Nate Smith

"Words have no meaning."

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After reading a few articles about Jared Lee Loughner, I'm curious what is meant by people who say things like "words have no meaning" and his question "What is government if words have no meaning?" (This is an interesting article from this post.)

How might someone who makes these claims respond to me if I were to point at a cat and say the word "cat" refers to that? I am aware that this is probably a belief that one can't hold consistently, but I'd like to have a better understanding of what "words have no meaning" means. I don't want to try and diagnose Loughner per se (since we don't know a lot about him), but more generally someone who fits the character of the little we know about him--in other words, an abstraction of him. I'd like to have an idea of what philosophy underlies these sorts of claims and how it might lead to his behavior, if it could.

I'll take a shot at answering my own question and see if there are any better answers.

Since words refer to reality, this claim seems be the result of some type of detachment from reality. Maybe this belief is founded in a primacy of consciousness metaphysics, but I think it's more likely the result of some version of social metaphysics. (Maybe those two are closely related.) A passage from Ayn Rand's The Comprachicos seem relevant:

He sees no contradiction between his cynical maneuvering and his unalterable fear of the pack: the first is motivated by and reinforces the second. The will of the pack has been internalized: his unaccountable emotions become his proof of its omnipotence.

The issue, to him, is now metaphysical. His subconscious is programmed, his fundamentals are set. By means of the wordless integrations in his brain, the faceless, intangible shape of the pack now stands between him and reality, with the will of the pack as the dominant power. He is “adjusted.” Is this his conscious idea? It is not: he is wholly dominated by his subconscious. Is it a reasoned conviction? It is not: he has not discovered reason.

The sentence "The issue, to him, is now metaphysical" is powerful. She points out that this type of person allows others' opinions to be the source and standard of values, and therefore of one's happiness and self-esteem. If one lived in this type of "reality", the primary purpose of words would be to affect and control others. They wouldn't necessarily refer to objects that exist. There is no objective reality, because that changes as others change their minds. Reality is chaos.

Also, this would explain his animosity towards others. If one is trapped in a world where the achievement of values is determined by others, we are much more likely to resent them. The more consistently one holds this metaphysics, the less objective reality would seem to exist. And in frustration at being at the mercy of others for achieving one's values, one might even go so far as to attempt to kill those that represent the greatest threat to the inability to achieve values, i.e. those in the highest positions of power. The fact that Loughner's friend places a lot of significance in Gifford's inability to answer Loughner's question suggests there's something to that.

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After reading a few articles about Jared Lee Loughner, I'm curious what is meant by people who say things like "words have no meaning" and his question "What is government if words have no meaning?" (This is an interesting article from this post.)

How might someone who makes these claims respond to me if I were to point at a cat and say the word "cat" refers to that? I am aware that this is probably a belief that one can't hold consistently, but I'd like to have a better understanding of what "words have no meaning" means. I don't want to try and diagnose Loughner per se (since we don't know a lot about him), but more generally someone who fits the character of the little we know about him--in other words, an abstraction of him. I'd like to have an idea of what philosophy underlies these sorts of claims and how it might lead to his behavior, if it could.

In Loughner's case, it is not an issue of philosophy, but of biology. He exhibits classic symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. See this video by political commentator Charles Krauthammer who is also a Harvard Medical School-trained psychiatrist.

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After reading a few articles about Jared Lee Loughner, I'm curious what is meant by people who say things like "words have no meaning" and his question "What is government if words have no meaning?" (This is an interesting article from this post.)

How might someone who makes these claims respond to me if I were to point at a cat and say the word "cat" refers to that? I am aware that this is probably a belief that one can't hold consistently, but I'd like to have a better understanding of what "words have no meaning" means. I don't want to try and diagnose Loughner per se (since we don't know a lot about him), but more generally someone who fits the character of the little we know about him--in other words, an abstraction of him. I'd like to have an idea of what philosophy underlies these sorts of claims and how it might lead to his behavior, if it could.

In Loughner's case, it is not an issue of philosophy, but of biology. He exhibits classic symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. See this video by political commentator Charles Krauthammer who is also a Harvard Medical School-trained psychiatrist.

I do not care to really look to indepth at Loughner, but I do not agree that it is biological problem. I have stated this many times before and will once again; our genes (biology) sets up the structure of the brain by producing about 100 billion neurons in the brain of a new born. The number of neurons doubles by age 5 and then begins to drop off as our experiences strenghten certain neuro-synaptic connections back to about 100 billion. Of those neurons remaining each one can have thousands of neuro-synaptic connections which has been estimated to be somewhere around 3 to 4 trillion in the brain of an average adult. For the most part none of these synaptic connections are there at birth and instead develop from one's experiences and activities. So, for Loughner to have a biological problem he would have had to be retarded in his ability to ever grow neuro-synaptic connections from his experiences and actions. Someone that can formulate the crap that he was is not a retard although he does have pyschological problems which means he has philosophical problems as well.

