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10/27/2015

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Cool post! Jim Sinclair, who has autism, once said (as I recall) "when people say 'I wish my kid weren't autistic', what they're really saying is, 'I wish I didn't have this kid, and had a different one instead.'" He wouldn't want to be transformed into someone without autism, b/c that's essential to who he is.

I tend to think psychiatric issues are a good reason to want an authenticity constraint in a theory of well-being--that is, to think that well-being depends partly on the authenticity of one's values/emotional responses etc. Eg, psychiatric meds can (in principle) work both ways on this count: if your depressed mood reflects who you really are, then you might reasonably worry that medication could weaken the authenticity of your emotions ("uplift anxiety"), and hesitate to use it on that basis. But if you see your depression as suppressing who you really are--it's genuinely disordered, say--then you might regard the meds as *enhancing* the authenticity of your state of mind ("I'm finally myself again").The basic issue here is what counts as an authenticity-preserving transformation.

Importantly, there can also be reasons having nothing to do with authenticity: at least, that life will be more pleasant. You might think taking antidepressants during healthy grieving slightly diminishes the authenticity of your emotions, but is worth it anyway, b/c you feel better. A spiritual analgesic, as it were, just like aspirin. If the meds were Brave New World-effective, however, that might be a different story, as you might prefer pain to losing yourself altogether.

Re. Vincent: if "treatment" would yield an inauthentic result--it wouldn't really be him--that would be a reason not to do it. Even then, if it would make his life more enjoyable or satisfying, then that'd be a reason the other way. Or so it seems to me! Thanks for the shout-out, and a fun post!

Hi Natalia--

First, your stint as guest author has been terrific--but it made me realize just how difficult this must be for interested readers like me who are just swamped with mid-semester work. Made me realize that timing of being guest author relative to the academic calendar is a big factor in participation.

Second, your scenario made me think of a different perspective on it--social influences that not only do not serve the best interests of the personality development of a creative sort like Vincent, but in some instances provide both positive and negative feedback to marginal personalities that respectively keep that person in a marginal state and fail to encourage change. The example that flew into my mind is Seinfeld's Soup Nazi (apparently based on a real and similar character). The SN is not at all nice, and is demanding of customers to toe lots of lines literally and figuratively in asking for soup--but the soup is so damn good that customers meet those demands (the SN is positively reinforced in that obnoxious behavior) and deviations from demands that are punished--"No soup for you!"--are met with apologetic behavior that only embolden SN attitudes (negative reinforcement). So the socially-perceived value of the SN's soup as a product is so great that there is no effective way that interactions with the SN will dilute his so-called Nazi side; the soup is more treasured than any concern for SN transformation into a less obnoxious person. Something like this must be at work with giving us artists, athletes, and actors who are also assholes. (Though I'm mindful of the complexities of perception and reality here: Muhammad Ali presented himself as self-absorbed, confident, and defiant publicly (and thus deliberately a role-model for an oppressed generation), yet it seems that he was anything but that in his own private life.)

Anyway, thanks again for thoughtful posts this month.

Hi Alan--

I'm glad you enjoyed it! (It's a busy time of the year!)

You make an interesting point about celebrity... I often worry that becoming an asshole is inevitable when everyone starts treating you not as a real person. I wonder, though, what the SNs feelings on his social status are. I suppose he may or may not feel alienated, and I think that whether or not he does should matter for our prescriptions for him to change.

Unless maybe the intuition is that the SN can clearly become better despite whether he wants to or not?

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