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Anger and Forgiveness"Are You There Alone?"10 Good Questions about Life and DeathA Casebook of Ethical Challenges in NeuropsychologyA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to Muslim EthicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Critique of the Moral Defense of VegetarianismA Decent LifeA Delicate BalanceA Fragile LifeA Life for a LifeA Life-Centered Approach to BioethicsA Matter of SecurityA Mirror Is for ReflectionA Mirror Is for ReflectionA Natural History of Human MoralityA Philosophical DiseaseA Practical Guide to Clinical Ethics ConsultingA Question of TrustA Sentimentalist Theory of the MindA Short Stay in SwitzerlandA Tapestry of ValuesA Very Bad WizardA World Without ValuesAction and ResponsibilityAction Theory, Rationality and CompulsionActs of ConscienceAddiction and ResponsibilityAddiction NeuroethicsAdvance Directives in Mental HealthAfter HarmAftermathAgainst AutonomyAgainst BioethicsAgainst HealthAgainst MarriageAgainst 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Controversies in Values and ScienceCutting to the CoreCyborg CitizenDamaged IdentitiesDeaf Identities in the MakingDeath Is That Man Taking NamesDebating ProcreationDebating Same-Sex MarriageDecision Making, Personhood and DementiaDecoding the Ethics CodeDefining DifferenceDefining Right and Wrong in Brain ScienceDefining the Beginning and End of LifeDelusions of GenderDementiaDemocracy in What State?Demons of the Modern WorldDescriptions and PrescriptionsDesert and VirtueDesire, Practical Reason, and the GoodDestructive Trends in Mental HealthDeveloping the VirtuesDid My Neurons Make Me Do It?Difference and IdentityDigital HemlockDigital SoulDignityDignityDisability BioethicsDisability, Difference, DiscriminationDiscrimination against the Mentally IllDisordered Personalities and CrimeDisorders of VolitionDisorientation and Moral LifeDivided Minds and Successive SelvesDoes Feminism Discriminate against Men?Does Torture Work?Doing HarmDouble Standards in Medical Research in Developing 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WillsEthically Challenged ProfessionsEthicsEthicsEthicsEthics and AnimalsEthics and ScienceEthics and the A PrioriEthics and the Discovery of the UnconsciousEthics and the Metaphysics of MedicineEthics at the CinemaEthics at the End of LifeEthics Beyond the LimitsEthics Case Book of the American Psychoanalytic AssociationEthics Done RightEthics ExpertiseEthics for EveryoneEthics for PsychologistsEthics for the New MillenniumEthics in CyberspaceEthics in Everyday PlacesEthics in Health CareEthics In Health Services ManagementEthics in Mental Health ResearchEthics in PracticeEthics in PsychiatryEthics in PsychologyEthics in Psychotherapy and CounselingEthics of PsychiatryEthics without OntologyEthics, Culture, and PsychiatryEthics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about ChildrenEvaluating the Science and Ethics of Research on HumansEvilEvilEvil GenesEvil in Modern ThoughtEvil in Modern ThoughtEvolution, Gender, and RapeEvolutionary Ethics and Contemporary BiologyEvolutionary Psychology and ViolenceEvolved MoralityExperiments in EthicsExploding the Gene MythExploiting ChildhoodFacing Human SufferingFact and ValueFacts and ValuesFaking ItFalse-Memory Creation in Children and AdultsFat ShameFatal FreedomFellow CreaturesFellow-Feeling and the Moral LifeFeminism and Its DiscontentsFeminist Ethics and Social and Political PhilosophyFeminist TheoryFinal ExamFirst Do No HarmFirst, Do No HarmFlashpointFlesh WoundsForced to CareForgivenessForgivenessForgiveness and LoveForgiveness and ReconciliationForgiveness and RetributionForgiveness is Really StrangeFoucault and the Government of DisabilityFoundational Issues in Human Brain MappingFoundations of Forensic Mental Health AssessmentFree WillFree Will And Moral ResponsibilityFree Will and Reactive AttitudesFree Will, Agency, and Meaning in LifeFree?Freedom and ValueFreedom vs. InterventionFriendshipFrom Darwin to HitlerFrom Disgust to HumanityFrom Enlightenment