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I do not care to really look to indepth at Loughner, but I do not agree that it is biological problem. I have stated this many times before and will once again; our genes (biology) sets up the structure of the brain by producing about 100 billion neurons in the brain of a new born. The number of neurons doubles by age 5 and then begins to drop off as our experiences strenghten certain neuro-synaptic connections back to about 100 billion. Of those neurons remaining each one can have thousands of neuro-synaptic connections which has been estimated to be somewhere around 3 to 4 trillion in the brain of an average adult. For the most part none of these synaptic connections are there at birth and instead develop from one's experiences and activities. So, for Loughner to have a biological problem he would have had to be retarded in his ability to ever grow neuro-synaptic connections from his experiences and actions. Someone that can formulate the crap that he was is not a retard although he does have pyschological problems which means he has philosophical problems as well.

Are you claiming that paranoid schizophrenia is a problem solely created by bad experiences and bad philosophy? Do you believe it can be fixed philosophically? I know very little about schizophrenia, but that would really surprise me.

Given all that you said about neurons and synapses, I don't see why there still isn't room for potential biological mis-development of the brain. You say that most synaptic connections develop from experience and actions. But the brain has identity and surely that must play some role in how those synaptic connections form. It isn't hard to imagine some genetic or developed abnormality affecting how synapses are formed making one much more susceptible to conditions like schizophrenia.

I might be misinterpreting what you're saying, but it sounds like you're saying that after our genes give us 100 billion neurons by birth, our biology has little to nothing to do with how the brain develops.

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So, for Loughner to have a biological problem he would have had to be retarded in his ability to ever grow neuro-synaptic connections from his experiences and actions. Someone that can formulate the crap that he was is not a retard although he does have pyschological problems which means he has philosophical problems as well.

There are other kinds of neurological malfunctions other than the ability to form neuro-synaptic connections. There are chemical disorders, trauma-related problems, and other psychiatric disorders of strictly biological origin. Some of these result in hallucinations and other serious perceptual problems resulting in an inability to think properly regardless of one's philosophy.

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I do not care to really look to indepth at Loughner, but I do not agree that it is biological problem. I have stated this many times before and will once again; our genes (biology) sets up the structure of the brain by producing about 100 billion neurons in the brain of a new born. The number of neurons doubles by age 5 and then begins to drop off as our experiences strenghten certain neuro-synaptic connections back to about 100 billion. Of those neurons remaining each one can have thousands of neuro-synaptic connections which has been estimated to be somewhere around 3 to 4 trillion in the brain of an average adult. For the most part none of these synaptic connections are there at birth and instead develop from one's experiences and activities. So, for Loughner to have a biological problem he would have had to be retarded in his ability to ever grow neuro-synaptic connections from his experiences and actions. Someone that can formulate the crap that he was is not a retard although he does have pyschological problems which means he has philosophical problems as well.

Are you claiming that paranoid schizophrenia is a problem solely created by bad experiences and bad philosophy? Do you believe it can be fixed philosophically? I know very little about schizophrenia, but that would really surprise me.

Given all that you said about neurons and synapses, I don't see why there still isn't room for potential biological mis-development of the brain. You say that most synaptic connections develop from experience and actions. But the brain has identity and surely that must play some role in how those synaptic connections form. It isn't hard to imagine some genetic or developed abnormality affecting how synapses are formed making one much more susceptible to conditions like schizophrenia.

I might be misinterpreting what you're saying, but it sounds like you're saying that after our genes give us 100 billion neurons by birth, our biology has little to nothing to do with how the brain develops.

Nate and Betsy,

Unless a person has a biological problem that does not allow them to experience life and sensations in a normal maner and form conclusions then yes the brain develops in accordance to one's experiences and thoughts and can later change in accordance to one's experiences and thoughts. It seems that you both are attempting to change the cause effect relationship. It is not one's chemical makeup that sets one's experiences, thoughts and actions. It is one's experiences, thoughts and actions that set one's chemical output and hence their brain development.

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Unless a person has a biological problem that does not allow them to experience life and sensations in a normal manner and form conclusions then yes the brain develops in accordance to one's experiences and thoughts and can later change in accordance to one's experiences and thoughts.

All the evidence we have about Loughner indicates that he is suffering from schizophrenia which is a biological problem that does not allow someone to experience life and sensations in a normal manner and form conclusions.

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Unless a person has a biological problem that does not allow them to experience life and sensations in a normal manner and form conclusions then yes the brain develops in accordance to one's experiences and thoughts and can later change in accordance to one's experiences and thoughts.

All the evidence we have about Loughner indicates that he is suffering from schizophrenia which is a biological problem that does not allow someone to experience life and sensations in a normal manner and form conclusions.

