Archive for the ‘Health Care Policy’ Category

Empathy, Intuition, and the Abortion or Life Decision

Saturday, January 30th, 2016

St. Edith Stein’s (1891-1942) 1916 dissertation, Zum Problem der Einfühlung, On the Problem of Empathy, written after she spent much of 1915 as a wartime Red Cross nurse, qualified her as only the second German woman to earn a doctorate in philosophy. Stein’s dissertation is said to be one among “Ten Neglected Philosophical Classics” in a forthcoming chapter by Kris McDaniel in an Oxford University Press volume edited by Eric Schliesser.

Although commonly associated with therapeutic communication, “empathy” is a recently made-up word, introduced into German as “Einfühlung,” or “in-feeling” by Johann Gottfried von Herder in aesthetics in 1774, in the late 1800s into German medicine and psychiatry by Theodor Lipps, and into English by American psychologist Edward Bradford Titchener as “empathy” just prior to WWI.

The English word “empathy” is so new that we can actually date its first recorded public use by then Cornell U. Professor Titchener to a presentation he gave at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign circa 1908-1909 (Titchener, E. B. (1909). Introspection and empathy. Lectures on the experimental psychology of the thought-processes. New York, The MacMillan Company).

In her 1916 analysis, Stein sorted through several of our common psychological conceptions of empathy that have since come down to us through the sciences and popular culture, and narrowed in on those aspects of empathy that would be philosophical useful, using the phenomenological method she learned from her teacher Edmund Husserl, to address the question of how one mind knows another. This problem was essential for understanding how human persons are “constituted,” a philosophical term roughly meaning composed to the extent that they can be known:

“‘Constitution’ is a term that Stein inherits from Husserl, who uses it systematically to mean the way things appear as one (for me, for us).” Lebech, M. (2015). “Lebech, M. (2015). The philosophy of Edith Stein : from phenomenology to metaphysics. Oxford, Peter Lang. Pg. xi”

Stein focused in her reduction to a knowledge of another that is close to intuition:

“Empathy is a kind of act of perceiving [eine Art erfahrender Akte] sui generis. . . . Empathy, as we have examined and sought to describe, is the experience of foreign consciousness in general, irrespective of the kind of the experiencing subject or of the subject whose consciouness is experienced.” Stein, E. (1989). On the problem of empathy. Washington DC, ICS Publications, Pg. 11

“Two-sidedness to the essence of empathic acts – the experience of our own announcing another one.” Ibid., Pg. 19

R.W. Meneses and M. Larkin (2012) summarized Stein’s approach to empathy to three levels, the first level of which is pertinent to this discussion:

“In short, the first level, direct perception, is about the direct, non-mediated (e.g. by expressive behaviour or aprioristic knowledge) co-givenness of another person’s present embodied, embedded, minded experience.
Here, one immediately ‘sees’ the foreign experience.” Meneses, R. W. and M. Larkin (2012). “Edith Stein and the Contemporary Psychological Study of Empathy.” Journal of Phenomenological Psychology 43(2): 151-184. Pg. 175.

In an earlier page, Meneses and Larkin focused on the intuitive aspect of Stein’s early stage of empathy:

“Here, for the first time, that which was directly intuitively given about the other’s experience (during direct perception and/or experiential projection) is represented, in awareness, as a mental object. That is, the content of the intuition is mentalized, becoming, in awareness, an intellectual idea about the foreign experience. This is most transparent when Stein states that, at this level, empathy can be seen as an intuitive idea about another’s experience. Before this level, empathy is not an idea, or a representation, but intuition only (p. 20).” Meneses and Larkin (2012, pg. 173).

Intuiting the existence of another person may be the first step in the constitution of a person. The philosophical problem of the constitution of the human person thus can be directly related to the morality of the abortion decision: Is the fetus or baby a human being or human person? How do we know this?

The earliest stage of “Steinian” empathy, involving intuition, leads us to a new perspective on the abortion decision: When does the parent first intuit–prior to physically sensing or intellectually knowing–the existence of another, of a child growing in the womb? This is a different question from enumerating the stages of growth of the baby within the womb.

While the mind of a fetus or baby in the womb cannot be readily empathically experienced by another, his or her existence can be empathically intuited, a first step in the constitution of the newly-developing human being.

This initial intuition of the life of another may therefore ground the abortion decision: if one intuits the existence of another within the mother, this one who values human life will immediately take precautions to preserve this human life.