to ReceptivityFrom Morality to Mental HealthFrom Silence to VoiceFrom Valuing to ValueFrontiers of JusticeGender in the MirrorGenetic PoliticsGenetic ProspectsGenetic ProspectsGenetics of Original SinGenetics of Original SinGenocide's AftermathGetting RealGluttonyGood WorkGoodness & AdviceGreedGroups in ConflictGrowing Up GirlGut FeminismHabilitation, Health, and AgencyHandbook for Health Care Ethics CommitteesHandbook of BioethicsHandbook of Children's RightsHandbook of PsychopathyHappinessHappiness and the Good LifeHappiness Is OverratedHard FeelingsHard LuckHardwired BehaviorHarmful ThoughtsHeal & ForgiveHealing PsychiatryHealth Care Ethics for PsychologistsHeterosyncraciesHistorical and Philosophical Perspectives on Biomedical EthicsHoly WarHookedHookedHow Can I Be Trusted?How Fascism WorksHow Propaganda WorksHow to Do Things with Pornography How to Make Opportunity EqualHow Universities Can Help Create a Wiser WorldHow We HopeHow We Think About DementiaHuman BondingHuman Dignity and Assisted DeathHuman Dignity and Assisted DeathHuman 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Practice in the Human ServicesMore Than HumanMotive and RightnessMovies and the Moral Adventure of LifeMurder in the InnMy Body PoliticMy Brain Made Me Do ItMy Sister's KeeperMy Sister's KeeperMy WayNakedNano-Bio-EthicsNarrative MedicineNarrative ProsthesisNatural Ethical FactsNatural-Born CybogsNaturalized BioethicsNeither Bad nor MadNeoconservatismNeonatal BioethicsNeurobiology and the Development of Human MoralityNeuroethicsNeuroethicsNeuroethicsNew Takes in Film-PhilosophyNew Waves in EthicsNew Waves in MetaethicsNietzsche on Ethics and PoliticsNo Child Left DifferentNo Impact ManNormative EthicsNormativityNothing about us, without us!Oath BetrayedOf War and LawOn AnimalsOn ApologyOn Being AuthenticOn EvilOn Human RightsOn The Stigma Of Mental IllnessOn the TakeOn Virtue EthicsOn What MattersOn What We Owe to Each OtherOne ChildOne Nation Under TherapyOne World NowOne World NowOur Bodies, Whose Property?Our Bodies, Whose Property?Our Daily MedsOur Faithfulness to the PastOur Posthuman FutureOut of EdenOut of Its MindOut of the ShadowsOverdosed AmericaOxford Handbook of Psychiatric EthicsOxford Studies in Normative EthicsOxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Volume 7Oxford Textbook of Philosophy of PsychiatryPassionate DeliberationPatient Autonomy and the Ethics of ResponsibilityPC, M.D.Perfecting VirtuePersonal AutonomyPersonal Autonomy in SocietyPersonal Identity and EthicsPersonalities on the PlatePersonhood and Health CarePersons, Humanity, and the Definition of DeathPerspectives On Health And Human RightsPharmaceutical FreedomPharmacracyPharmageddonPhilosophy and This Actual WorldPhilosophy of BiologyPhilosophy of Technology: The Technological ConditionPhysician-Assisted DyingPicturing DisabilityPilgrim at Tinker CreekPlaying God?Playing God?Political EmotionsPornlandPowerful MedicinesPractical Autonomy and BioethicsPractical EthicsPractical Ethics for PsychologistsPractical RulesPragmatic BioethicsPragmatic BioethicsPragmatic NeuroethicsPraise and BlamePreferences and Well-BeingPrimates and PhilosophersPro-Life, Pro-ChoiceProcreation and ParenthoodProfits Before People?Progress in BioethicsProperty in the BodyProzac As a Way of LifeProzac on the CouchPsychiatric Aspects of Justification, Excuse and Mitigation in Anglo-American Criminal Law Psychiatric EthicsPsychiatry and EmpirePsychological Concepts and Biological PsychiatryPsychology and Consumer CulturePsychology and LawPsychotropic Drug Prescriber's Survival GuidePublic Health LawPublic Health Law and EthicsPublic PhilosophyPunishing the Mentally IllPunishmentPursuits of WisdomPutting Morality Back Into PoliticsPutting on VirtueQuality of Life and Human DifferenceRaceRadical HopeRadical VirtuesRape Is RapeRe-creating MedicineRe-Engineering Philosophy for Limited BeingsReason's GriefReasonably ViciousReckoning With HomelessnessReconceiving Medical EthicsRecovery from SchizophreniaRedefining RapeRedesigning HumansReducing the Stigma