I disagree, if he had a real biological problem he would not have ever been able to speak nor understand anything right from the start which is actually called a neurological problem/disease and not a psychological problem. Instead, he has created his own little messed up brain/mind with his own experiences, thoughts and actions. If one truly has a neurological problem, such as a retarded person, then they, like lower animals, cannot be held responsible for their actions, like lower animals, as they are lacking the capacity to reason. It is a contradiction to state that Loughner has a neurological or psychological problem which is what keeps him from experiencing life and sensations as normal people do when he can speak, think and take actions just like normal people do. He had to think out his sensations and experiences before he decided to go and start shooting people, one cannot escape these facts.

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It seems that you both are attempting to change the cause effect relationship. It is not one's chemical makeup that sets one's experiences, thoughts and actions. It is one's experiences, thoughts and actions that set one's chemical output and hence their brain development.

I'm not saying that one's chemicals or biology are the sole determiner of one's experiences. I'm saying that the brain has identity, and that identity is comprised of chemicals, among other things. And that identity affects how an experience is processed. An imbalance of chemicals (or some other type of disorder) could cause one to process one's experiences quite differently.

I know a number of women that have said they have cried at an emotional commercial. I don't know any men that have. There are obvious difference in the psychology of men and women that I can only imagine are the result of a difference in biology. This causes men and women to have a different psychological life, to at least some degree. Yet we are all able to reason and have many things in common. What is wrong with positing a more severe biological difference between a schizophrenic and a healthy mind?

I disagree, if he had a real biological problem he would not have ever been able to speak nor understand anything right from the start which is actually called a neurological problem/disease and not a psychological problem.

How can you know that? One can't predict how a biological abnormality will manifest in one's consciousness. (To be clear, in principle it may be possible, but it is a question for science, not philosophy, and I do not believe that science is developed yet.)

By the way, do you use the word psychological synonymously with philosophical? -- as distinguished from an actual disease or neurological problem? Do you take the former to be under one's control or volition and the latter not to be?

It is a contradiction to state that Loughner has a neurological or psychological problem which is what keeps him from experiencing life and sensations as normal people do when he can speak, think and take actions just like normal people do. He had to think out his sensations and experiences before he decided to go and start shooting people, one cannot escape these facts.

It seems like you are drawing too strong of a conclusion from the fact that Loughner is functional in some respects. How do we know that because he can speak, think and take actions, that he has every capacity that a healthy mind does? That would be like someone claiming, "I don't believe that Mike can't digest dairy. I've seen Mike eat meat, and other people that can eat meat can also eat dairy." It seems very plausible that a schizophrenic could have capacities that a healthy mind does while at the same time having deficiencies that hinder him in other ways.

If your argument is based on science that I am not aware of, I'd like to know, but it sounds more like you're making a largely philosophic claim.

I don't know much about schizophrenia, but I've read a little about it. Watching the movie A Beautiful Mind about John Nash (which I admit is fiction) depicts a mental life which is consistent with the little I've read. It's hard to imagine that condition being created by experiences and ideas, and it's also difficult to imagine a solution to it being under one's control.

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Nate, first off, "chemicals or biology" do not determine anything they are just what makes up part of one's body and in a certain context the study of one's body. Maybe instead of starting with a psychologist one should start with a study of the human body and how it funcitons before one gives so much authority to the people in the field of psychology. If there is a biochemical, anatomical or functional difference between a "normal brain" and those that the psychology industry call "mentally ill brain" that does not automatically make it a biological problem nor something that started at birth. For example, in science, there have been a lot of studies that disprove the theory as not all schizophrenics have the so called abnormal brains. Another example, in science, many studies demonastate that experience modifies the anatomy of the brain. In other words, the brain makes adaptations to ones experiences. Once again it seems that the cause and effect relastionship has been reversed or that a correlation(s) have been substituted for the cause.

I will further my response when I have more time. But for now I offer a few items to ponder. An infant girl watching a commercial does not have an emotional response, if any at all, different than the infant male. And something else for you to ponder, adult identical twins have anatomical differences within their brains as their experiences, thoughts and actions during their lifes are different. In other words, certain parts of the twins brains can grow differently, even if they begin with the same starting point, as they focus on different experiences and actions which does not mean that either of their brains are abnormal.

