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06 OCTOBER 2013

Modern medicine evokes a Cartesian mind-body dualism

"If we look at the history of medicine, we can see that it became what it is today because of a sweeping social transformation that modernized Europe centuries ago. Urbanization and commerce, along with Protestantism and the Catholic Counter–Reformation, encouraged new ways of conceiving and interacting with nature. It was within this context that 'scientific medicine' was invented and elaborated. The particular scientific model that became predominant in Europe in the seventeenth century accepted the mind–body dualism of René Descartes, for whom the human body is a self–contained, entirely material machine. His contemporary, Baruch Spinoza, on the other hand, elaborated a more relational view, stemming from a Jewish tradition that regards the body as essential to a complex and ultimately spiritual being, and all beings as mutually dependent.

Spinoza's perspective is no less compatible with scientific medicine than the Cartesian view. For science has two complementary ways of explaining: by taking apart–as atomic physics mainly does–and by bringing into relation–as Einstein's relativity theory does. Spinoza was quite aware of the power of the first approach, as elaborated by Descartes and advanced by technologies such as the newly invented microscope. Spinoza acknowledges that the human body is composed of parts, and those parts of smaller parts still. But he recognizes also that bodies are encompassed by, and can be adequately understood only in relation to, unities larger than themselves, until we reach the widest system of all, which is 'the whole of nature.' Spinoza was an early exponent of what is known today as 'systems theory.'

Medicine in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries could have taken a more integrative path, in keeping with Spinoza's insight that we are guardians not only of our bodies, taken individually, but of the entire domain of nature with which they are continuous. Instead–for reasons that this essay will explore – mainstream medicine adopted the Cartesian machine model."

(Raymond Barglow, Tikkun Magazine, March 2002)

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TAGS

16th century17th centuryAlbert Einstein • atomic physics • atomisticBaruch Spinozabodybringing into relation • Cartesian machine model • Cartesian view • Catholiccomplexitycomposed of partscontingencydualismhealth carehistory of medicinehuman bodyintegrative practices • Jewish tradition • Judaism • mainstream medicine • man and nature • material machine • medicinemicroscopemind-body dualismnatureProtestantismrelational aestheticsrelational viewRene Descartessciencescientific medicine • scientific model • self-contained • social transformation • spiritual being • systems theorytaking apart • theory of relativity • urbansation

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
15 MARCH 2013

Overt technological change witnesses an enduring tradition

"In 2005, visitors packed into the expansive boulevard leading up to St. Peter's Square as Pope John Paul II's body was carried into the crowd for public viewing in the days following his death. Taken nearly two years before the iPhone debuted, the photo is striking now for its appearance straight out of another era.

For anyone who has ever been to a concert, the photo at bottom, taken Tuesday night as Pope Francis made his inaugural appearance on the Vatican balcony, seems almost ordinary. The two, taken together, reflect a world changing, even as some ancient traditions stay the same."

(Carlo Dellaverson, 13 March 2013, NBC News)

Fig.1 Luca Bruno / AP, The faithful gather in 2005 near St. Peter's to witness Pope John Paul II's body being carried into the Basilica for public viewing.

Fig.2 Michael Sohn / AP, St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, on March 13, 2013.

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TAGS

20052013ancient traditions • another era • ArgentinacacophonyCatholic • Catholic leader • changing behaviourschanging timeschanging worldChristian • concert • digital ageelectronic ageinaugural addressiPhone • Jorge Mario Bergoglio • mobile phone • NBC News • participative mediaphotoPopePope Francis • Pope John Paul II • ritual • St Peters Square • symbolic behaviourtradition • Vatican City • visitors

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
18 MAY 2009

Bebo employed by Irish dissident republicans to recruit children

"Police are investigating claims that dissident republicans are attempting to recruit children as young as 13 through social networking sites.
...
A number of different sites claiming to be linked to dissident groups have attracted hundreds of young people as members which urge Irish youths to 'join the struggle'.

A site on Bebo claiming to be in support of the Real IRA asks young people to join and 'show support for dissident republicans!'."

(Victoria O'Hara, 23 April 2009, Belfast Telegraph)

TAGS

anglophobiaBeboBelfastbelongingCatholicChristiancoercioncommunityemotive manipulationethicsgangIreland • loyalist • Northern Ireland • Protestant • radicalisation • Real IRA • Republicansocial changesocial networkingsociety • taig • violence

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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