An important first question in the abortion-or-life decision thus becomes: When did I first intuit the child’s existence?

As I have written earlier, the abortion and euthanasia decisions are those in which doubt about the existence of life now lead not to caution, but to deadly force. But in almost every other human endeavor, even modern warfare, doubt about the danger to life leads to prudent caution for life-preservation instead.

Abortion ideology, in order to radically refute Freud’s dictum that “Biology is destiny,” chooses immediate deadly force instead of prudent, non-violent problem-solving and compassionate continuing commitment.

For more on St. Edith Stein’s concept of empathy and the constitution of self, please see this lecture by Oxford scholar Nikolas Prassas —

© Copyright 2016, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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The views posted at sanityandsocialjustice.net are those of Albert J. Schorsch, III, alone, and not those of any of his employers, past or present.

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Aphorism LVII

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

I’m trying to figure out how the State of California can consider counseling a crime for those who, just below the age of sexual consent (18 in California), freely wish to change the direction of their sexual attraction, while the same state deems completely legal the changing of one’s gender through surgery (gender reassignment surgery).

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Two Unsustainable Political Illusions

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

One point of view of this Sanity and Social Justice blog is that both the public policy program of the Left and the program of the Right present unsustainable illusions. Both distort economic reality with partisan propaganda and spin. Both engage in wishful thinking. The same intensity of criticism should be focused on both the Left and the Right, but rarely is.

When completely victorious, as in the one-party rule of Chicago and Illinois, the Left descends into inefficient corruption and factionalism, fulfills few of its economic promises, and produces disorder if not financial and social ruin. When completely victorious, as for a time in the Reagan Era, the Right similarly lacks the discipline to fulfill its own economic commitments, engages in wishful thinking such as Jack Kemp’s (joined by Democrats) over-extending home ownership to an unsustainable percentage of the population, and descends into cronyism. Neither partisan platform ever fully realizes its economic vision. Each over-promises to critical, if not tragic, proportions.

It thus is something of a puzzle why people continue to believe that politicians can achieve economically what they say they will, when history perennially demonstrates that they consistently do not, and why people continue to treat political belief with a passion that surpasses religious devotion to the point of idolatry.

Part of the answer lies in the fact that our political beliefs do not represent historic or economic fact so much as they represent our own concept of ourselves, our own “identity maintenance,” as I have long called it. Also, since both the Right and the Left have consistently descended into cronyism, one can conclude that political passion depends in the end on that group of political cronies with which one wishes to throw in one’s lot. The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in unrealized and probably unrealizable political ideas, but in our own self-concept and self-interest, framed as the public good.

Against a world of illusory political discourse, one can respond with competence and effectiveness, the Aristotelian Ergon and Arete of Work seeking Excellence. The teacher acts as a good teacher, the doctor or nurse as a good doctor or nurse, and by extension the school or university is a good school or university, the hospital is a good hospital, etc., and it is to be hoped that the society is a better society as a result.

For centuries, heady and trendy intellectuals have tried in vain to transcend Aristotle only to confirm him. I’ve said before that Stanley Fish has labored mightily, and brought forth in the end a few two-thousand-plus-year-old lines from Aristotle. Modern political thought has bypassed Aristotle to its peril.

Political economy is grounded on the variable strata of the physical world of natural resources as moderated by meteorological forces, of long-wave demographic trends, of cultural tectonics, of shorter-term markets, of sudden and disruptive innovation and disease and disaster, and of shifting public policy interventions. To a certain extent, politicians must practice the art of taking credit for the weather and for the prosperity that comes from the occasional financial bubble as their own personal artifacts. To do so, they must artfully lie with consistency about both economics and history.

Political partisanship, however, does sometimes fulfill its promises on non-economic issues. The Germans voted in politicians who did in the end kill Jews, and the West has voted in politicians who did in the end kill babies.

For a Catholic like me, the present political choice is sometimes falsely cast as the choice between social compassion (the Left) and Pro-life (the Right), as if the Left could actually deliver on social compassion, or the Right could actually carry through on Pro-life. Both promised political products are highly unlikely.

It is however very likely that the Left will continue to kill the unborn, so in this particular regard the Left must be vigorously opposed. But it is not likely that the Right will endure in consistently defending the unborn, either. Killing the unborn is based upon selfishness, which is an enduring human constant.

My political critique is not naive cynicism, but is grounded in history, science, and common sense. Against the political illusions of both the Right and the Left, I suggest that we concentrate our resources on building a society based instead upon professional and institutional competence and effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability imbued with human compassion, and informed by science. This approach is based upon trust and hope in what truly endures in human society.