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Let us take a look at the "science" of the brain which is part of the Central Nervous System which is part of the that which makes up the totality known as the Nervous System. The Nervous System is generally divided into two main parts; The Central Nervous System which includes the brain and spinal cord and the Peripheral Nervous System which includes all of the nerves distributed thoughtout the rest of the body. It does not matter where the nerve lies as it produces the same function, it carries sensations/information to or from the brain. Neurons or nerve cells are part of a nerve and are found in the brain, spinal cord and of course nerves distributed throughout the rest of the body. Neurons control information processing, muscle and gland activity and sensation interpretation. The structure of the neuron/nerve cell includes a cell body, within which are the cell nucleus and the organelles along with one or more projections known as processes extending out from the cell body. These processes include dendrites which are responsible for conveying information to the cell body and axons which are responsible for conveying outward responses from the cell body. For the most part, each neuron/nerve cell has a single elongated axon and depending on the cells function it has a varying amount of dendrites. In different terms, axons convey information from the cell body while dendrites receive incoming information and the point where two cells meet is where the information is relayed and is called the synapse. This transfer of information is carried out by chemicals/hormones which are generally called neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters cross the synaptic cleft and lock into specific receptor sites which causes the electrical charge to take place and a relaying of the nerve signal. All of this that I just described happens whether the nerve is part of the Central Nervous System or the Peripheral Nervous System. So, if someone had a real biological/medical problem with their brain (the so called mental illness or disease) they would most likely have a problem with the manner in which they received all sensations throughout the whole body.

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Let us take a look at the "science" of the brain which is part of the Central Nervous System which is part of the that which makes up the totality known as the Nervous System.

[...scientific details...]

So, if someone had a real biological/medical problem with their brain (the so called mental illness or disease) they would most likely have a problem with the manner in which they received all sensations throughout the whole body.

That doesn't follow and is contradicted by actual evidence. People who have a stroke or an accident causing physical brain damage usually experience local deficits and specific psychological or perceptual impairments. The may be unable to see or move one side of their body or recall words or form short or long-term memories or perceive shapes. Also, the problems can occur intermittently rather than all the time as in the case of epileptic seizures.

That is also true in some cases of schizophrenia. I had an Objectivist friend in college, a very bright and usually rational guy, who was diagnosed as a schizophrenic and was being treated by a psychiatrist who was also an Objectivist. He told me that he had episodes in which he experienced visual and auditory hallucinations. He described it like being in a dream but knowing it wasn't a dream but not being able to wake up.

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Let us take a look at the "science" of the brain which is part of the Central Nervous System which is part of the that which makes up the totality known as the Nervous System.

[...scientific details...]

So, if someone had a real biological/medical problem with their brain (the so called mental illness or disease) they would most likely have a problem with the manner in which they received all sensations throughout the whole body.

That doesn't follow and is contradicted by actual evidence. People who have a stroke or an accident causing physical brain damage usually experience local deficits and specific psychological or perceptual impairments. The may be unable to see or move one side of their body or recall words or form short or long-term memories or perceive shapes. Also, the problems can occur intermittently rather than all the time as in the case of epileptic seizures.

That is also true in some cases of schizophrenia. I had an Objectivist friend in college, a very bright and usually rational guy, who was diagnosed as a schizophrenic and was being treated by a psychiatrist who was also an Objectivist. He told me that he had episodes in which he experienced visual and auditory hallucinations. He described it like being in a dream but knowing it wasn't a dream but not being able to wake up.

Your are writing of a biological problem and not a psychololgical problem, there is a difference. Usually, when a body part, such as the brain, goes without oxygen for a certain amount of time that body part dies or control of certain body parts stop functioning. This discussion, for the most part, has little to do with those parts of the Nervous System known as the Autonomic Nervous System. Evidence supports the fact that even after certain parts of the brain die, over time other areas of the brain take over those functions and one can relearn although that person cannot gain back lost memories.

And when a person, Objectivist or otherwise, has so called "hallucinations" of any sort, they are imagining those items from past experiences and it would be wise to tell them so. Try and tell a blind person to imagine what red or blue looks like, it cannot be done and they would never "hallucinate" about those items. Imagination is a wonderful thing in proper context, but it is under one's mental control while conscious and if one is dreaming they are obviously not fully conscious.

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I agree with Ray. Whenever I read (or hear) of someone whose murderous behavior is "explained" by reference to schizophrenia, I think "Did the chemicals or wiring in his brain guide him to pick up a weapon and use it against someone? Do chemicals have language? Does wiring speak? If someone is in an angry rage, why wouldn't he just start beating the floor, the ground, or whatever, with his fists? Are we to believe that Loughner's wiring and chemicals guided him to the gunshop, guided him to the food store, then told him when to pull the trigger?

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I agree with Ray. Whenever I read (or hear) of someone whose murderous behavior is "explained" by reference to schizophrenia, I think "Did the chemicals or wiring in his brain guide him to pick up a weapon and use it against someone? Do chemicals have language? Does wiring speak? If someone is in an angry rage, why wouldn't he just start beating the floor, the ground, or whatever, with his fists? Are we to believe that Loughner's wiring and chemicals guided him to the gunshop, guided him to the food store, then told him when to pull the trigger?

It is hard for a sane person to grasp the twisted thinking of the mentally sick. They simply don't have critical thinking ability (the brain chemistry isn't working) and cannot evaluate the consequences of their actions. Mentally sick people have launched themselves off tall buildings in the belief that they can fly. A rational person usually has his emotions in check, but without a sound mind, emotions reign supreme, and rationalisations fill the gaps that beg for reason.

