Antonio Damasio’s Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human BrainDecember 9th 2009
Descartes’ Error1 can be read in 2 ways. To start, it works as an engagingly written, accurate piece of science journalism (which is something that we need more of; it’s hard to imagine running a democracy without it).
Michel Foucault’s Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of ReasonJune 5th 2009
Psychiatry is eminently corruptible. Soviet psychiatrists of the 1950s disgracefully organized themselves into the medical arm of the Gulag state. Political dissidence became prima facie evidence of impaired reality testing, of “sluggish schizophrenia.” We like to believe in the benefits of scientific progress, but for Soviet inmates, progress was prefixed with a minus sign; every apparent advance in psychiatric technology left them more tightly controlled and worse off.
Kernberg’s Borderline Conditions and Pathological NarcissismFebruary 1st 2009
Book reviews have long been a first defense against scholastic overload. Generations of high school students have bypassed Wuthering Heights and The Scarlet Letter in favor of CliffsNotes, and now Wikipedia. Many people use the New York Times Book Review less to plot future reading than to pick up enough talking points about this week’s bestseller that they can skip it but still sound intelligent. Recently, litterateur and psychoanalyst Pierre Bayard anatomized this art of faked literary chat in his nearly serious study, How to Talk About a Book You Haven’t Read.