Morally-committed and scientifically-informed professions and institutions promulgate order, and outlive politics. I pity the partisan true-believer, who presently lives in a spinning, self-referencing Twitter-cloud-dream uninformed by history or by economic science, or, for that matter, by perennial philosophy and theology.

The first step away from this illusory world-view is to consistently direct one’s critique in one’s own direction to the same degree that it is directed toward one’s adversaries. This is an ancient Christian principle (Matthew 7:3) that extends well to politics.

For more on my analysis of the commonsense propositions that underlay political discourse, please see chapters 2 and 3 of my dissertation.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Chicken Sandwich Misdirection: Hercules Industries Case More Important

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

Whenever a controversy breaks out with a big-city mayor picking a media fight with a business, I suspect political misdirection.

I learned this lesson years ago when, the very day the brother of the mayor of Chicago was caught by the newspapers in a questionable real estate deal, the mayor started a public squabble with the owner of the Chicago Bears which then dominated the news for weeks, thus taking the media heat off of the mayor’s brother.

Media fall for this kind of staged-controversy / misdirection ploy almost every time. Media have to report on the staged controversy due to the public interest momentum generated, even if they themselves realize that they’ve been had.

So I’m just a little suspicious when three Democratic big city mayors–in Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco–went out of their way to jump into an argument with the Chick-Fil-A company over same-sex marriage at the same time.

What other important event could be obscured by this controversy?

And what concerted political action could be prevented by it?

Several important provisions of the HHS Mandate were scheduled to go into effect on 8/1/12. And the Hercules Industries case, Newland v. Sebelius, dealt the HHS Mandate a serious blow and gave relief to the Catholic business owners.

When people are lining up eating or boycotting chicken they are general not engaged in more direct political action. They are engaging in a self-satisfying social ritual that diverts their energy and attention away from direct political action. Although some savvy activists showed up at Chick-Fil-A restaurants to register voters, by and large the protests were almost liturgical, not political.

The last thing the supporters of the President Obama’s HHS Mandate would want would be more Catholic business owners joining in on Newland v. Sebelius, Hercules Industries-style lawsuits. But that is exactly what Catholic business owners should do: Skip the chicken sandwich and see their lawyers.

And there are few attorneys better than the Alliance Defending Freedom at fighting for religious freedom. Please see their news release on the Hercules Industries / Newland v. Sebelius case.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Treating Alcoholism and Addiction as Diseases of the Brain

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Those of us who have served to assist the homeless in some way may think we are quite familiar with the problem of alcoholism.

But now we must think anew, because in some very important ways, we have been deadly wrong.

Despite the fact that the scourge of alcoholism has been known for centuries, advances in neuroscience have radically changed our understanding of the disease, which kills with the grim efficiency of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Yet the response of society to alcoholism appears almost hopelessly embedded in social, religious, familial, and legal patterns laid down centuries ago.

Alcoholism wounds and reshapes the brain in ways that make recovery from alcoholism very difficult, especially given the fact that the brain needs almost nine (9) months of sobriety to begin making strides in the neurological healing process.

Alcoholism also reshapes social relationships, be they familial or employment-related. It in addition alters the social and even physical dimensions of cities and towns where later-stage alcoholics gather. An amazing amount of physical space in cities is utilized not only to sell alcohol, but to recover from its effects. Many major cities not only have hundreds of locations to purchase liquor, but hundreds of sites for AA and related recovery meetings.

In recent decades, DUI or DWI laws have decreased legal tolerance for driving under the influence, at least in the United States. The establishment of Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930s, the subsequent founding of Al-Anon and other support networks for families, and the growth in the cultural awareness of what has been called “enabling behavior” or “co-dependency” since the 1970s have helped individuals and society cope in better ways with this disease.

But if scientists are correct that alcoholism is a disease of the damaged brain, and that the brain needs nine months of sobriety before it can seriously begin to heal, then the composite response of law, politics, health care, social work, insurance, employment, labor relations, and religious ministry to the disease of alcoholism amount to a confused and contradictory, ineffective and expensive, harmful mishmosh.

To treat the problem of homelessness as a solely political or civil rights problem, when such a significant dimension of homelessness is connected with public health problems such as alcoholism, addiction, and mental illness, borders on self-indulgent delusion.