of Mental IllnessReflections on Ethics and 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Troublesome ChildTechnology and the Good Life?TestimonyText and Materials on International Human RightsThe Moral Psychology of AngerThe Age of CulpabilityThe Age of CulpabilityThe Aims of Higher EducationThe Almost MoonThe Altruistic BrainThe American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Forensic PsychiatryThe Animal ManifestoThe Animals' AgendaThe Art of LivingThe Autonomy of MoralityThe Beloved SelfThe Best Things in LifeThe Big FixThe Bioethics ReaderThe Biology and Psychology of Moral AgencyThe Blackwell Guide to Medical EthicsThe Body SilentThe BondThe Book of LifeThe Burden of SympathyThe Cambridge Companion to Virtue EthicsThe Cambridge Companion to Virtue EthicsThe Cambridge Textbook of BioethicsThe Case against Assisted SuicideThe Case Against PerfectionThe Case Against PunishmentThe Case for PerfectionThe Case of Terri SchiavoThe Challenge of Human RightsThe Character GapThe Code for Global EthicsThe Colonization Of Psychic SpaceThe Commercialization of Intimate LifeThe Common ThreadThe Connected SelfThe Constitution of AgencyThe Cow with Ear Tag #1389The Creation of PsychopharmacologyThe Criminal BrainThe Decency WarsThe Difficult-to-Treat Psychiatric PatientThe Disability PendulumThe Disability Rights Movement: From Charity to ConfrontationThe Domain of ReasonsThe Double-Edged HelixThe Duty to ProtectThe Emotional Construction of MoralsThe End of Ethics in a Technological SocietyThe End of Stigma?The Essentials of New York Mental Health LawThe Ethical BrainThe Ethical Dimensions of the Biological and Health SciencesThe Ethics of BioethicsThe Ethics of Choosing ChildrenThe Ethics of Human EnhancementThe Ethics of ParenthoodThe Ethics of SightseeingThe Ethics of the FamilyThe Ethics of the Family in SenecaThe Ethics of the LieThe Ethics of TransplantsThe Ethics of WarThe Ethics ToolkitThe Evolution of Mental Health LawThe Evolution of MoralityThe FamilyThe Fat Studies ReaderThe Forgiveness ProjectThe Forgotten CreedThe Form of Practical KnowledgeThe Fountain 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Relevance of Philosophy to LifeThe Right Road to Radical FreedomThe Right to be LovedThe Right to Be ParentsThe Righteous MindThe Root of All EvilThe Routledge Companion to Virtue EthicsThe Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Animal MindsThe Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of EmpathyThe Rules of InsanityThe Second SexismThe Second-Person StandpointThe Silent World of Doctor and PatientThe Sleep of ReasonThe Social Psychology of Good and EvilThe Social Psychology of MoralityThe Social Psychology of MoralityThe Speed of DarkThe Stem Cell ControversyThe Stem Cell ControversyThe Story of Cruel and UnusualThe Story WithinThe Stubborn System of Moral ResponsibilityThe Suicide TouristThe Terrible GiftThe Theory of OptionsThe Therapy of DesireThe Trauma of Psychological TortureThe Trauma of Psychological TortureThe Triple HelixThe Trolley Problem MysteriesThe Trouble with DiversityThe Truth About the Drug CompaniesThe Ugly LawsThe Varieties of Religious ExperienceThe Virtue of Defiance and Psychiatric EngagementThe Virtues of FreedomThe Virtues of HappinessThe Virtuous Life in Greek EthicsThe Virtuous PsychiatristThe Voice of Breast Cancer in Medicine and BioethicsThe War Against BoysThe War for Children's MindsThe Whole ChildThe Woman RacketThe Worldwide Practice of TortureTherapy with ChildrenThieves of VirtueThree Generations, No ImbecilesTimes of Triumph, Times of DoubtTolerance Among The VirtuesTolerance and the Ethical LifeTolerationToxic PsychiatryTrauma, Truth and ReconciliationTreatment Kind and FairTrusting on the EdgeTry to RememberUltimate JudgementUnborn in the USA: Inside the War on AbortionUndermining ScienceUnderstanding AbortionUnderstanding CloningUnderstanding EmotionsUnderstanding EvilUnderstanding Kant's EthicsUnderstanding Moral ObligationUnderstanding Physician-Pharmaceutical Industry InteractionsUnderstanding TerrorismUnderstanding