It's not so much 'what were they thinking?' as there was not much thinking at all, other than that required to heed their emotional dictates.

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I agree with Ray. Whenever I read (or hear) of someone whose murderous behavior is "explained" by reference to schizophrenia, I think "Did the chemicals or wiring in his brain guide him to pick up a weapon and use it against someone? Do chemicals have language? Does wiring speak? If someone is in an angry rage, why wouldn't he just start beating the floor, the ground, or whatever, with his fists? Are we to believe that Loughner's wiring and chemicals guided him to the gunshop, guided him to the food store, then told him when to pull the trigger?

It is hard for a sane person to grasp the twisted thinking of the mentally sick. They simply don't have critical thinking ability (the brain chemistry isn't working) and cannot evaluate the consequences of their actions. Mentally sick people have launched themselves off tall buildings in the belief that they can fly. A rational person usually has his emotions in check, but without a sound mind, emotions reign supreme, and rationalisations fill the gaps that beg for reason.

It's not so much 'what were they thinking?' as there was not much thinking at all, other than that required to heed their emotional dictates.

But emotions do not tell you to take any particular action. And, "twisted thinking" is just that; it is not brain chemistry. Also, saying that a "rational person usually has his emotions in check" does not mean that if he didn't, he would undertake to pursue irrational actions. There is no such thing as an "emotional dictate". There are emotions which accompany thoughts, however confused they might be.

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I agree with Ray. Whenever I read (or hear) of someone whose murderous behavior is "explained" by reference to schizophrenia, I think "Did the chemicals or wiring in his brain guide him to pick up a weapon and use it against someone? Do chemicals have language? Does wiring speak? If someone is in an angry rage, why wouldn't he just start beating the floor, the ground, or whatever, with his fists? Are we to believe that Loughner's wiring and chemicals guided him to the gunshop, guided him to the food store, then told him when to pull the trigger?

It is hard for a sane person to grasp the twisted thinking of the mentally sick. They simply don't have critical thinking ability (the brain chemistry isn't working) and cannot evaluate the consequences of their actions. Mentally sick people have launched themselves off tall buildings in the belief that they can fly. A rational person usually has his emotions in check, but without a sound mind, emotions reign supreme, and rationalisations fill the gaps that beg for reason.

It's not so much 'what were they thinking?' as there was not much thinking at all, other than that required to heed their emotional dictates.

But emotions do not tell you to take any particular action. And, "twisted thinking" is just that; it is not brain chemistry. Also, saying that a "rational person usually has his emotions in check" does not mean that if he didn't, he would undertake to pursue irrational actions. There is no such thing as an "emotional dictate". There are emotions which accompany thoughts, however confused they might be.

Yes emotions or voices can tell you to do insane things, to take a gun and kill. In a sane person, emotions are usually sympathetically sane because they have been placed by sane values. Without sound RATIONAL values, do not expect emotions to be sane; they will reflect your disturbed values. Many a time, when a criminal has been asked why he did it, his response has been because he felt like it. Often there is an element of in-credulousness that one should ask such a question, as if no other element need be applied.

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I agree with Ray. Whenever I read (or hear) of someone whose murderous behavior is "explained" by reference to schizophrenia, I think "Did the chemicals or wiring in his brain guide him to pick up a weapon and use it against someone? Do chemicals have language? Does wiring speak? If someone is in an angry rage, why wouldn't he just start beating the floor, the ground, or whatever, with his fists? Are we to believe that Loughner's wiring and chemicals guided him to the gunshop, guided him to the food store, then told him when to pull the trigger?

It is hard for a sane person to grasp the twisted thinking of the mentally sick. They simply don't have critical thinking ability (the brain chemistry isn't working) and cannot evaluate the consequences of their actions. Mentally sick people have launched themselves off tall buildings in the belief that they can fly. A rational person usually has his emotions in check, but without a sound mind, emotions reign supreme, and rationalisations fill the gaps that beg for reason.

It's not so much 'what were they thinking?' as there was not much thinking at all, other than that required to heed their emotional dictates.

But emotions do not tell you to take any particular action. And, "twisted thinking" is just that; it is not brain chemistry. Also, saying that a "rational person usually has his emotions in check" does not mean that if he didn't, he would undertake to pursue irrational actions. There is no such thing as an "emotional dictate". There are emotions which accompany thoughts, however confused they might be.

Yes emotions or voices can tell you to do insane things, to take a gun and kill. In a sane person, emotions are usually sympathetically sane because they have been placed by sane values. Without sound RATIONAL values, do not expect emotions to be sane; they will reflect your disturbed values. Many a time, when a criminal has been asked why he did it, his response has been because he felt like it. Often there is an element of in-credulousness that one should ask such a question, as if no other element need be applied.

