NONTHEMATIC / Vol. 67, No. 4 (Winter 2000)
Arien Mack, Editor
The editor would like to call attention to the statement in the following pages that was sent to Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi by Hanny Megally, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch, in protest against further egregious civil and human rights abuses in Iran.
In an open letter sent to Iran’s chief judicial official, Human Rights Watch called for an end to the prosecution of prominent independent and reformist figures who attended an international conference last April.
The author presents insights on patriotism. According to him, patriotism is a mistake, not only a simple mistake but a grave moral error and its source is the state of mental confusion. However, the mistake arising from patriotism can be considered inevitable since it cannot be avoided or prevented from happening. Most often, this mistake of patriotism is further elaborated and promoted by political theorists, moral philosophers and theologians. Defending patriotism or any group of phenomena related or analogous to it is an attack on the enlightenment.
The author presents insights on dictatorship. According to him, dictatorship is an immanent possibility which is internally related to the principles of democratic will formation and the liberal rule of law. Carl Schmitt states that dictatorship involves not only the abolition of powers but also the subordination of the rule of law to the rule of human will. Dictatorship, unlike various forms of tyranny and despotism has a legal context which is established for the legal order and actualization of legal norms. The difference between commissarial dictatorship and sovereign or revolutionary dictatorship were further explained.
The article discusses the role of civil nations on the formation of Europe. According to the author, the perspective that Europe and different European nations are separate entities should be inverted because it is impossible to conceive Europe as distinct from its member states for they both complement and reinforce one another. He added that Europe's formation process is a belated result of a maturation process in the formation of civil nations, which constitute citizens who are active on the affairs of the nation and committed to the defense of an order of freedom.
The article criticizes the theories on public sphere. The sudden emergence of new democracies encouraged the transfer of the Habermasian model of the public sphere in order to understand the civic engagement traditions of new eastern states. According to the author, the uncritical transfer of Habermasian theories to analyze non-western societies remains questionable on methodological grounds. It is clear that theories and concepts designed for European and Anglo-American examples should not be applied to non-western cases.
The article focuses on the biomedical and pyschodynamic orientation of the nature of mental disorder. These two orientations, which differ in their understanding of the nature mental disorder, personhood and moral dimension of treatment both struggle to dictate the terms in which mental disorder should be classified, formulated and treated. However, the competition between the two orientation is slowly coming to an end with majority of professionals preferring biomedical over psychodynamic orientation in understanding and treating mental disorder.
The article presents insights on consciousness and experience. The author was wondering what kind of experience his infant son is having of himself. He first thought that there could be no kind of consciousness and no inner life within his baby's body. But, he realized that his boy is not totally unconscious, however disorganized his life may be. He also realized that if these experiences are occurring in a baby boy, then they presumably have to belong to an "experiencer." This concept of experience was already elaborated by Gottlob Frege hundreds of years ago. According to Frege, an experience is impossible without an experient.
The author discusses how a social construct caused scientific stagnation. In 1861, Paul Broca surprised his colleagues during a meeting of the Societé d' Antropologie in Paris by stating that speech is left lateralized in the brain. His insights resulted in a lot of investigations on the left brain specializations. However, studies on the specializations of the right brain hemisphere were neglected for more than a century. According to the author, a constraining social construct that had been imported into neuropsychology from the culture of the time was the main cause of the long maintained bias against crediting the unique skills of the right brain.
The article analyzes several concepts of fear. The Athenians, according to Thucydides believe that fear is one of the three strongest motives for human action. Aristotle, on the other hand, believes that how a person responds to fear is one of the telling indicator of his capacity for ethical conduct. A modern and more contemporary view of fear given by Raymond Aaron was given and explained. The author argues that the contemporary understanding of fear was influenced by the revisionist thinking. The shift in the conception of fear, from politics to psychology and culture made it difficult for people to understand its contemporary sources.
The article presents the worldviews of Ernst Mayr and Isaiah Berlin on nature, freedom and responsibility. Mayr, a prominent twentieth-century evolutionary biologists and theorist and Berlin, an equally popular political philosopher and historian of ideas both believe on the power and constitutive necessity of worldviews in human affairs. Mayr is concerned with the development and articulation of a Darwinian worldview that comprehends both animate nature and human life. Berlin, on the other hand, likes to explore the fundamentals of a politically liberal worldview.
The author argues that rights to privacy and sexual equality need not conflict, although in some cases, the rights to privacy justify inequality. The primary reason why rights to privacy and equality need not conflict is because they are interdependent and distinct, the meaning and justification of the one usually reflect that of the other. Since they are interdependent and distinct, people can use their best understanding of privacy and inequality, to clarify that role that the two factors both play in a democratic system of rights. This understanding will ensure that the right of people to privacy reflect their claims to equality and that various rights for equality justify their claims to privacy.