the GenomeUnderstanding the Stigma of Mental IllnessUnderstanding Treatment Without ConsentUnhingedUnprincipled VirtueUnsanctifying Human Life: Essays on EthicsUnspeakable Acts, Ordinary PeopleUp in FlamesUpheavals of ThoughtUsers and Abusers of PsychiatryValue-Free Science?Values and Psychiatric DiagnosisValues in ConflictVegetarianismViolence and Mental DisorderVirtue EthicsVirtue, Rules, and JusticeVirtue, Vice, and PersonalityVirtues and Their VicesVoracious Science and Vulnerable AnimalsVulnerability, Autonomy, and Applied EthicsWar Against the WeakWar, Torture and TerrorismWarrior's DishonourWeaknessWelfare and Rational CareWhat are you staring at?What Genes Can't DoWhat Have We DoneWhat Is a Human?What Is Good and WhyWhat Is Good and WhyWhat Is the Good Life?What Price Better Health?What Should I Do?What We Owe to Each OtherWhat Would Aristotle Do?What's Good on TVWhat's Normal?What's Wrong with Children's RightsWhat's Wrong with Homosexuality?What's Wrong With Morality?When Animals SpeakWhen Is Discrimination Wrong?Who Holds the Moral High Ground?Who Owns YouWho Qualifies for Rights?Whose America?Whose View of Life?Why Animals MatterWhy Animals MatterWhy Does Inequality Matter?Why Honor MattersWhy I Burned My Book and Other Essays on DisabilityWhy Not Kill Them All?Why Punish? How Much?Why Some Things Should Not Be for SaleWisdom, Intuition and EthicsWithout ConscienceWomen and Borderline Personality DisorderWomen and MadnessWondergenesWould You Kill the Fat Man?Wrestling with Behavioral GeneticsWriting About PatientsYou Must Be DreamingYour Genetic DestinyYour Inner FishYouth Offending and Youth Justice Yuck!
Whats Normal? is a collection of readings for a
course in literature and medicine taught in the weekend college at Hiram
College. It focuses on mental and
behavioral deviations from the norm, and is a complement to an earlier
Tyranny of the Normal, designed for a course on physical
divided into seven sections:
and Bioethical Perspectives
and Adolescents with Mental Disorder
Experiences with Mental Disorder
Experiences with War Trauma, Including PTSD
and Mental Disorder
This is a rather odd way to categorize readings about mental
disorders, and this oddness is multiplied in the choices of readings. This eccentric collection includes some
excellent pieces, but I would not recommend it as a represented survey of narratives
of mental and emotional disorders.
Of course, there are many possible
ways to organize such a book, but one would expect any such book to include
sections on depression, mania, anxiety and panic disorders, eating disorders
and self-mutilation, addiction and substance abuse, schizophrenia and
personality disorders. One might also
expect a major section on patients reactions to various treatments, especially
the experiences of taking psychotropic medication and being in psychotherapy. Unfortunately, Whats Normal? hardly
covers these at all.
Instead, the book provides a highly
eclectic and rather critical collection of readings concerning psychological
normality. The first section, of
clinical and bioethical perspectives, does not aim to provide a balanced
selection of views, but rather sets the tone of the book with a selection of
critical views. Among the pieces is an
extract from Seth Farbers bizarre antipsychiatric book Madness,
Heresy and the Rumor of Angels, in which he presents some thoroughly
Szaszian cases of people diagnosed with serious mental illnesses such as manic
depression or schizophrenia. Farber
claims that these people, who did not seem to benefit from psychiatric
treatment, were not suffering from mental illness, but rather were experiencing
spiritual crises or transformations.
Also included in this section is a selection from Ian Hackings book Rewriting
the Soul, about multiple personality and the diagnosis of dissociative
identity disorder. Hacking, who takes a
skeptical view of the diagnosis multiple personality, is a superb writer who
documents his claims fairly carefully, but of course multiple personality
remains an extremely rare diagnosis.
