Medical Tuesday Blog

In Praise of Prejudice by Theodore Dalrymple

Feb 24

Written by: Del Meyer
02/24/2020 8:24 PM 

Theodore Dalrymple, a psychiatrist who regularly saw patients in an English Prison, has an interesting perspective of people and their incongruities. His latest encounter book In Praise of Prejudice draws some very interesting observations. He draws his definition from the Oxford Shorter Dictionary,  prejudice is:

a previous judgement, especially a premature or hasty judgement. Preconceive opinion; bias . . . usually with unfavourable connotation. An unreasoning predilection of objection.

It follows, does it not, that we should strive to be entirely without prejudice?

He compares racial prejudice, which he considers the archetypical prejudice, to be the worst of all possible vices. It is merely based on ones race without any other attributes. It was the bases of many massacres and genocides in history. But even then, in polite company, no one would admit to a prejudice which would indicate that oneself is a bigot. . .

Chapter 3: History Teaches Us Anything We Like

A certain historiography persuades us that the wisdom of the past is always an illusion, and that the history of authority is nothing but the history of its abuse. It is not difficult to construct such a history, of course, for there is a lamentable surfeit of evidence in its favor. In a recent book entitled Menace in Europe, the talented American journalist Claire Berlinski tells us that war and genocide are not part of the history of Europe, but constitute the whole if its history. She arrives at this conclusion by looking at European history through the  lens of the Holocaust and a list of wars that fills an entire page of print.

In the great history of England, Macaulay wrote:

its patients, rather the reverse, and that distinguished it,
in point of effectiveness, from the quacks against
whom it relentlessly and ruthlessly struggled, but
whom it occasionally co-opted.

Perhaps the answer can best be appreciated in our
response to the tremendous current economic growth
in India and China. Some see this only as progress:
the emergence of hundreds of millions of people
from poverty into the sunny uplands of consumption.
Others see in it only a polluted environment and the
destruction of ancient ways of life, in favor of a homogenized,
 inauthentic, superficial universal lifestyle, with increasing
disparities of wealth and poverty into the bargain.

When a doctor proposes an eminently sensible course of action to  a patient based upon the most compelling evidence, and the patient replies, “Yes, but. . .” the doctor might as well give up there and then, for however many rejoinders he may make to the patient’s irrational objections, he will never prevail by reaching the end of the infinite regress. Of course, such stubbornness is not at the root only of much human folly, it is at the root of much, perhaps most, human wisdom, too.

This book should be read by all physicians to help make sense of what we do and how we interrelate with those we serve as well as those who strive to control us to the detriment of
those we serve.

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