Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Philosophy and Health

Philosophy is often seen as one of those highly impractical, strictly academic fields, and yet, it has a way of being at the root of everything.

I was struck, recently, by a contrast in two statements about medicine. In an article about the importance of finding medical ways to enhance female sex drive, I ran across a claim along the lines of, "Many experts believe that more than 50% of women over 30 suffer abnormally low interest in sex and would benefit from sexual drive enhancing medication if it became available." The immediate connection my mind made was: No more than 5% of the population is attracted primarily to his or her own sex, and yet this is not considered a medical abnormality.

These two together show that the medical community (and our society in general) clearly has some sort of philosophy of the human person and philosophy of sexuality, which is doubtless assumed and unstated. Women, it is believed, ought to have a sexual drive equal to that of men, regardless of whether that is what we find in nature or not. (Even though there are some obvious evolutionary reasons why males would be physically more interested in frequency of copulation than females.) And yet if one primarily experiences sexual attraction to one's own sex, even though that both "doesn't fit the plumbing" and is evolutionarily useless, that is perfectly fine and healthy, even if this is a condition found in only a small percentage of the population.

Medicine is, in its modern form, generally an empirical field. Yet the question of "What is normal?" and "What is abnormal?" is a question that we always answer philosophically rather than empirically.

Necessarily so. Often our sense of what "ought" to happen is directly contrary to the observed usual occurrence. "Health" is not simply what we observe to be the usual, otherwise we would consider the "healthy" result of a diagnosis of lymphoma to be death.

We chase the telos just as much as in Aristotle's time, and yet we do not acknowledge that what we are doing is anything other than an "empirical science".

4 comments:

Rick Lugari said...

Yeah, that's pretty funny. "Many experts believe that more than 50% of women over 30 suffer abnormally low interest in sex and would benefit from sexual drive enhancing medication if it became available."

It can't be that 50% of women have an abnormally high interest in sex and would benefit from some libido reducing medicine in order to make sure the rest of the male population is miserable.

As subjective as it is, I'll side with the "experts" on this one.

bearing said...

How can it be abnormal if more than half of women have it?

And who's suffering? The women with the low interest, or their sex partners?

Yeech.

Rick Lugari said...

And who's suffering? The women with the low interest, or their sex partners?

Both, so we need to get these suffering women appropriate medicine quickly. It's our moral duty!

Cliff said...

Enjoyed this post! The arrogance of the medical profession can be appalling indeed. Reminds me of this "joke"...

When the medical student enters school the latin over the front doors says, "check your common sense here". After graduation they go out the back doors where the latin inscription says, "YE ARE NOW GODS!".