The politics of mind reading: cartography and brain science in the discourse of medicine
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Medicine, like all other contemporary discourses, has a history. As such, medical discourse has been shaped by a wide range of ideologies in the long course of its development, and is open to criticism and analysis. In this sense, medicine may be perceived as an historical trajectory of texts which, like literary texts, demand a hermeneutic response. Philosopher Peter Machamer has observed that "the discovery and individuation of different entities and activities are important parts of scientific practice. In fact, much of the history of science has been written, albeit, unwittingly, by tracing the discoveries of new entities and activities that mark changes in the discipline."' In this view, medicine can be studied by tracing the ideological changes that uncover its underlying rhetoric. I will follow this plan of action precisely in this thesis, for I will examine many of the prominent texts in the history of brain science in order to examine the ideological changes in its discourse, and to show how the contemporary perception of the brain relates to earlier discursive perceptions. My reading of the trajectory of texts that make up the discourse of brain science uncovers an underlying notion of cartography in the writings. I am convinced that this discourse recycles itself in a continual effort to describe the physiological entity of the brain in a topographical fashion. This cartographical rhetoric, which begins as the dominating force of the discourse during the Renaissance, I would argue, arises out of the Western political ideology of the exploration and colonization of uncharted territories. If the body is perceived as an unexplored spatial region, then it is not unreasonable that science projects this political ideology on its examination of the brain. Since the discourse has not altered its fundamental rhetoric in 500 years, I would argue that there is no actual progress in the narrative of scientific evolution, but that there is rather a regression in the perception of metaphysical human identity. 'Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden, and Carl F. Craver. "Thinking About Mechanisms." Philosophy of Science. (67 Mar. 2000: 1-25), p. 14.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 80-86).
Osbun, Joshua William (2001). The politics of mind reading: cartography and brain science in the discourse of medicine. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from