Academic reductionisms

In 1815 a distant relation of mine, Dr John Gordon, anatomist, Edinburgh made an impassioned attack on the doctrine of the Phrenologists.

In Scotland Dr Johann Gaspar Spurzheim had been touring giving lecture on the Phrenology as developed by Franz Joseph Gall. An Edinburgh doctor, George Combe was at one of these lectures. His younger brother Andrew Combe later trained in Paris with Dr Spurzheim. From that time on, Dr George Combe was leading UK advocate for phrenology.

This film covers briefly covers the story.

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Pathography has been defined as “the study of the life of an individual or the history of a community with regard to the influence of a particular disease or psychological disorder.”

The psychiatrist Dr Felix Post was fascinated by pathography and undertook research of the biographies of famous artists and scientists in order to look specifically for recorded signs of “psychopathology”.

Pathography is a term that is generally no longer in use. Recent considerations talk about “case studies”

In this film I explore our general interest in pathography and the conceptual, scientific and ethical challenges that underpin retrospective case studies. Generally I urge caution. This does not equate to my lack of interest in case studies and certainly not the fundamental importance of narrative. Rather my concern lies in potentially redefining individuals after their death and for such redefinition to be in shorthand “labels”. If hypothetically we struggle with “labels” in life then we run the risk that after death that Baysian reality is even more misunderstood.

Memory in a dish:

The film starts with the words of Nobel Prize winning scientist Richard P Feynman. He reflects on the single celled organism paramecium and how the scientific text books need to simplify the behaviours and understandings of paramecium. (From the book “Surely you’re Joking Mr Feynman“)

Professor Tallis then considers Eric Kandel’s Nobel prize winning research into memory as based on the study of Aplysia.

The film finishes with some memories of the filmmaker.

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