAileen - Life and Death of a Serial KillerAlgernon, Charlie and IAll Out!All Seasons PassAlphavilleAlways Too Much And Never EnoughAlzheimer'sAn Anthropologist on MarsAn EducationAn Unquiet MindAngela's AshesAngelheadAnna Freud: A BiographyAnnie's GhostsAnother Bullshit Night in Suck CityAnthology of a Crazy LadyApples and OrangesApproaching NeverlandAre You There, Vodka? It's Me, ChelseaAs I Live and BreatheAs Nature Made HimAt Home in the Heart of AppalachiaAt the End of WordsAvalancheBad BoyBad GirlBeautiful BoyBeautiful WreckBecoming AnnaBen Behind His VoicesBequest and BetrayalBereftBertrand RussellBlackoutBlanketsBloodlettingBodies in Motion and at RestBoneBorn on a Blue DayBoyBoy AloneBoyleBrain on FireBreaking ApartBreaking the SilenceBrokenBulimics on BulimiaBuzzCamus and SartreCharles DarwinChasing the HighCheeverCherryCity of OneCluesClumsyComfortComplications Compulsive ActsConfessions of a Cereal EaterConfessions of a Former ChildConfessions of a Grieving ChristianConfessions of the Other MotherConfidingConquering the Beast WithinContesting ChildhoodCrackedCrazyCry Depression, Celebrate RecoveryDamned to EternityDancing at the Shame PromDante's CureDaughter of the Queen of ShebaDavid Sedaris Live at Carnegie HallDays With My FatherDefeating the VoicesDementia Caregivers Share Their StoriesDepression and NarrativeDescartesDetourDevil in the DetailsDiagnosis: SchizophreniaDirty DetailsDirty SecretDivided MindsDivine MadnessDon't Get Too ComfortableDown Came the RainDress Your Family in Corduroy and DenimDrinkingDriving My FatherDrunkardDryEarly Embraces IIIEinsteinEinstein and OppenheimerElectroboyElegy for IrisElijah's CupElliott Smith and the Big NothingElsewhereEnough About YouEpilepticEvery Girl Tells a StoryEverything In Its PlaceExamined LivesExiting NirvanaFaces of Huntington'sFamily BoundFast GirlFearless ConfessionsFind MeFinding Iris ChangFirst Person Accounts of Mental Illness and RecoveryFirst Person PluralFixing My GazeFlanneryFolie a DeuxFor the Love of ItFortress of My YouthFranz KafkaFraudFree RefillsFreudFreudFreudFriedrich NietzscheFrom Joy Division to New OrderFumblingFun HomeFuriously HappyGalileo Get Me Out of HereGirl in Need of a TourniquetGirl Walking BackwardsGirl, InterruptedGirl, InterruptedGirls on the VergeGoing BlindGoing Through Hell Without Help From AboveGraysonGrowing Up JungGuttedHalf a Brain Is EnoughHardcore from the HeartHead CasesHeal & ForgiveHeal & Forgive IIHeavier than HeavenHeinz KohutHeinz KohutHello from Heaven!Hello to All ThatHer HusbandHer Last DeathHigh PriceHole in My LifeHolidays On IceHolidays on IceHope's BoyHouse of Happy EndingsHouse of Happy EndingsHow I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill MeHow to Lose Friends & Alienate PeopleHow to Make Love Like a Porn Starhow to stop timeHumeHunger Makes Me a Modern GirlHurry Down SunshineI Feel Bad About My NeckI Never Promised You a Rose GardenI Remain in DarknessI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'd Rather LaughIf I Die Before I WakeImagining RobertIn Search of FatimaIn the Realms of the UnrealIn the Wake of SuicideInside TherapyInternInvisible No MoreIt Happened to NancyIt Takes a Worried ManJack Cole and Plastic ManJean-Paul SartreJohn Stuart MillJourneys with the Black DogJust CheckingKafkaKantLa SierraLab GirlLast Flight OutLearning to FallLet Me Make It GoodLife As We Know ItLife InterruptedLife ReimaginedLimboLincoln's MelancholyListening in the Silence, Seeing in the DarkLittle PeopleLive For Your Listening PleasureLive Through ThisLiving in the Shadow of the Freud FamilyLiving With SchizophreniaLiving with SchizophreniaLockeLonelyLong ShotLook Me in the EyeLooking for The StrangerLoose GirlLosing Mum and PupLosing My MindLove Is a Mix TapeLove SickLove Times ThreeLove Works Like ThisLove You, Mean ItLuckyLudwig WittgensteinLyingMad HouseMad PrideMadame ProustMadnessMagical ThinkingMalignant SadnessManicMarcel ProustMarcus AureliusMary BarnesMaverick MindMe Talk Pretty One DayMeaningMelanie KleinMemoirMemoirs of an Addicted BrainMemoirs of My Nervous IllnessMen-ipulationMisconceptionsMiss American PieMockingbird YearsMomma and the Meaning of LifeMommies Who DrinkMonkey MindMore, Now, AgainMortificationMy Age