Conversion and revolution

Julian C. Hughes

in Thinking Through Dementia

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199570669
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754654 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

Conversion and revolution

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But the human-person-perspective on dementia-in-the-world digs deeper. It suggests an important metanoia: a change of mind, a conversion, a change of one's life. For what is at stake is the way in which we think of our own lives. It is the way we view ageing and decline. It is to do with the way we view each other. The human-person-perspective is importantly about how I encounter the Other, about whether I look in his or her eyes and about what happens as a result. It is about the authentic nature of my being-in-the-world and my engagement with others. It is about communication at the level of the soul, that is, where we can communicate our humanity. It is about having the correct (physical, psychological, social, and spiritual) environments in which to let this occur. It is about being in the moment with the person. It is about genuine care and making manifest the possibility of solicitude.

From the personal to the governmental levels, therefore, as suggested in Chapter 8, the human-person-perspective calls for revolution. To quote Sisson again on Edward Thomas: ‘All passion for the truth is revolutionary… (quoted by Wright in Thomas, 1981: 25). The human-person-perspective is not one view once and for all: it will seek all the possibilities for truth that surround the human being in the world.

For the human-person-perspective is about our place in our world. It is, then, as Whitehouse has suggested, about relationships between generations and with the world. It is about solidarity as beings-in-the-world. It is about compassion and solicitude. It is about, … a greater sense of responsibility for future generations and for our planet. (Whitehouse & George, 2008: 281)

The human-person-perspective is about how we stand in relation to others and to creation. We should be artists and scientists, philosophers, and artisans; for we must both think and do. Our connections with the world are made up of our thoughts and our actions, and how we make those connections is constrained by the norms that shape our lives. These norms are lived out in our practices, which are embedded in the world and defined constitutively by the criteria that make the way we live and the things we say right or wrong. These immanent and irreducible features of our lives are what the human-person-perspective is ultimately about. It is about a type of being that is inherently constrained by its normative features, but in the face of dementia-in-the-world our Being-with alters the space of our solicitude. We must not just have the right perspective, we must act on it. Our approach to dementia-in-the-world is akin to an aesthetic judgement, because we must be willing to contemplate broadly, emotionally, and intuitively, as well as rationally. But we cannot simply stand by and contemplate. Confronted by acquired diffuse neurocognitive dysfunction, we have to act; and the ultimate justification for doing one thing rather than another will not be some further justification, it will be immanent in the nature of the actions that make up our practices. What we end with is, ‘… an ungrounded way of acting’ (OC §110). But it is a way of acting that is in the world, where it must cohere with our broader patterns of practice (Hughes, 2006d). In the end, for better or for worse, what we do shapes our surround.

Chapter.  3709 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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