What scientific/biological proof do you have for your claims about the brain and it's functions?

I also offer that the simple fact that antidepressants are the most prescribed drug in America and have been for quite some time. So, why is it that some many American's are taking these drugs yet they are not getting better and are still kiling themselves and others. I think those facts, along with others I mentioned, might cause one to pause and rethink the premise that there is a chemical problem within all these people. If the chemical theory was corrects all these people should be running around screaming with delight how much they are enjoying their new lifes, but they are not.

Finally, it would not surprise me if Loughner was on antidepressant drugs and had been taking them for quite some time.

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I agree with Ray. Whenever I read (or hear) of someone whose murderous behavior is "explained" by reference to schizophrenia, I think "Did the chemicals or wiring in his brain guide him to pick up a weapon and use it against someone? Do chemicals have language? Does wiring speak? If someone is in an angry rage, why wouldn't he just start beating the floor, the ground, or whatever, with his fists? Are we to believe that Loughner's wiring and chemicals guided him to the gunshop, guided him to the food store, then told him when to pull the trigger?

It is hard for a sane person to grasp the twisted thinking of the mentally sick. They simply don't have critical thinking ability (the brain chemistry isn't working) and cannot evaluate the consequences of their actions. Mentally sick people have launched themselves off tall buildings in the belief that they can fly. A rational person usually has his emotions in check, but without a sound mind, emotions reign supreme, and rationalisations fill the gaps that beg for reason.

It's not so much 'what were they thinking?' as there was not much thinking at all, other than that required to heed their emotional dictates.

But emotions do not tell you to take any particular action. And, "twisted thinking" is just that; it is not brain chemistry. Also, saying that a "rational person usually has his emotions in check" does not mean that if he didn't, he would undertake to pursue irrational actions. There is no such thing as an "emotional dictate". There are emotions which accompany thoughts, however confused they might be.

Yes emotions or voices can tell you to do insane things, to take a gun and kill. In a sane person, emotions are usually sympathetically sane because they have been placed by sane values. Without sound RATIONAL values, do not expect emotions to be sane; they will reflect your disturbed values. Many a time, when a criminal has been asked why he did it, his response has been because he felt like it. Often there is an element of in-credulousness that one should ask such a question, as if no other element need be applied.

Well, which is it---emotions or voices? A inner voice is an imagined thought, not an emotion. And just because the criminal mis-identifies why he does something, that is no reason for us to accept his "explanation".

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Finally, it would not surprise me if Loughner was on antidepressant drugs and had been taking them for quite some time.

I want to add that I would not be surprised if Loughner does have any real biological problems that they were caused by the drugs that were prescribed by his doctors. I would also not be surprised if he was taking multiple antidepressants which probably started with Ritalin with others being added at later times as this has become the general standard. Evidence shows that Ritalin can cause "gross brain abnormalities" which in other words means it is the cause not the solution. Evidence has also shown that Ritalin has the same or very similar long-term effects as amphetamine and cocaine which includes behavioral problems, growth suppression, neurological tics, aggitation, physical addiction and psychosis. Being "hyper-active" and "lacking self-discipline" as a child is not abnormal no matter how many parents, teachers and doctors attempt to tell people it is. In 1990 it was estimated that 900,000 American children were taking Ritalin of which 80% were males. In 1997 the estimated number of American children taking Ritalin increased to 2.5 million and by 1998, just one year later, the estimated number had increased to 4.5 million and in 2000 the estimate had increased to 8 million. In 2005 more than 118 million presciptions were filled for antidepressant drugs in America which out paced it's nearest competitor, heart medication, by about 7 million. As a matter of fact, of all the Ritalin prescribed in the world 90% is done so in America which is not a good thing to be distinguished for.

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In 2005 more than 118 million presciptions were filled for antidepressant drugs in America which out paced it's nearest competitor, heart medication, by about 7 million. As a matter of fact, of all the Ritalin prescribed in the world 90% is done so in America which is not a good thing to be distinguished for.

A few other items for people to ponder. If the "biochemical imbalance" theory was correct and with the numbers taking those types of drugs defined as the cure for "biochemical imbalance" should we not have the country with extreme happiness. Does not the number of people taking the drug cause pause? Because, if so many people supposedly have "biochemical imbalances" then it is not an abnormal phenomenon. The truth is that our brains constantly flucuate the chemicals moving into and out of our brains in accordance to many different items going on within and outside of our bodies everyday.

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Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder. It involves psychosis, as opposed to neurosis. The diagnostic criteria for Schizophrenia are as follows (from the DSM-IV):

A. Characteristic symptoms: Two (or more) of the following, each present for a significant portion of time during a 1-month period (or less if successfully treated):

(1) delusions

(2) hallucinations

(3) disorganized speech (e.g., frequent derailment or incoherence)

(4) grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior

(5) negative symptoms, i.e., affective flattening, alogia, or avolition

B. Social/occupational dysfunction

C. Duration: signs exist for about 6 months with 1 month of symptoms.

The rest of the criteria involve exclusions, which relate to the presence of another mental disorder, substance use, and medical conditions.

