Wednesday, January 18, 2012
A friend of mine wrote in his blog recently (http://freelancethinker1.blogspot.com/) the placebo effect in the medical world might have wider uses. He posited that it might be “The placebo effect is a particular kind of priming effect. Perhaps a subconscious prime could be used as a placebo for the mind. . . Once we have a theoretical understanding of how it works, we could exploit it in practical ways to change people's lives for the better!” But he admits to some ethical problems to iron out.
I’d say so. And the first thing that needs to be done is refine the language. Terms like “better,” “moral,” are relative, amorphous and multi-dimensional. Words like “character and attitudes” can be defined in many different even antithetical ways. “Happier,” “nicer” than what? If your action makes you happier but me sadder, then do we have a net plus or a minus? “More creative?” Not only do have to be concerned with more than what, but we have to define creativity and decide whether we’re looking at creativity or a copy-cat.
What is a “better person?” Better than you? Than me? Can it even be defined? Does it need to be defined? If so, then what system of measurement are we going to use? Religious? Philosophical? Which religion? Which philosophy?
Or do we start from scratch . . . and who will do the scratching?
We face the same problem in politics. What one person considers ethical, another thinks rather of unprincipled. Can a candidate lie about and calumniate an opponent and still be moral? Can an official push hard for something privately while publicly taking a different position? All this and much more happen all the time in our country.
Maybe we need that placebo after all.
Posted by Patrick Fero at 2:02 PM