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lundi 16 juillet 2012



Like many of us, I can clearly recall a turning point in my life. Soon after graduation from my postgraduate degree course in Medical Anthropology, I was invited to give a month long course in Medical Anthropology, the first of its kind at the University of Havana in Cuba. The date for the course was set six months hence and in a frenzied search for a good course, I visited my alma mater and professors in London, visited universities at Heidelberg, Oslo and Paris. In Paris, I encountered an extremely intelligent postgraduate student who set the tone of my quest on top of the outline given to me by my professors. I was introduced to the philosophy of Gilles de Leuze, had my curiosity aroused about Michel Foucault and wanted to learn more about Levy-Strauss whom I was fortunate enough to see on the streets of Paris. Oslo with its end of the 19th century melancholia reflected in the works of Hamsun, Ibsen, the sculptures at the Wiegeland Park, considered by the way the father of modern Norwegian Literature.  Heidelberg taught me about the German romanticism as reflected in their music and literature (long before the Nazis!).
The personal realization for me was that my own mind is suitable for this fusion of literature and philosophy and I was going to use the tool of Anthropology, which I had recently learned to explore it, further.
I am a Physician by training, having received excellent postgraduate training in the USA under some very good teachers (I salute you: Dr Eric Reiss, Dr Larry Fishman, also Drs. Glaser and Schatz). Coincidentally I was also getting involved with Native American Indians.
Dr Ronnie Frankenberg used to mention Maurice Merleau-Ponty and used to say, without context, things have no meaning. In anthropology especially the anthropology of sickness and suffering it has a resounding impact. That led to learn a little about Phenomenology.
I received a note from a PhD candidate in English Literature about Merleau-Ponty and that made me think about conscious level of the individual and the purity of the meaning of the reality around us. And decided to apply that to Medical Research and how the knowledge is usurped by writers working for the Drug companies to distort the facts, and then distributed to the doctors who do not have to check the original facts.
A very good and beneficiary teacher during my student days was Dr Howard Lessner (Olav Ha Shalom) once said to me:
Do not trust medical information that comes to you free of charge in the mail.
Years later, the only lesson I would take back from my humanitarian work in Jamaica was the old lady who said: If you want quality, you have to pay for it…

Merleau-Ponty would talk about EIDETIC reduction. Let us see what you would get if you “Google” Eidetic..

Eidetic memory (Description: lay /ˈdɛtɪk/), commonly referred to as photographic memory, is a psychological or medical term, popularly defined as the ability to recall imagessounds, or objects in memory with extreme precision. The word eidetic, referring to extraordinarily detailed and vivid recall not limited to, but especially of, visual images, comes from the Greek word εἶδος (pronounced [êːdos]eidos, "seen")

The first twenty or thirty entries are all related to Photographic Memory and mostly to Wikipedia, the on line volunteer based Encyclopaedia. On page 3, the lone entry stands hidden… from Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Eidetic reduction, in phenomenology, a method by which the philosopher moves from the consciousness of individual and concrete objects to the trans empirical realm of pure essences and thus achieves an intuition of the eidos (Greek: “shape”) of a thing—i.e., of what it is in its invariable and essential structure, apart from all that is contingent or accidental to it. The eidos is thus the principle or necessary structure of the thing. Being a science of essences, phenomenology finds this reduction important for its methodology.
Because the eidetic reduction uses the method of free variation, it is not dependent on either mental constructs or concrete factual objects, although it takes its starting point in the knowledge of facts. Beginning with a concrete object, the philosopher can imaginatively vary its different aspects. The limitations of the fanciful variation are the effectively given—i.e., that which is given immediately and indubitably—and the eidos itself. The series of variations overlap, and the aspect in which they overlap is the essence. By thus moving from evidence in the perceptual sphere to evidence in the imaginative sphere, he can arrive at the invariable and essential structure of the object.
Thus, the eidetic reduction is neither a form of induction nor an abstraction. In accordance with the phenomenological reduction, it abstains from any sort of positing of the actual existence of its objects, and it brackets, or holds in suspense, the concrete and factual content. On the other hand, it is not an empirical generalization that takes place at the level of man’s natural attitude.

Obviously most readers wont look that far into Google and go away with the impression that Merleau-Ponty was writing about Photographic Memory.

Lesson no 1:  To understand CONCEPTS, you really have to read the original textbooks in which they were propounded or at least read some book about the philosophers who wrote about it.
The Thirty-Seventh Annual Conference of the International Merleau-Ponty Circle will be held at Fordham University, Lincoln Center, NY, NY. The conference dates are September 20-22, 2012 and the theme of the conference is "Self & Others, Silence & Solitude."
 If you want to read just one book by Merleau-Ponty, I suggest:
Phénoménologie de la perception. Paris: Gallimard, 1945. Translated by Colin Smith under the title Phenomenology of Perception (New York: Humanities Press, 1962; London: Routledge &Kegan Paul, 1962; translation revised by Forrest Williams, 1981; reprinted, 2002)

Medical Anthropology teaches you to divert your gaze from the sterility of the Epidemiologists and Clinicians (pardon the pun) and go beyond facts and figures and transcend to the level of the suffering and focus on the society in which the patient lives. The best definition is the one I have heard from Dr Paul Farmer, a Medical Anthropologist and a Humanitarian Physician. (Haiti, Rwanda, Russia etc.)
Being a registered medical practitioner, it is only natural that I am targeted by the commercial aspects of the Medical Practice, mainly Drug Companies, with information. This practice of spreading information is NEVER objective, since they will never say that the drug they are pushing has side effects. Just recently Glaxo Smith Kline had to pay millions of dollars in compensation since they hid nefarious information away from the regulating agencies and thus the public. It is important to remember that Drug Companies or Pharma as they are referred to DO NOT HAVE YOUR HEALTH as their priority, profit comes before every thing, and helping humanity is down the scale of priorities.
That is the reality one has to accept before the knowledge generated by them is gulped wholesale.
Yesterday, Endocrine Daily, a free rag fully supported by the Drug Industry and their professor peons arrived in the email.
JULY 15, 2012
Appropriate use of artificial sweeteners may have health benefits 

And they do provide the link to the original article that is very long and the gist of the article was that they are not able to say whether artificial sweeteners truly can help control caloric intake or diabetes control or cardiac risk.

So the drug company employed writer, who are not medical people, can distort the reality by appealing to the consciousness of the individual but an anthropologist would delve into the situation and confront reality and transcend it to seek the purest of the information.
I always try to read the information not in the condensed form, The Readers Digest version but in the original and come to your own conclusion. A busy practitioner do not have time to do that and you can be sure that very quickly they become technicians in the employ of the Drug Companies, even without them knowing about it!

This is how Merleau-Ponty can be of help to you….to take care of your patients and relatives and friends... Society in general ...