Failing the Rorschach

Rorschach Inkblot

The New York Times reports on the debate involving the posting of the ten plates of the Rorschach test to Wikipedia. There are two fundamental issues here and I find myself torn between the opposing sides. On the one hand, I largely share the information-libertarian view of the Wikipedians, information should be free to distribute and use, and of course the fact that the copyright has expired on the inkblots doesn’t hurt their case. On the other hand, it could theoretically hinder the effectiveness of the test, because not only have the inkblots themselves been posted, but included are the most common answers according to psychological research. Again, I find myself torn between the politics and the ethics of this situation.

It reminds me of a story that Zizek tells of his time in Paris, when he was undergoing analysis with Jacques-Alain Miller. Zizek knew, as I’m sure Lacan and Miller did as well, that with the knowledge of Lacanian psychoanalysis, it is nearly impossible for a true analysis. He also tells the story of one of his analyst friends who had a patient who would self-analyse, saying that things must relate to their relationship to their mother, etc, etc. I suppose what I’m really wondering about is the relationship here between knowledge and health. We seem to naturally assume that with knowledge, health will increase. I read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food recently (that was my email that Graham posted a while back about Pollan and OOP), and one of his central arguments is essentially that science, while trying to find out what it is that makes food healthy, makes it much less healthy. This combined with the Lacanian anecdotes and this more recent developments leads me to ask, can we only be healthy through ignorance? For all of its relations to science, how do the “speculative realists” (if the term can even still be used) compare on this issue? Coming from my background in Schelling and Hermeticism, health is explained as the sought-after balance, as an unstable yet desired equilibrium, but this balance is only truly achievable through knowledge (and incredibly difficult to maintain!). Is this even an issue that contemporary philosophy wants to deal with or is even able to deal with? Or are we left with the medical sciences, biology, and chemistry? Is a new philosophy of health possible?

[ADDENSUM: Courtesy of Ian Bogost’s twitter, a piece in the New York Times on the definition of health. Lots to chew over.]

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One response to “Failing the Rorschach

  1. Of course a new philosophy of health is possible. But it will have as much to do with “real” medicine as the philosophy of science does with modern techno-scientific endeavors. In short, very little. You talk of your background in Schelling (who trained as a doctor) and Hermeticism (which was intimately related to medicine and chemistry in the early modern period) as if they are only tangential to the question you pose. They aren’t.

    This is precisely what people like Foucault were trying to say…That truly holistic conceptions of health spill out into all areas of life. Step one in a revolutionary philosophy of medicine is challenging the compartmentalization of knowledge. The tyranny of reductionism is incredibly powerful, especially in modern biomedicine, and arguably embedded into medicine since Vesalius and beyond…

    One short cut to insight is to revisit classical philosophy in light of health. There’s lots of really good stuff there waiting to be repackaged and reinterpreted.

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