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Blogosophical Investigations
Tuesday, June 03, 2003  

A letter in The Times says:

The philosopher A. C. Grayling suggests (T2, May 28) that rather than turning to drugs, religion or therapy to gain greater fulfilment from life, we might more usefully turn to the rich and fascinating tradition of philosophy. Poppycock.

Of course there are those who turn to drugs such as Prozac for a recreational fix. But there are many thousands more who do so simply to be able to function normally. They are unlikely to be in a mental state to gain much from Plato.

Sounds like a false dichotomy to me. It's obviously true that many need drugs for a time, as some need plaster casts and crutches for a time, to let healing take place. But not all do. According to the claims of Julian Simon, which I reported below (February 28), the overall success rate of cognitive therapy for depression in particular - I don't know about other mental disorders - is comparable with that of drugs.

And cognitive therapy involves identifying thoughts and disputing them with reason and evidence; and going further, if need be, by sifting through one's own values - activities continuous with critical and philosophical thinking.

Grayling further contends that those who turn to therapy are doomed to disappointment because, like all the other solutions to modern man’s discontentment, no personal effort is involved and responsibility is yielded to someone else.

No decent therapist ever takes responsibility away from a client. Clients have to work enormously hard, often with great courage, through terrible emotional pain to find greater fulfilment.

There can be no greater responsibility than to take charge of your own thinking in the manner counselled by cognitive therapists.

Why pitch these alternatives against each other, as if they're mutually exclusive? It can be fully responsible to seek the help of drugs; and frutiful to try the path of critical reflection.

I don't know whether Grayling was guilty of setting up this opposition in his article - I haven't seen it yet.

4:03 PM

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