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Do those diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease lose their souls? Whitehead and Stengers on persons, propositions and the soul

Halewood, M (2016) 'Do those diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease lose their souls? Whitehead and Stengers on persons, propositions and the soul.' Sociological Review, 64 (4). 786 - 804. ISSN 0038-0261

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Abstract

© 2016 Sociological Review Publication Limited In this article, I use the work of Alfred North Whitehead and Isabelle Stengers to challenge the biomedical and commonsense view that those diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease suffer an irreparable and inevitable loss of self and that this loss is inextricably tied to a decline in linguistic capability which itself bears immediate witness to a deterioration in the brain. Through an analysis of Whitehead's (1933, 1938) provocative conceptualization of the soul, and Stengers' (2005) reading of this, I suggest that it is possible to dislocate language from its supposed position as that which produces and fully expresses human experience. This involves a challenge to the ‘linguistic turn’ as to be found in much contemporary social theory, philosophy and social psychology. The discussion of Whitehead’s (and Stengers') ideas regarding the soul involves a reading of Whitehead's notions of ‘propositions’, ‘contrasts’ and the ‘social environment’. Through these analyses, I seek to relocate the problem of language and identity and its relation to Alzheimer's disease. I go beyond any reduction of the problem either to its social component, where the self is seen as a resolutely human ‘person’, or to its natural element, where Alzheimer's disease is seen solely as a problem located within the brain. Instead, I try to think the natural and social together. My aim is not to explain away the problem but to suggest a more productive way of thinking about those diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and ourselves.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology, Department of
Depositing User: Jim Jamieson
Date Deposited: 23 Jun 2016 12:24
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2017 17:26
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/17013

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