There are different ways to develop psychotic symptoms, including the use of certain substances, other medical conditions, severe and prolonged physical and psychological trauma, and genetics. The evidence to date strongly suggests that the primary cause of psychosis and Schizophrenia is genetics. In other words, in most cases Schizophrenia is a brain disease rooted in genetics.

Consider the following data(1):

The risk for developing schizophrenia in the general population is 0.8-1.0%. If either the father or mother is schizophrenic, the percent of risk to each child is 10-18 and 10-16%, respectively. If both parents are schizophrenic, the risk is 25-46%. If one dizygotic twin is schizophrenic, the risk for the other twin is 12-15%. In the same scenario for monozygotic twins, the risk is 40-50%. If you have two adoptive parents who are schizophrenic, the risk to the adoptive child from "normal," i.e., non-schizophrenic parents, is 4.8%. If both biological parents are schizophrenic and their child is adopted and raised by "normal" parents, the risk to the child is 19.7%.

In other words, as the authors of the book from which I am reporting (see reference below) state: "Adopted-away studies provide strong evidence for a genetic transmission of schizophrenia and 'schizophrenic-spectrum disorders' (SSD)...They reveal that SSD is five to six times more common among biological, than among adoptive, parents of schizophrenic adults. Furthermore, if a schizophrenic adoptive parent rears an adoptee from biologically 'normal' parents, the adoptee's risk of becoming schizophrenic is four times less than if the adoptee had a schizophrenic biological parent and was reared by 'normal' adoptive parents" [italics in original] (Maxmen & Ward, 1995, p. 185-186). (The authors also discuss a number of the neurological components of schizophrenia, but I won't get into those right now.)

However, it is clear that genetics isn't necessarily deterministic. Other factors come into play, including one's experiences and premises. As this relates to development, there are a small percent of people who develop psychosis fairly early in life, but the majority become schizophrenic some time between the ages of 17-28. That means that most people who become schizophrenic will basically follow normal development until the disease process sets in. When it does, it is usually somewhat gradual in terms of onset, with signs such as social withdrawal, loss of interest in school or work, deterioration in hygiene and grooming, unusual behavior, or outbursts of anger (DSM-IV, p. 282).

When the disease fully sets in, the "active" symptoms of hallucinations and/or delusions (and others) will occur. To the issue that has been raised on this thread regarding the distinction between someone acting on what I would call criminally twisted thinking vs. hallucinations and delusions rooted in a brain disease, both can occur. In the former case, that would be your "regular" crime. Someone wanted to steal something or kill someone, they planned how, and did it.

In the latter case, a person's brain processes are malfunctioning to where they misperceive and misevaluate a situation and act on the impaired judgment. I have a couple different clinical stories that support this point. One of those can be read here, along with a brief description of the legal issues involved, which I'll briefly comment on below.

A second story occurred when I was doing emergency services at a hospital in Indiana. A man was brought in because he was observed to be rummaging around the bushes next to people's houses at night. When approached by the police, he told them that there was a magical dog about and he was interested in finding the dog's excrement because it had special properties. He had found some and proceeded to sculpt it into various objects. In addition to trespassing, the man was in danger because in the small, rural town in which this was happening, he was likely to get shot.

I met him in one of the ER rooms and it was readily apparent that he was psychotic, and it also seemed he was on a substance. I came to learn that he was fond of cocaine and methamphetamine, at least one of which he had been doing for about 4-5 days (I don't remember which). So, he had a substance-induced psychosis. I left him in the room to go and call both the psychiatrist on duty and a local judge to get permission to hold him on the psych ward. While I was on the phone, the man managed to slip out of the ER and escape via the adjacent garage where ambulances pulled in to drop off patients. Security was notified and they went after him. He was brought back within 10 minutes, as he hadn't gotten far--he was found rummaging in the bushes outside the hospital looking for...

So, there are clear cases of someone acting on very impaired perception and related judgment that is rooted in faulty brain processing. In the case of Loughner, I honestly haven't followed the news on it, and so don't know what his situation is. My guess is that it will become a question of law, as they will probably plead insanity.

The court will look at his actions leading up to and after the shooting, his mental health and other records, eye-witness testimony, and evaluations by psychologists. They will try to determine if he knew what he was doing, the wrongness of his actions, his planning and intent, and so forth. Even if he has schizophrenia, it doesn't mean he will be found insane by legal standards and definitions. It is certainly possible that someone with schizophrenia can act with conscious, intentional malice, and he should be imprisoned if that's the case.

(1) Maxmen & Ward (1995). Essential psychopathology and its treatment: Second edition revised for DSM-IV. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.; New York, New York.

