But My Brain Made Me Do It!

I’m on the home stretch of preparations for the GRE, studying hard in hopes that I only have to take it once. How I long to get in good writing time again and finish my beloved Douglass travel account series! Soon, soon. Until then, here’s a piece I published almost exactly two years ago today, which I just re-edited for clarity and flow, and re-illustrated with a beautiful drawing of a cross-section of brain and spinal column evocative of a flower.

Ordinary Philosophy

Brain illustration from The Principles and Practice of Medicine...' by W Osler, 1904, public domain via Wikimedia CommonsThere’s a common idea which leads many people (myself included) to instinctively excuse our own or others’ less-than-desirable behavior because we were under the sway, so to speak, of one or another mental state at the time. This is illustrated especially clearly in our justice system, where people are routinely given more lenient sentences, given the influence of strong emotion or of compromised mental health at the time the crime was committed. “The Twinkie Defense” is a(n) (in)famous example of the exculpatory power we give such mental states, where Dan White claimed that his responsibility for the murder of two people was mitigated by his depression, which in turn was manifested in and worsened by his addiction to junk food. We routinely consider ourselves and others less responsible for our wrong actions if we’ve suffered abuse suffered as children, or because we were drunk or high at the time, or we…

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