empathetic machinism – to soft_skinned_space

Antonio Damasio (Looking for Spinoza) shows, to simplify, the material neuronal causes of such feelings as empathy in the brain. Catherine Malabou goes further. She invents in The New Wounded, self-consciously, the philosophical concept of “cerebrality” to provide an aetiology for psychic events. She cites the argument of Bruno Bettelheim implying a shared causality of psychological symptoms in autists and mussulmen – the 1000 yard stare and – the indifference.

From Malabou’s preamble: “this book is a belated reaction to the ordeal of depersonalisation to which my grandmother was subjected as Alzheimer’s disease operated upon her. I say “operated” because it seemed to me that my grandmother, or, at least, the new and ultimate version of her, was the work of the disease, its opus, its own sculpture. Indeed, this was not a diminished person in front of me, the same woman weaker than she used to be, lessened, spoiled. No, this was a stranger who didn’t recognise me, who didn’t recognise herself because she had undoubtedly never met her before.”

And: “I was perfectly aware – along with everyone who must endure the same spectacle in their own lives – that this absence, this disaffection, this strangeness to oneself were, without any possible doubt, the paradoxical signs of profound pain. Later, I learned that Alzheimer’s disease is a cerebral pathology. Could it be that the brain suffers? Could it be that this suffering manifests itself in the form of indifference to suffering? In the form of the inability to experience suffering as one’s own? Could it be that there is a type of suffering that creates a new identity, the unknown identity of an unknown person who suffers? Could it be that cerebral suffering is precisely such suffering?”

I’d like to ask the opposite: if it could be that an as yet for us unknown person, an identity in the process of creation, can be equal to cerebral suffering, in the sense in which Deleuze issues the Stoic challenge of being equal to the wound which afflicts us? or in other words, acting?