Alcoholism is a disease that damages the brain and the rest of the body in certain well-known and predictable ways. It devastates family life and hurts innocent spouses and children, in addition to the alcoholics. In its later stages, it sets those who suffer from it out onto the street in a staggering march toward their own deaths.

But much of this suffering from alcoholism is now avoidable.

If we think we understand alcoholism, we are probably wrong.

We can start learning more by reading Healing the Addicted Brain by Harold C. Urschel III, MD, and by visiting his website, or by accessing the resources at enterhealth.com.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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HHS Mandate Accommodation Update

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

On 3/16/12, HHS announced an update of the “accommodation” on sterilization, abortifacients, and contraception, which unfortunately still does not respect religious freedom. This document is slated to be published in the Federal Register on 3/21/12. The draft is here, for prior public inspection.

Here is the official 3/21/12 posting of the revised HHS accommodation.

Here are related CNS News stories from 3/21/12 and from 3/16/12.

For a recap of related recent events leading up to 3/16/12, see George Weigel’s 3/17/12 article.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Expecting Misdirection

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

With the U.S. Catholic bishops in public unity on the HHS mandate, and with polls showing a significant drop in support for the President among women, I fully expect to see the misdirection card played straight out of the Chicago political playbook to change the importance of the HHS mandate question before the public mind. I expect a diversion or secondary, unrelated controversy to be introduced before the public attention that muddles the importance of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ stance.

Fridays are always good days for such misdirections, since they carry over into the pundit shows on Sundays.

If not this weekend, then perhaps next. . .

I’m waiting. . .

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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United for Religious Freedom

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Please see the 3/14/12 statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, “United for Religious Freedom: A Statement of the Administrative Committee Of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops March 14, 2012.”

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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E.J. Dionne, Jr. Beats Up the U.S. Catholic Bishops, Then Cedes Their Point

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Washington Post and Commonweal Magazine columnist E.J. Dionne, Jr., one of America’s most humorously self-contradictory of pundits, has done it again with his partisan attack on the U.S. Catholic Bishops on 3/12/12, which followed his attack on President Barack Obama on 1/29/12.

As many have learned over the years, the best answer to Dionne is usually a previous Dionne column, or sometimes Dionne later in the very same column. He confirmed this “Dionne rule” again on 3/12/12.

After flailing the bishops on 3/12/12, Dionne then wrapped up his column by conceding their point on the HHS mandate:

The bishops have legitimate concerns about the Obama compromise, including how to deal with self-insured entities and whether the wording of the HHS rule still fails to recognize the religious character of the church’s charitable work.

Nevertheless, Dionne angrily demanded that the Bishops end their protests based simply on a non-existent concession from the President.

Dionne, then agreeing with the Bishops on substance–just like the anonymous Jesuit America Magazine editorial writers–further went on to criticize the U.S. Catholic Bishops on style.

Not a single bishop would give even an anonymous quote to Dionne in support of Dionne’s analysis. Dionne’s contrived attack on Cardinals Dolan and George therefore lacks credibility in trying to frame the U.S. Bishops’ unity on this HHS mandate matter as partisan.

As even Dionne conceded the Bishops’ point, the Bishops are not about to accept an empty promise from the President when he has already put the HHS mandate on sterilization, abortifacients, and contraception as originally framed into law. The President also promised a “sensible conscience clause” in 2009 at Notre Dame, and has yet to deliver on that promise either.

It is therefore not the U.S. Catholic Bishops who lack credibility on this matter.

Ever since the President announced the HHS mandate “accommodation” on 2/10/12, the President’s Catholic health care team has been trying frantically to execute a political Zavanelli maneuver–to push, as it were, the anti-religious freedom monster baby back into the womb–and to start the question of conscience protection for religious institutions all over again. It’s not working. They might as well try to unfry an egg.

I fully expect that desperate reporters will begin making up false anonymous quotes from non-existent dissenting bishops in their panic to break the unity of the U.S. Catholic Bishops on the HHS mandate.

The unity of the U.S. Catholic Bishops on the HHS mandate has been remarkable.

Please see George Weigel’s 3/12/12 response to E.J. Dionne, Jr.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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The Anonymous Jesuits’ Terribly Unfortunate–and Slapstick–Editorial

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

In the future, when a Catholic physician, nurse, or health-care professional is faced with a government-enforced requirement that they violate their conscience, they will have the nameless Jesuit editorial writers at America Magazine who composed what New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan called “a terribly unfortunate” 3/5/12 editorial to thank in part for their loss of religious liberty.

