It may also be the case that the emerging biological paradigm in psychiatry was

It may also be the case that the emerging biological

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Darwin and his successors. It may also be the case that the emerging biological paradigm in psychiatry was averse to a field of thought that had once flourished in its infamousy. In the decades following the publication of The Origin of Species (Darwin 1859), the principle of natural selection was applied to the human mind and intellect by Galton (1869) and others as a rationale for justifying social stratification and discrimination. This movement known as ‘eugenics’ inspired many racist and even genocidal political movements and policies such as Aryan supremacy and apartheid . In rejecting such fascist ideologies, scientists of the mind in more recent times have been careful to avoid the application of evolutionary principles to human psychology and behaviour. Not all though. Edward O. Wilson (1975) published Sociobiology in 1975, arguing that evolutionary theory can illuminate the social behaviour of humans, not just that of other creatures. He and his colleagues were immediately branded genetic determinists – the collective memory of the abuses of eugenics was perhaps still too fresh. In recent decades, however, a growing number of psychiatrists have embraced the evolutionary 4
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paradigm in their efforts to understand the nature of mental illness (see Crow 1995; 1997; Brune et al 2003; Burns 2007.) A philosophy of embodiment The adoption of an evolutionary perspective on the mind and its maladies necessitates an absolute rejection of Cartesian dualism. If ‘the mind’ is subject to the biological laws of evolutionary transformation, then it must exist as a phenomenon that is firmly embedded in the material substrate of brain, body and world. For this reason, a philosophy of embodiment is key to any attempt to reinvigorate Darwinian thinking about the mind and psychopathology. Perhaps the father of such a philosophy was the German thinker Martin Heidegger (1889-1976.) As Bracken states so eloquently in his work Trauma: Culture, Meaning and Philosophy , “Heidegger’s thought is a powerful antidote to the dominance of Cartesianism in the humanities and human sciences” (Bracken 2002.) Heidegger spoke of ‘being-in-the-world’, meaning that we are not “in a world that is separate from ourselves … Rather, we allow a world to be by our very presence” (Bracken 2002.) Bracken explains that for Heidegger, the world exists ‘a priori’, that is before, our human representation of it as thought. What is in our minds is a construct derived from social and cultural information already present in the world around ourselves – our environment. Thus Heidegger divorces the Western concept of mind from its Cartesian origins and presents it as a manifestation of the dynamic interaction between individual and environment. Equally important in overturning dualism and replacing it with a philosophy of embodiment was the French phenomenologist, Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961.) Macke (2007) writes of the significance of Merleau-Ponty’s master work: “ The Phenomenology of Perception succeeded in closing the book, so to speak, on the 5
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dialectic of body and mind that served as the fundamental, metaphysical puzzle of the second millennium.” Merleau-Ponty
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