of AnxietyMy Body PoliticMy Brain Tumour AdventuresMy DepressionMy Father's HeartMy First Cousin Once RemovedMy Flesh and BloodMy Horizontal LifeMy Life Among the Serial KillersMy Sister LifeMy Stroke of InsightName All the AnimalsNeural MisfireNietzscheNietzsche: The Man and His PhilosophyNinety DaysNo Hurry to Get HomeNo Impact ManNo More ShavesNolaNotebooks 1951-1959NothingOdd Girl Speaks OutOedipus WreckedOf Spirits & MadnessOn Being RapedOn the Edge of DarknessOn the MoveOne Hour in ParisOne Hundred DaysOphelia SpeaksPagan TimePassing for NormalPeople Who Eat DarknessPerfect ChaosPerfect ExamplePermanent Present TensePersepolisPlanet of the BlindPlaying with FirePlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPoisoned LovePollockPOPismPortraits of Huntington'sPoster ChildProzac DiaryPsychiatrist on the RoadPsychosis in the FamilyPuppy Chow Is Better Than ProzacQuitting the Nairobi TrioRaising BlazeReasons to Stay AliveRebuiltRecovered, Not CuredRelative StrangerRescuing JeffreyRestricted AccessRevengeRewind, Replay, RepeatRichard RortyRiding the Bus With My SisterRobert Lowell, Setting the River on FireRoom For JRosemaryRough MagicRunning After AntelopeRunning with ScissorsScattershotSchizophreniaSchopenhauerSecond OpinionsSectionedSeeing EzraSeeing the CrabSet the Boy FreeSex & Single GirlsSex ObjectShakespeareShe Bets Her LifeShe Got Up Off the CouchShut the DoorSickenedSilencing the VoicesSimone de BeauvoirSinging in the FireSkin GameSlackjawSlut!SmashedSome Assembly RequiredSome Kind of GeniusSometimes Madness Is WisdomSongs from the Black ChairSongs of the Gorilla NationSoren KierkegaardSpeak to MeSpeaking Our Minds: Revised EditionSpecial SiblingsSpentStandbyStick FigureStill LivesStretchSunset StorySurviving OpheliaSwing LowTales from Both Sides of the BrainTales of PsychotherapyTalk to HerTell Me Everything You Don't RememberTellingTelling Tales About DementiaThe Accidental BillionairesThe AddictThe Anatomy of HopeThe Anti-Romantic ChildThe Bastard on the Couch CDThe BeastThe Bell JarThe Best Seat in the HouseThe Big FixThe Body SilentThe Boy on the Green BicycleThe Boy Who Loved WindowsThe Buddha & The BorderlineThe Burn JournalsThe Camera My Mother Gave MeThe Cancer Monologue ProjectThe Center Cannot HoldThe Chelsea WhistleThe Churkendoose AnthologyThe Day the Voices StoppedThe Devil WithinThe DisappearanceThe Discomfort ZoneThe Doctor Is InThe Eden ExpressThe Family SilverThe Farm Colonies: Caring for New York City's Mentally Ill In Long Island's State HospitalsThe Fasting GirlThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Geography of BlissThe Glass CastleThe Good DoctorsThe Hillside Diary and Other WritingsThe Incantations of Daniel JohnstonThe Last AsylumThe Last Good FreudianThe Last Time I Wore a DressThe Liars' ClubThe Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet HiltonThe Lives They Left BehindThe LobotomistThe Long GoodbyeThe Looked After Kid: Memoirs from a Children's HomeThe Loony-Bin TripThe Madness of Our LivesThe Making of a PhilosopherThe Making of Friedrich NietzscheThe Man Who Couldn't EatThe Man Who Shocked the WorldThe Man Who Tasted ShapesThe Marvelous Hairy GirlsThe Maximum Security Book ClubThe Me in the MirrorThe Memory PalaceThe Mercy PapersThe Mistress's DaughterThe Naked Bird WatcherThe Naked Lady Who Stood on Her HeadThe Night of the GunThe Noonday DemonThe Notebook GirlsThe NursesThe Only Girl in the CarThe Orchid ThiefThe Other HollywoodThe OutsiderThe Philosopher's Autobiography The Philosophical Breakfast ClubThe Philosophical IThe Pits and the PendulumThe Pornographer's GriefThe Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner The Professor and the MadmanThe Psychopath TestThe Quiet RoomThe Red DevilThe Rescue of Belle and SundanceThe Ride TogetherThe Rules of the TunnelThe Secret of LifeThe Shaking Woman or A History of My NervesThe Shared HeartThe Shiniest JewelThe Siren's DanceThe Statistical Life of MeThe Story of My FatherThe Strange Case of Hellish NellThe Summer of a DormouseThe SurrenderThe Talking CureThe Thought that CountsThe Three of UsThe Undoing ProjectThe Vagina MonologuesThe Velveteen FatherThe Winter of Our DisconnectThe Woman Who Walked into the SeaThe Years of Silence