Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Disco Diagnosis: Is Arnold Scharzennegger really suffering from "Love Addiction"?

I would say that now I have heard everything, but, as soon as I say it, I will hear something else from the Men In White Coats that I have not heard before and that I wouldn't have thought that supposedly intelligent people would even have thought of and I will realize once again that I have really not heard everything. They are imaginative people, these people who think everything is analyzable by science.

Today's episode of Let's Apply Science To Something It Has Little To Do With involves Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California who, it turns out, fathered a child by a member of his house staff, which has caused the news programs to look for explanations in all the wrong places.

[And I should probably specify here that the person who bore the child was female for the Women's and Gender Studies folks out there who have convinced themselves that men and women aren't really different after all.]

Whenever a public official is found to have committed a moral indiscretion, the news programs call, not on anyone who is an expert in morality, but on someone who is an expert on disease. Instead of a priest, or perhaps an ethicist (a class of people in whose existence I frankly do not believe) they call on a psychologist.

CNN's Anderson Cooper, following the current custom, called in a "Dr. Drew" (didn't catch his full name), whom he pressed for an explanation. Dr. Drew, who has never actually had Schwarzenegger as a patient, much less ever even talked to the man, was in no doubt as to the diagnosis: it was a "classic case," he said, of "Love Addiction."

Now I don't know how they select the names for diseases in psychology, but I'm thinking that there should probably be some requirement that the name of a psychological malady not sound like it might have been the title of a hit song for K. C. and the Sunshine Band.

We first witnessed the descent of psychology into disco diagnosis last year, when the TV shrinks identified Tiger Woods' problem as "Sex Addiction," a diagnosis which Woods gladly accepted (better to have a disease than commit a moral failure) and for which he announced he would seek "treatment."

But it is not only the increasing triviality of the pop psychological diagnosis of wayward celebrities that is remarkable, but the underlying speciousness of the whole enterprise. I have remarked elsewhere regarding the tendency in our culture to try to explain away human moral behavior through scientific hocus-pocus. Aristotle divided the reasons for human behavior (of which he identified seven) into the voluntary and the involuntary. Our entire culture is trying to shift behavior from the voluntary, where we are responsible moral agents, to the involuntary, where we are merely amoral spectators of our own behavior.

You are not responsible for contracting a "disease."

But the Dr. Drews of the world take this process to an even more absurd level. With Anderson Cooper facilitating, the expert somehow managed at one and the same time to excuse Schwarzenegger for his behavior by diagnosing him with a disease ("Love Addiction"), but kept reminding his audience that this didn't make what he did "okay."

Well, if it was a disease, then why wasn't it "okay"? And what exactly does "okay" mean? Why didn't he say, not that it still wasn't "okay," but that it was still "wrong"? Is there something wrong with the word "wrong"?

I have a solution for all the psychological nonsense we get treated to whenever a public official or a celebrity falls from grace.

CNN needs to hire some old, crotchety, no-nonsense priest to come on whenever this happens. Anderson would say, "Father O'Malley, what went wrong here? How could [insert name of latest wayward celebrity] this have happened?"

Then the priest would look at Cooper, shake his head, and say (and I'm thinking an Irish accent would be helpful here), "Anderson, are ye daft? Or mebbe you've been hittin' the bottle again? Why the man's a sinner: that's what's wrong with 'im." Then the priest, who would have an intimate understanding of sin from having heard confessions and prescribed penance for his entire adult life, could explain the finer points of temptation and moral failure, which involve among other things, Getting Down Tonight, which results from a little to much Shaking of the Booty, because That's the Way you Liked It at the time--only later to realize that even your Boogie Shoes are not going help you run away from it.

And then he could assure Anderson that Schwarzenegger's being a sinner doesn't mean what he did was not wrong. And this remark, unlike Dr. Drew's, would have the advantage of not being rationally inconsistent with everything he had just said.

11 comments:

Singring said...

'Instead of a priest...'

Why of course! Let's have someone who has never touched a woman sexually lecture us about what is and is not moral sexual behaviour. That makes eminent sense!

How utterly absurd it would be, on the other hand, to ask somene who actually has studied the workings of the human mind and the behaviours it produces!

'Dr. Drew, who has never actually had Schwarzenegger as a patient, much less ever even talked to the man...'

A very good point. But remind us again - why exactly would it be better to consult a priest who has never preached to Schwarzenegger, has never met the man and - quite frankly - doesn't know what a naked woman looks like?

'But it is not only the increasing triviality of the pop psychological diagnosis of wayward celebrities that is remarkable, but the underlying speciousness of the whole enterprise.'

You know what? I agree with you completely. I don't care about teh sex lives of pop stars, golfers or Presidents. for that matter, I care about whether I like their musc, like their game, or think they are doing a good job.

But just when I thought we were approaching a tangent of agreement, another whopper this way comes:

'Our entire culture is trying to shift behavior from the voluntary, where we are responsible moral agents, to the involuntary, where we are merely amoral spectators of our own behavior.'

I can scarcely believe that the same man who wrote the above also penned the following bon-mots:

'She is referring, of course, to the idea that you can put young, hormone-powered men in close proximity with young, nubile women and expect them not to act on their natural inclinations. The only way they won't is by thinking they are not what they actually are (Ionnane's "neutering")

[Colleges] actively encourage a highly charged sexual atmosphere and then turn around and wonder why there are rapes on campus.'

