On False Consciousness and Indeterminacy in the Past: A Psychiatrist's Ruminations on Rewriting the Soul

Kevin Chien-Chang Wu
Department of Social Medicine, National Taiwan University College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, National Taiwan University College of Medicine and National Taiwan University Hospital

It is my pleasure and also pressure, to present my short and premature review of Professor Hacking's book Rewriting the Soul: Multiple Personality and the Science of Memory. (Hacking, 1995). As a long-term admirer of Professor Hacking, I found it difficult for me to jump out of Professor Hacking's frame to analyze the issues regarding memory, history, and truth as presented in his book. In my angst to find out a good enough question to address in reviewing the book, I encountered a 40-year-old patient Lin, who was brought to me by her family. The patient insisted that the woman M, who lived with her for thirty more years and claimed to be her mother, was actually not her mother. The other family members said the patient was absolutely deluded. The patient said the truth came to her all of a sudden with strong emotions during her cult meditation. To her, it was like all pieces of puzzle finally were put together in her mind. She believed that according to the wisdom she learned from the cult, she now could see through the veil of lies. She insisted that she was adopted and was abused by the family since the time she could have remembered. The family members admitted that M spanked or hit the patient with a ruler many times when Lin made mistakes in her childhood. But, they said, physical punishment was a quite common style of child discipline in Taiwan about 30 more years ago. As a psychiatrist, I believed her family's statement when they showed me that parentage DNA testing confirmed the maternal-child relationship between M and Lin. But, what if the test result was wrong? What if there was no DNA testing available? What should I do? All these questions led me to read again and again the chapter 17 「An indeterminacy in the past」 and chapter 18 「False consciousness」 of Rewriting the Soul. I kind of hoped to find some answers in the two chapters. Although I am not sure I have found answers in the chapters, I am happy that I do find something to address for my review. In the following, I decided to take the role of a practicing psychiatrist, who is trying to understand Professor Hacking's work, and made some critiques.

Taiwanese Journal for Studies of Science, Technology and Medicine, Number 7