are PastThe Yellow HouseThe Yipping TigerThick As ThievesThinThis Close to HappyTiger, TigerTits, Ass, and Real EstateTo Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the WorldTo Walk on EggshellsTransforming MadnessTrue CompassTruth & BeautyTruth Comes in BlowsTuesdays with MorrieTweakTwitch and ShoutUltimate JudgementUndercurrentsUnholy GhostUnlikelyVoices of AlcoholismVoices Of Alzheimer'sVoices of CaregivingVoices of RecoveryVoluntary MadnessWaiting for DaisyWar FareWashing My Life AwayWastedWaveWe're Not MonstersWeather Reports from the Autism FrontWeekends at BellevueWhat Did I Do Last Night?What Goes UpWhat I Learned in Medical SchoolWhat's Normal?When a Crocodile Eats the SunWhen Breath Becomes AirWhen Do I Get My Shoelaces Back?.....When It Gets DarkWhen the Piano StopsWhen You Are Engulfed in FlamesWhere Did It All Go Right?Where is the Mango Princess?Where the Roots Reach for WaterWhile the City SleptWhile They SleptWho Was Jacques Derrida?Why I'm Like ThisWildWill's ChoiceWinnicottWinnieWish I Could Be ThereWith Their EyesWomen Living with Self-InjuryWomen, Body, IllnessWrestling with the AngelYou Must Be DreamingYour Voice in My HeadZeldaZor
Going Blind. A Memoir by Mara Faulkner is the outcome of a ten years research process. The nine chapters of the book have valuable material for sociologists, psychologists, philosophers of mind, cultural historians, anthropologists and for anyone interested in reading a good literary piece. In this book I find the outcome of a refined effort to link memories and specify theses through an elegant vocabulary and a straightforward language.
This is a readable writing of what it would be like to undergo oncoming blindness (caused by retinitis pigmentosa), how self-consciousness might be forged in the niche of a family in which other members also go blind and in a social environment which ignores experiences (for example: fear (p. 59)) that somebody going blind undergoes with her thoughts and actions. Faulkner articulates technical information within the stream of an autobiographical story in which her father (Dennis Faulkner, an Irishman) is the protagonist. Notwithstanding, this is not merely an autobiography, but a critical chronicle about multiple conceptions of 'blindness'. So, in Going Blind, the reader could also find a piece with ethnographic value --a book in which analysis of social behavior and fieldwork play core roles.
Retinitis Pigmentosa causes "narrowing vision on the top, bottom and sides [...] the person is looking out through two tunnels at the milky shapes moving from darkness into darkness" (p. 7). Faulkner opens the doors of the reality in which her family (mother, father and seven children) inhabited together with Retinitis Pigmentosa. The book begins with describing such reality by analyzing the blindness of Dennis Faulkner -- a man whose blindness had to figure as a "blind spot" before the "eyes" of a society in which he worked for the economic stability and security of his family.
We could conceptualize the life of blind people, on the one hand, in terms of a reality in which they become "blurry shapes" that, through time, fuse with darkness and sometimes become invisible to themselves and others and, on the other hand, in terms of a reality in which blind people express their self-invisibility through faces with neutralized gestures, "sight means power", there is no self-confidence and there is no humans able to survive. Alternatively, we can understand the life of blind people by conceiving something taking place within our social reality and making part of the mainstream of the history of a culture in which several stereotypes are shaped and transmitted generation by generation. In this vein, Faulkner quotes Erik Weihenmayer (the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest): "people's perceptions of our limitations are more damaging that those limitations themselves" (p. 55). Even when our social environments require that blind people convert their skin, ears and noses in a "sea of eyes", it is not necessary that they become supercrips to constitute active parts of our society. The latter idea, I suspect, plays the role of a departure stance tacitly adopted by Faulkner.