So whenever it is opportune, natural urges are a perfectly fine for explainaing why someone did something, at other times, they are 'psychological nonsense'.

I'd like to see Anderson Cooper do a report on that.

Lee said...

> ...I'm thinking that there should probably be some requirement that the name of a psychological malady not sound like it might have been the title of a hit song for K. C. and the Sunshine Band.

Not K.C., but the late great Robert Palmer. "Mi-i-ight as well face it, I'm addicted to love..."

KyCobb said...

I agree this notion that Ahnold has some kind of disease is nonsense. If getting some on the side when the opportunity arises is a disease, then the majority of adult men on the planet are ill. Rich, powerful men like Ahnold, Tiger, Clinton, Trump and Gingrich, going back thousands of years to the patriarchs of the Bible, have lots of opportunities to fool around, and frequently take them. You might as well claim that an addiction to breathing or eating is an illness.

Francis J. Beckwith said...

"Why of course! Let's have someone who has never touched a woman sexually lecture us about what is and is not moral sexual behaviour. That makes eminent sense!"

You're not saying that the rightness or wrongness of an act is contingent upon whether the person making the judgment has in fact acted in that way in the past? If so, unless you are a priest, you can't judge whether a priest is capable of making judgments about acts in which they have not engaged. If judgments about the morality of sex acts requires that one engage in sex acts, then those who have not engaged in priestly acts cannot judge those that have engaged in priestly acts (one of which is to issue judgments on moral matters).

Something else just crossed my mind. Apparently, Stephen Hawking cannot say it is wrong to run away from the scene of a crime, since he has apparently never run. Helen Keller, never having seen or heard, cannot issue judgments on the wrongness of hearing gossip or peeping-tommery. Come to think of it, thalidomide babies, born with arms, are incapable of saying it is wrong to slap, punch, elbow, or finger an innocent person.

Singring said...

'You're not saying that the rightness or wrongness of an act is contingent upon whether the person making the judgment has in fact acted in that way in the past? '

When did I ever say that?

I know I'm a crazy, zany liberal kind of guy, but when I have to decide on who to ask for a comment on the behaviour of X, I would pick someone who has studied human behaviour and engaged in it rather than someone who has not only never engaged in it, but has taken a vow to never engage in it.

It strikes me just as eminently reasonable to ask an aviation engineer about a plane crash rather than a priest - but then again, Francis, I have to remember that you are a member of a group that takes certain dogmatic claims for granted, as you have previously stated.

As to the moral issues surrounding this case?

If you have any good argument for why a Catholic priest from Notre Dame is any more qualified than a car salesman from Iowa to make proclamations on morality, then I'd certainly love to hear it.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

If you have any good argument for why a Catholic priest from Notre Dame is any more qualified than a car salesman from Iowa to make proclamations on morality, then I'd certainly love to hear it.

Um, I don't know, like maybe he's actually studied moral theology and dealt with people's moral issues on a daily basis?

I'm trying to think of how many car salesmen take confession. What would they say? "For your penance I prescribe three oil changes and a brake inspection."

Martin Cothran said...

I'm also trying to figure out what inconsistency you are accusing me of. My point was that a psychological diagnosis proposes that there is a physiological cause to behavior like Scharweneggers which, by its very nature, excludes the possibility of moral responsibility, whereas a moral diagnosis does not.

So what's the problem?

Singring said...

'I'm trying to think of how many car salesmen take confession. What would they say? "For your penance I prescribe three oil changes and a brake inspection."'

Martin, this is the whole point:

How does taking a confession and prescribing twenty Lord's prayers for it make someone more of a moral expert than someone who changes spark plugs for a living?

It really is a simple question. I understand that in your circles where doctrines are simply accepted by faith it is accepted to simply accept that priests are experts on morality because they have gobe to seminary. To everyone else who is not pre-programmed with dogma this simply isn't an argument. It's as if I were a member of the church of auto-mechanics and asserted that talking to customers made car mechanics experts on morals.

'So what's the problem?'

The prblem is that when male students harass and rape college girls, that's simply a consequence of their natural tendencies as males. They can't be blamed for their actions. Therefore, school policies that allow mixed dorms are to blame for such actions and the only way to stop them is to 'neuter' males - i.e. deny them their nature. that was your argument Martin.

Yet when it comes to other people who look to school policies or social ills as a possible contributory cause for school shootings or when psychologists argue that experimental data suggests that some behaviours are genetically influenced (that is, influenced by their nature), then that is an evil attempt at exculpating those who are immoral from their responsibility.

You're trying to have your cake and eat it too.

Francis J. Beckwith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Francis J. Beckwith said...

Your query: "'You're not saying that the rightness or wrongness of an act is contingent upon whether the person making the judgment has in fact acted in that way in the past? ' When did I ever say that?"

The answer: "Why of course! Let's have someone who has never touched a woman sexually lecture us about what is and is not moral sexual behaviour. That makes eminent sense!"

You see, "the answer" requires the principle that "the rightness or wrongness of an act is contingent upon whether the person making the judgment has in fact acted in that way in the past." Without this principle, your comment does not make "eminent sense," but is just a species of the genus argumentum ad hominem

Viktor said...

Mr. Schwarzenegger have love addiction problems?? Now that's interesting..