Hacking blog post

I thought Rewriting The Soul was an incredibly insightful, informative read, although perhaps one that was at times staggeringly thorough. Initially i assumed that it’s ultimate goal was to study the disorder of multiplicity- determine its causes and symptoms, etc. I was thus puzzled by the seemingly philosophical questions it posed early on regarding the ‘reality’ of the disease. Although Hacking sets out his main point very early in the book- “the way in which a new science, a purported knowledge of memory, quite self-consciensly was created in order to secularize the soul” (4). Yet as interesting as this idea sounded to me, it still seemed removed from the study of multiplicity- I did not find myself drawing connections between it and the alleged ‘main point’ while reading the immersive case studies included of mpd. As the book wore on, however, I noticed patterns involving the social and political reconstruction of memories involved in the treatment diagnoses of multiplicity within these studies.
The example of therapists ‘creating’ a cause for multiplicity in a patient struck me especially. The looping effect between society and patient I noticed helped me understand a bit better the title of the book, as well as the noted main point. I might be a little (or a lot) off here, but the most compelling theme of the book I gathered was that society is collectively, and maybe subconsciously streamlining or at least coercing peoples habits of and attitudes towards memory through creating a non-spiritual science out of it.

One specific thing i starting thinking about regarding multiplicity was amnesia and forgotten states. Could I be experiencing a state presently that I wont remember once i ‘wake up’ from it, and thats why I assume I’m ‘normal’ right now? Is there even a difference between believing that I am and it being so? After all, we are a hybrid of imagination and reality.

Read 2 comments

  1. I was also struck by the idea that therapists created or encouraged the disorder. I found it alarming that a trusted professional could be the cause for a serious mental condition. It kind of makes you think about what other disorders or conditions have been created by humankind.

  2. I share your experience of reading this text; when I read it for the first time last year I also felt like I didn’t get the main point early on, even though he stated it directly. It’s one thing to say it, but it’s another for the reader to really be able to see how that’s related to all the discussion of multiplicity in the earlier parts of the text. The things I tend to focus on in this text are, as you pointed out, the looping effect, the idea that the past changes as we redescribe it, and the “secularization” of the soul through developing sciences of memory. That’s what I focused on in seminar last year, at least; maybe people will bring up other things this year too.

    One thing I’m still not sure about is why he felt it so important to focus on how the soul has been secularized through scientific approaches to memory. He says that the soul hadn’t yet been addressed by science and suggests that there was somehow a push to do so, but honestly, I’m still not sure why that should be the case.

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