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NONTHEMATIC / Vol. 46, No. 4 (Winter 1979)

January 1, 1980

Arien Mack, Editor

 

Table of Contents

 

Terrence Des Pres

The Bettelheim Problem

In his Surviving and Other Essays, Bruno Bettelheim, under the guise of a concentration camp survivor, has misrepresented the experience by erroneously "crossing worlds" and investing his arguments with personal content. He has also misrepresented the Nazi mentality in his criticisms of Des Pres's "The Survivor" and Lina Wertmuller's "Seven Beauties."

 

Franco Ferrarotti

The Destiny of Reason and the Paradox of the Sacred

Modern societies which wish to be considered technically advanced and socially "developed" define themselves in terms of rational calculation. In these societies, reason no longer has a "destiny" but becomes a self-imposed, historical undertaking. What is, and what has value, is rational; the irrational and the antirational are the unforeseeable, the incongruous, the deviant-in a word, evil. There are good reasons for holding that the categories of "rational" and "irrational" should not be seen as the opposite terms of an irreconcilable dichotomy, but rather make up a polarity, a permanent tension between two linguistic codes and two attitudes to existence which fight and refer to each other. However, even before this, the basic question must be put: Can a society live and perpetuate itself without a "privileged connection" which is "sacred"?

 

Jan Pen

A Clear Case of Leveling: Income Equalization in The Netherlands

Between 1938 and 1978, after-tax income inequality has halved in the Netherlands; this leveling process can be attributed to public and private pressures and is unlikely to proceed much further.

 

George Kateb

On the "Legitimation Crisis"

Is there a “legitimation crisis” in the US, as some say? There would be, if there were deep and widespread feelings and opinions marked by disaffection from or hostility to the constitutive principles and informing spirit of the country’s political arrangements. It is likely that if there is a legitimation crisis, that crisis will affect many of society's arrangements and institutions, political and nonpolitical, but attain its most visible and focused and therefore most vivid expression politically. My belief is that if one is to examine the condition of legitimacy in a society one must look first to the state of repair of its basic political principles before diagnosing specific ailments no matter how severe they may appear to be. At the same time, a discussion of political principles must reach to questions of culture and personality.

 

Eric J. Cassell

Changing Ideas of Causality in Medicine

Since the phrase "treat the patient as a person" has been around for a long time, one may wonder what is meant by saying the new focus of medicine will be the person. The usage "treat the patient as a person" suggests that a doctor should treat the patient in the manner one would treat a person—as if a patient were a person. While that is a step on the way to where I believe medicine is going, it is still far short. This essay is concerned with two concepts which, together, provide the philosophical foundation for present-day medicine. The first is that there are such things as diseases; the second, that each disease has a cause (the concept of specific etiology). As the focus of medical practice shifts to the sick person, both of these concepts come into question. I also explore the idea of the "story" as a more effective way of understanding illness.

 

Joseph Margolis

The Prospects of an Objective Morality

To think seriously of moral matters is not so much to insure a supply of essential cases as to force ourselves to reflect on these out of a living sense of the pathos, the violence, the intensity, the conviction, the contingency, the risk and contest of mortally opposed forces. Disagreement about moral matters is a Janus affair. On the one hand, the imagination of parties to any profound dispute cannot fail to be drawn to consider the radical possibility of an alien conviction utterly pitted against their combined forces and fortunes. On the other, such disputants always believe, notoriously, that they are in the right, that there is a right to the matter, and that cool reflection or revelation will discover it. I am not so persuaded, and I believe the evidence is against any form of moral confidence. So seen, there is, for us, no "crisis" of moral justification, because the skeptical threat is as natural a part of our reflective lives as moral conviction itself.

 

Robert L. Simon and Stephen L. Zegura

Sociobiology and Morality

Sociobiology is an attempt to explain the social behavior of organisms in biological terms. While sociobiologists differ among themselves on a variety of points, sociobiology itself continues to be the center of a heated controversy. Much of the argument has focused on the political and social implications of sociobiological accounts of human behavior. One particularly significant area where the debate has tended to shed more heat than light is that of ethics. This paper investigates what implications sociobiology might have for ethics and for the possibility of rational ethical criticism of existing institutions.

 

Reinhard Bendix

Western Europe as the Object and Source of Social Science Research

First, can Weber's approach to the special character of Western European culture still be ours? Second, what happens to the Western European-oriented concept formation when social-science research changes its standpoint? To answer these questions I will talk briefly about Western Europe as the object of social-science research. Thereafter, I want: to deal in somewhat greater detail with Western European history as the source of concepts in the social sciences and illustrate this by various examples.

 

Jacques Ellul

Remarks on Technology and Art

It is not my intention here to formulate a philosophical approach to the relation between art and technology. I shall not attempt to provide a generally valid explanation or even a sketch of that relation. My aim is more modest: I think that a total transformation of technology has taken place since 1945 and that our society has passed from an industrial era, not to some sort of "postindustrial" phase, but rather to a "technocratic" phase in which technology influences everything. This transformation has changed art as well: contemporary art is remote from what has for millennia been called art. This new conception is the product of technology. In these brief pages I'd like to indicate how contemporary art relates to modern technology and to locate that art in the technocratic universe.

 

Abba P. Lerner

On Keynes, Policy, and Theory: A Grumble

The articles by Edward Nell, J. A. Kregel, and Joseph Halevi were mistaken in their analyses of the author's interpretation (Social Research Vol. 44, No. 3) of Keynesian economic theory and its application in US and British economic policy.

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