Unordered Lives

Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 7 (3):223-228 (2000)
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Abstract

The close ties between law and psychiatric illness challenge our effort to understand the complex semantics of Western culture and the foundations of law in the heart of that culture. It is, however, difficult to be immediately confronted with the limitations of these semantics. Can one ever achieve a refined precision of psychiatric issues? Lawyers and psychiatrists tend to disregard the fact that people live within different realms of expressiveness, even where the same phenomena seem apparent. They neutralize all relativity and design a quasi-universal body of legal doctrines or construct an all-embracing medical nosology. The question remains what practices of judgment are justifiable when the history books demonstrate the ever-changing character of the idea of a common good and a well-ordered life. Notions of relativity accompany decisions to punish or to cure, to exclude or to include, to disregard or to consider. In these decisions, there are never supracultural notions at hand and only rarely ideas that reach beyond the boundaries of either profession's own discourse.

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Jan Maurits Broekman
Pennsylvania State University

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