Going Blind has not a normative or motivational purpose. Otherwise, I think, it shows its strength through a descriptive and explanatory style. The book, on the one hand, guides sighted people to believe that their conceptions also structure blindness and blind people's life and, on the other hand, guides blind people to accept that they do not inhabit in a world of disability, but that they make possible and contribute with the design of the structure of our actual social reality.
The nine chapters of the book sketch a holistic analysis of blindness. There is no blindness if there are no blinders or causes for blindness. So, according to Faulkner the causes for blindness are not only physiological but also social ones (Chapter 1 and 2). From this view, Faulkner specifies different senses in which 'blind' can be understood: "out of sight, out of the way, secret, obscure" (Chapter 3), "unable or unwilling to perceive or understand" (Chapter 7), "insensible, unaware, lacking intelligence and consciousness, narrow-minded with no openings or passages for light" (Chapter 8), "to dazzle, to dim by excess of light" (Chapter 9). In general, Faulkner thinks that 'the blind' "[... l]ike all handy labels [...] has a way of growing until it eclipses the array of people it claims to describe, sometimes becoming their whole identity, in the minds and eyes of those around them and, worse yet, in their own minds" (p. 39-40). Going Blind identifies blindness not merely with a physiological disability but also with a complex epistemic state. In this sense, real blindness (a personal condition within a society) has complex relationships to knowledge of stereotypes and myths as well as to metaphors about blindness (as a concept) (Chapter 3). Such knowledge of stereotypes, myths and metaphors can contribute to make blind people lesser blind by challenging conceptions instead of simply "resisting them". In this way, Going Blind includes a critical chapter (Chapter 4) in which Faulkner analyzes the vicious circle between hunger and violence originated by being partially blind, on the one hand, to justice and equality and, on the other hand, to law.
Language, media, schools, workplaces plus different social classes, ethnic backgrounds, genders, religions (or lack of them) weave a net in which are grounded millions of experiences and concepts of 'blindness'. In such net we find a striking connection between faith, intuition and blindness (Chapter 5). As Faulkner says, "faith is, by definition, a belief in which we can't see often in the face of contrary evidence" (p. 110, italics mine). Faulkner is not only thinking about religious faith, she rather is describing a type of belief which can be understood as an attitude toward something that cannot be seen, even whether this is about god, democracy, science and so on. Faulkner claims that many convictions of blind people must be toward different sorts of things than those which sighted people's are about. For example, faith and predictability are joined to give rise to blind people's behavior in physical environments since, for instance, blind people must trust in several spatial patterns in which things are arranged in their environments. So, Faulkner offers us an analysis of the reasons due to which blind people must believe in things (for instance: "open space and solid ground") that sighted people see.
Further on, Faulkner claims, the concept of 'blindness' and the concept of 'prejudice' "overlap at several points" (Chapter 6). So, we find a kind of prejudice framed by epistemic and emotional states (for example, uncritically inherited from past generations) -- Faulkner calls such kind of prejudice blind prejudice. Prejudice can result either from lacks of knowledge and experience or from their selective acquisition. Racial, aesthetic and other sorts of discrimination would result from these prejudices. However, sighted people will often tend to think that blind people are less prejudiced, in this sense, than they are. Faulkner argues that, although "[physiological] blindness sometimes prevents swift leaps to judgment" (p. 124), prejudices can take several paths to enter and guide blind and sighted people's minds and behavior.
Wellbeing, comfort and tranquility are figuratively conceived (mainly in Judeo-Christian traditions) in terms of light and lighted places. Otherwise, blindness is often conceived in terms of darkness, decontrol, anguish and so on. Perhaps, I think, the latter conception perhaps has been consolidated through the phylogenetic career of Homo sapiens sapiens. However, the former conception has been forged in the mainstreams of our societies and cultures. Likewise, light has also been conceived as a sign of death and disaster, as the survivors of the atomic bombs could confess. In fact, many things considered as wonderful happen in darkness, for instance: the natural germination of seeds.
In general, Going Blind is a comprehensive, prudent and holistic introduction to the concept of 'blindness'. The most general moral I find in it is that 'blindness' does not only refer to physiological conditions but it also does to "patronizing and damaging misconceptions, stereotypes, and bad attitudes" (p. 190) reinforced, through history, both by sighted people and blind people.
© 2010 Carlos M. Muñoz-Suárez
Carlos M. Muñoz-Suárez is a researcher and graduate student at Universidad del Valle and Professor of Philosophy of mind at Universidad Icesi (Cali- Colombia). His areas of specialization in philosophy and psychology are philosophy of mind, philosophy of neurosciences and metaphysics.