Women behaving badly

Carrol Cox cbcox at mail.ilstu.edu
Wed Dec 16 09:53:27 PST 1998

"Frances Bolton (PHI)" wrote:

> Well, gosh. I thought Schweitzer's point is that she is *not* a mental
> patient, that CFS is purely physical.

Frances, I'd like to continue this thread along lines not verging on a flame war. Properly defined, it is a complex of issues of immense political importance. But I have real difficulty in knowing how to conduct a conversation by someone who insists on using such terms (whether in affirming her own position or describing another's) as "purely physical," thereby implictly, or rather pretty explicitly, insisting that there exists some golden mountain or unicorn termed the "purely mental or psychological."

In so far as these terms have any meaning whatsoever (and such meaning could exist only in casual conversation or overly impassioned e-mail), it is almost tautological to say "X is purely physical," regardless of how one fills in the "X." Certainly the opposite, "purely psychological" or "purely mental" would be simple nonsense. "Purely physical" would be vulgar marxism, and as Bob Fitch has noted, vulgar marxism is a 90% adequate account of reality.

Finally, I'm not going to argue further, within the context of this thread, whether or not Mary Schweitzer believes in this or that.

One other comment, on an issue that might cause more flame than political exchange, Showalter's use of the term "hysteria" (an unacceptable term in minimally technical discourse), and lump under it issues as unrelatable as UFOs and CSF. You argue that no one can attack Showalter without first reading her book. This is the path to insanity (popular sense). Even the one or two persons on this list who have read everything from texts of Minoan/Mycenean B to the latest issue of some obscure economics journal could not meet this implicit criterion. For example, perhaps you have read Kenneth Burke and wish to either attack him or cite him in support of some position of your own. At the very minimum to do this (by your criteria) you would also have to read Count Alfred Korzybski's *Science and Sanity*, several first-rate secondary sources on the epicureans and the stoics, a goodly lump of Thomas Aquinas, nearly the collected works of Aristotle, a good deal of Santayana, etc etc etc, for his *Grammar* and *Rhetoric* are indeed "dialectical" in that he never says anything except as a riposte to some other thinker. He was particularly obsessed with Korzybski, and I really doubt that his works are fully intelligible to anyone who has not read either *Science and Sanity* or some dependable and detailed secondary account of it. You threaten to reduce all human discourse to a series of challenges: "I won't listen to you unless you have read X"; "Well, I won't listen to you unless you have read Y. So there!"


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