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Scott, none of what you mentioned nor quoted demonstrates that there is a biological malfunciton which is caused by the "biochemical imbalance." Almost all the items under discussion, and more, have already been discussed, and I still recommend the same books and studies I did during those earlier discussions. And considering that the brain runs all the functions of the Nervous system, I would appreciate someone explaining how a person could have a biological brain (which might I remind people is part of the Nervous System) abnormality without having the rest of the bodies systems malfuncitoning as it is in full charge of the bodies regulation of remaining in equilibrium or in other words healthy. I would also appreciate someone confronting and overcoming all the specific aspects of the human body that I described and the other quesitons I posed.

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For those that have a concern to research this subject further I would like to recommend a few books that I have read on this subject that may be of use.

The War of the Soups and the Sparks: The Discovery of Neurotransmitters and the Dispute Over How Nerves Communicate by Elliot S. Valenstein

http://www.amazon.com/War-Soups-Sparks-Neu...46&sr=1-2#_

Blaming the Brain: The Truth About Drugs and Mental Health by Elliot S. Valenstein

http://www.amazon.com/Blaming-Brain-Truth-...pd_bxgy_b_img_b

Neurosceince at a Glance by Roger A. Barker, Stephen Barasi and M. J. Neal

http://www.amazon.com/Neuroscience-at-Glan...5503&sr=1-1

Endocrinology at a Glance by Ben Greenstein and Diana Wood

http://www.amazon.com/Endocrine-System-at-...5589&sr=1-1

Anatomica's Body Atlas by Kurt Albertine

http://www.amazon.com/Anatomicas-Body-Atla...5685&sr=1-1

Toxic Psychiatry: Why Therapy, Empathy and Love Must Replace the Drugs, Electroshock, and Biochemical Theories of the "New Psychiatry" by Peter Breggin

http://www.amazon.com/Toxic-Psychiatry-Ele...5763&sr=1-1

Manufacturing Victims: What the Psychology Industry Is Doing to People by Tana Dineen

http://www.amazon.com/Manufacturing-Victim...46&sr=1-1#_

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Scott, none of what you mentioned nor quoted demonstrates that there is a biological malfunciton which is caused by the "biochemical imbalance."

A "biochemical imbalance" is the evidence, in addition to irrational behavior, of a brain disease, such as schizophrenia. For the record, I have never liked the term "chemical imbalance" to describe a cause of some psychological problem. First, you have to ask what caused the imbalance, and second most psychological problems are the result of some kind of traumatic experience(s) (defined broadly).

However, it is true that there are neurochemical correlates to psychological problems, and also to brain diseases (such as schizophrenia). Psychotropic medications very often work, especially anti-psychotic medication. What causes the "chemical imbalance" in schizophrenia I don't know, other than to say it is a disease process.

And considering that the brain runs all the functions of the Nervous system, I would appreciate someone explaining how a person could have a biological brain (which might I remind people is part of the Nervous System) abnormality without having the rest of the bodies systems malfuncitoning as it is in full charge of the bodies regulation of remaining in equilibrium or in other words healthy.

Ray, you have obviously read a lot on neuroanatomy and functioning, which makes it hard for me to understand how you can ask this question. The history of neuroscience and understanding of localized functions of the brain comes from real-world studies of humans and animals with damage to particular areas of the brain and very specific corresponding deficits. In other words, damage to one part of the brain doesn't necessarily result in an overall malfunctioning of the entire body.

As you pointed out in an earlier post, damage to one area of the brain is often compensated for over time by other areas, especially if the brain injury occurs early in life. Betsy's point about people who have strokes that affect some particular function also buttresses this point. Maybe I'm misunderstanding what you are saying, but there is no reason to think that brain damage, either by external sources or an internal disease process, must necessarily affect the whole body.

I would also appreciate someone confronting and overcoming all the specific aspects of the human body that I described and the other quesitons I posed.

If you are referring to the questions you ask us to ponder and your statements about psychotropic medications, it may be best to form another thread on those, as they are interesting points. Discussion of them may take us pretty far afield of the original topic.

In regard to Loughner, if you have a concern that he will essentially be given a pass because they will accept the argument that his faulty brain chemistry made him do it, I share your concern. As I wrote in my previous post, merely having Schizophrenia does NOT mean that someone is incapable of knowing what he is doing, that it is wrong, and so forth. However, there certainly have been real cases of someone doing something terrible but did not understand what he was doing, its wrongness, etc. The laws around these issues go back over 200 years, which means the issue has come up many times and legal experts have seen the reality of it. On the positive side, the insanity defense rarely works and virtually all people who commit such crimes knew what they were doing. For what it's worth, I don't think Loughner will get off or be found insane. At best he'll get guilty but mentally ill, which means he'll go to prison and they will give him antipsychotics.

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