The famous article by D.L.
Rosenhan, On Being Sane in Insane Places, is another of the articles in this
section. Published in 1973, it recounts
an experiment in which graduate students got admitted to psychiatric wards by
going to emergency rooms and claiming that they had delusions, and then ceased
to pretend any further that they had any psychiatric problems. These pseudopatients were never detected
by the psychiatrists, and all but one was discharged with a diagnosis of
schizophrenia in remission. It is a
major piece of evidence for those who claim that the label of mental illness
stays with people once attached, no matter how sane they are. But its also a massively out-of-date
article: the length of hospitalization of these pseudopatients was between 7
and 52 days, with an average of 19 days.
These days, unless patients are a danger to themselves or others, it is
extremely unlikely that they will be admitted as inpatients at all, and it
would be very unusual for them to be in hospitals for more than a few
This is not to say Rosenhans
article is not still relevant, but it is astonishing that this book makes no effort
to reflect the current experience of patients dealing with managed care and the
bureaucracy of health care, where often they or their families have to fight to
get decent and consistent treatment.
The situation of the 1970s, when patients could be admitted to hospitals
for several weeks if doctors thought it necessary, seems very attractive in
many ways. Its a major deficit of the
book that it does not reflect in the changes in the provision of health care over
the last 30 years. But rather than suggest
that the book should include more modern discussion of the nature of health
care by historians, sociologists or philosophers, it strikes me as a mistake to
include a theoretical section in this book at all, because it is impossible to
be at all inclusive. The editors would
have done better to stick to the central theme of the book, that of
first-person and literary perspectives on the experience of emotional problems
and mental disorders.
Most of the other
sections also fail to give a picture of the experience of mental illness in
contemporary life. For example, the
most modern piece in the section on children and adolescents is by Susanna
Kaysen, from her book Girl,
Interrupted, which is a meditation on her hospitalization in the late
1960s, when she was given a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. This section also includes an extract from
Peter Shaffers overwrought 1973 play Equus,
Graham Greenes short story The End of the Party, and Conrad Aikens story
Silent Snow, Secret Snow. These
latter two are both from the early twentieth century, and are both unusual and
interesting choices on the part of the editors. However, for teachers who might be using this book in a course on
the medical humanities (which is presumably what this book is mainly designed
for), these are somewhat tricky stories to use as examples to educate
students. Its far from clear how one
might relate these stories to modern health care. If teachers are comfortable explaining the background of writers
such as Greene and Aiken, they may well have success in using these stories in
class, but I know Id be somewhat apprehensive in attempting it myself.
Id make similar
observations about most of the other sections.
I found it hard to relate the writings in the section on mental
disability including Peter Nichols, Flannery OConnor, John Steinbeck, Anne
Tyler, and Eudora Welty to contemporary issues in the diagnosis and social
and medical treatment of the condition.
Why the editors include a whole section on war trauma is unclear to me,
since war trauma is not a problem we have to face much today, even now that the
US is engaged in a war on terror. It
would have made more sense to fold it into the section on men and mental
successful section, in my opinion, is the last on Alzheimers and
dementia. It includes an imaginative
selection of authors, all of whom were new to me. These pieces help convey the experience of the progressive
dementia from a variety of perspectives, in works of great literary power. They are the most successful in
accomplishing what the book claims it sets out to do in its title, which is
provide narratives of mental and emotional disorders.
My comments have
been critical, but I should acknowledge that the task of this book is
daunting. To examine the themes of
mental illness in literature requires a good knowledge of both the history of
literature and of psychology, and anything approaching a satisfactory survey
would require a massive collection of literature. The collection of pieces in Whats Normal? is highly
idiosyncratic, so other teachers considering it for use in their courses will
find it hard to adapt to their needs.
Id suggest that for the purpose of conveying ethical and humanistic
issues in mental illness faced in contemporary life, it would be far more
profitable to focus on the narratives found in the proliferation of memoirs of
mental illness published in the last thirty years by patients and their family
members. (A fair number of these are
reviewed in the Memoirs
section of Metapsychology.)
© 2002 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.
Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College,
Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review.
His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry.
He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can
play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster
communication between philosophers, mental health professionals,
and the general public.