Writing of the U.S. Bishop’s objections to President Obama’s 2/10/12 “accommodation” — which was not implemented in any official way in the Federal Register, which published unchanged the original HHS mandate as announced, giving it the force of law — the anonymous Jesuits stated of the U.S. Bishop’s objections to the HHS mandate:

Some of these points, particularly the needs of self-insured institutions like universities, have merit and should find some remedy. Others, with wonkish precision, seem to press the religious liberty campaign too far.

The anonymous Jesuits thereby (1) admit that the bishops’ principal concern about self-insurance did not yet have a remedy from the government, and (2) somehow complain that the bishops are too precise (precision being somehow the exclusive territory of anonymous Jesuits).

In this turning point of their entire editorial, the anonymous Jesuits thereby inadvertently admit that the bishops indeed are correct. On neither item (1) nor (2) do the anonymous Jesuits dispute the facts of the bishops. On the second point, the anonymous Jesuits object to the style, “wonkish,” not the substance, of the bishops objections.

Nevertheless, the anonymous Jesuits, having comically admitted in spite of their best efforts to the validity of the bishops’ objections — which despite the bishops’ good faith efforts in dialogue with the White House have not yet “found some remedy” — then launch into a lecture of the bishops, and attempt to turn even Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate against them. (It is good to see, at least for a few seconds, America’s anonymous Jesuits recognizing papal authority.) This anonymous Jesuit lecture the White House staff reportedly recently used against the staff of the USCCB.

I have been educated by, and have worked for Jesuits. They are very smart and capable people to a great extent. Some, like my late and holy teacher David J. Hassel, SJ, were an inspiration. Some other Jesuits, unlike the humble Fr. Hassel, take themselves, unfortunately, soooo seriously. But, despite the old joke about Jesuits, God has yet to have been revealed to be sitting at his desk behind a name plate reading “God, SJ.”

So I have advice to anyone who would better appreciate the anonymous Jesuits of America Magazine: Count to ten, say a Hail Mary, and read what they write at least three times. One will almost always find within their own statements, despite their cleverness, a fundamental contradiction to the very point they attempt to make. You see, in this case the anonymous Jesuits were concerned with style instead of substance, and have slipped on their own banana peel in the process.

The person in charge of “finding some remedy” on the self-insurance problem, Cardinal Dolan, has reported very little progress. It is difficult for Cardinal Dolan to find the remedy on the self-insurance problem when the White House staff use the very America Magazine editorial agreeing that the self-insurance remedy is needed–but criticizing the bishops’ style–against the bishops.

So how do the anonymous Jesuits propose that the self-insurance problem be solved, when they themselves have placed a stumbling block in the way of solving it? Perhaps it will somehow “find a solution” on its own. I can almost hear Cardinal Dolan saying, “Thanks a lot, guys.”

It would be difficult to find a better example of an engaged, sincere “pastoral” effort than the behavior of Cardinal Dolan, who has been respectful to the White House despite mostly getting nowhere. Too bad these anonymous Jesuits can’t recognize a true pastor when they see one.

For more on Cardinal Dolan’s point of view, look here.

To those who commented admiringly on the anonymous Jesuits’ editorial, I say: You need to count to ten, say that Hail Mary, and read the editorial the two more times. You’ll surely notice a few things you didn’t see the first time.

For those Catholics who somehow still think the anonymous Jesuits are right, I suggest that, since this is such a critical issue, that you please make a fully-informed decision by reading the Federal Register to see what is now the law. Then please read Caritas in Veritate. Then I ask you, as I ask the anonymous Jesuits, how one can support the HHS mandate and at the same time hold to these lines from Caritas in Veritate:

The Encyclical Humanae Vitae emphasizes both the unitive and the procreative meaning of sexuality, thereby locating at the foundation of society the married couple, man and woman, who accept one another mutually, in distinction and in complementarity: a couple, therefore, that is open to life[27]. This is not a question of purely individual morality: Humanae Vitae indicates the strong links between life ethics and social ethics, ushering in a new area of magisterial teaching that has gradually been articulated in a series of documents, most recently John Paul II’s Encyclical Evangelium Vitae[28]. The Church forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that “a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.”[29]

My America Magazine subscription? Canceled many years ago — because the anonymous Jesuits abandoned some of the very principles noted in the quote from Caritas in Veritate directly above.

Also, my compliments to the bishops for not taking the bait from the White House and taking the Church into schism on this issue.

For more jokes about Jesuits, click here.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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