Blogs > Liberty and Power > Deanna Laney: My Take

Apr 8, 2004 7:32 pm


Deanna Laney: My Take



The bottom line on the insanity verdict in Deanna Laney’s murder case is this: If she's not responsible for killing her kids, then you’re not responsible for not killing yours. The same psychiatrists and neuroscientists who think that Laney could not control her actions also think you can’t either (i.e., mind is nothing but brain).

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Sheldon Richman - 4/9/2004

Szasz a mind-body dualist? On the contrary, if "mind" is a verb not a noun, there can be no dualism. His mind book is of a piece with the full corpus of his work.


Robert L. Campbell - 4/9/2004

I have a lot of respect for Szasz and will give this book a look. "Mind is a verb" indicates a process orientation, which I think is all for the better.

However, judging from what I have read in his other books, Szasz is more than a bit of a mind-body dualist.

I think some form of emergence with top-down causation is the way to go. Searle isn't the best at explicating emergence; I mentioned him because he is a Big Name in analytic philosophy of mind.


Sheldon Richman - 4/9/2004

I would recommend, heartily, Thomas Szasz's The Meaning of Mind. It is excellent. When Szasz was finishing the book, I asked him what it is about. He replied: "Mind is a verb, not a noun." I've read some of Searle and see him as mixed. He attributes mental acts to brain processes, which I find very suspect.


Robert L. Campbell - 4/8/2004

I'll see what I can find on the psychiatric testimony in the Laney case.

You will find an occasional endorsement of free will in contemporary psychology (one fairly prominent name that comes to mind is Roy Baumeister, a social psychologist who likes to equate high self-esteem with narcissism but is pretty good on the FW issue). In philosophy of mind, a lot of attention is currently being devoted to reductionistic "compatibilists" like Daniel Dennett and Owen Flanagan, or reductionistic hard determinists like Paul and Patricia Churchland, but there are some other prominent figures like John Searle who question reductionism and offer a vigorous defense of free will.


Sheldon Richman - 4/8/2004

I didn't keep up with the testimony, but I presume that the closest big-city newspaper carried detailed accounts, as the Houston papers did in the Andrea Yates case. Of course, I would say that the psychiatrists' testimony was intellectually worthless. All they know is what Laney told them. ("She must be psychotic. God, even if he exists, doesn't talk to people these days.") It's good to hear that philosophers of mind and some psychologists haven't fallen for reductionist pseudoscience and scientism.


Robert L. Campbell - 4/8/2004

A couple of thoughts:

(1) Supposedly the psychiatrists testified in court that Laney was psychotic. Are there reliable sources that give specifics about their testimony?

(2) I agree that reductionism (the mind is "just" the brain, which in turn is "just" microphysical particles doing their microphysical thing) implies that no one is truly responsible--neither Laney, nor you and me. But if you argue that, you will get a fight out of many of my colleagues in psychology. You will also be fervently resisted by the philosophers of mind who insist that some form of "compatibilism" or "neo-compatibilism" must be true.