Re: DSM: The right to live as one pleases

From: Ardeshir Mehta, N.D. (
Date: Sat Feb 02 2002 - 01:21:29 EST

Hi Christopher,

You wrote:

> What if we ended up deciding that this kind of freedom that we
> all value so highly actually does present a serious risk of such an
> absolution of responsibility? What if so many people followed in the
> path of her uncle that as a whole, humanity began to slip toward
> barbarism instead of the stars? IF such a far-fetched scenario were
> reality, then I would question the value of this freedom. But I'm not
> sure that everyone would. Many people think right is right regardless
> of the consequences.

Remember that freedom is part and parcel of who we are. It is im-
possible for us all not to have *any* freedom, because if we did not
have any, we would never even *know* that we did not have any!

Knowledge, of any kind, implies the possibility to *choose* to be-
lieve that which is true -- or that which we think is true! -- and to
choose to disbelieve that which isn't (or that which we think isn't.)
Without such choice, knowledge is impossible.

Thus freedom is an inevitable part of us as conscious beings. The
question is only whether we are able to artificially restrict the
amount of freedom *some* of us have, so that others can have
*more* freedom.

And if we *are* so able, then is it good or bad to do so? Or more
accurately, is it right or wrong?

I am sure you would agree -- though Franco or Perón might not! --
that to do so would be *wrong*.

> > At age five, I agree, however, that this is a tough choice. She *might*
> > know better than you, for after all, she may know her own body best;
> > but on the other hand she might be just *borderline* too young to
> > know her own body best.
> >
> > Maybe at this stage it would be best to consult the experts. And
> > if they disagree even among themselves, then trust in the LORD
> > (or, if you are an atheist, then trust in the *vis medcatrix naturae*
> > (i.e., "healing force of nature").
> I'm an atheist, and in that case, I'd just trust my kids. If serious
> medical professionals disagree about the adversity of activity X then
> it's not likely to be immediately and immutably detrimental.


Besides, in nature, creatures get ill all the time, and some get healed
too. So obviously there is a force in nature which *does* heal, even
without the intervention of M.D.s -- and this force is something one
can always rely on when the experts disagree!

> ... at what age should one be able to
> experiment with heroin? Also, what about tobacco use or exposure to
> the sun's UV radiation? With all of these activities, there is an
> accompanied increase in the chance of some serious detriment. The truth
> is that the likelihood of deleterious effects with heroine use is
> greater in degree but not kind than that of smoking tobacco. How do we
> draw the line in some objective way? I know at least one person who
> took heroin more than once who is not a junkie. I have known several
> people who used cocaine and never became addicted.
> I'm not suggesting the use of any of these chemicals...I haven't chosen
> to try them. But I am illustrating that their use is not a *definite*
> case of *direct* harm.

This is the tricky part. Here I favour a return to common sense. We
have to use a modicum of common sense in deciding what to allow
and what not to allow.

This is what A.S. Neill, the founder of Summerhill, favoured too,
and I think rightly so (though he himself was a bit apologetic when
admitting this, thinking that it made him logically inconsistent.)

But I think it is *not* logically inconsistent. It is, rather, a variety
of the *sorites* paradox, which states that since one cannot *pre-
cisely* specify how many grains of sand makes a heap, there can be
-- if we are to apply logic strictly -- no such thing as a heap of sand!

For example, we can ask our "adversary": "How many grains would
you say make a heap of sand? Fifty? Then would you admit that 49
grains of sand are *not* a heap?"

Substitute any other numbers for 49 and 50, and you'd get the same
argument. The "adversary" could *never* win.

The logical error in thinking thus lies in assuming that all words or
terms must have a *precise* meaning. Terms such as "heap", "rea-
sonable", "group", etc. are *meant* to be imprecise. And there is
no logical validity in demanding precision from a term which is
*meant* to be imprecise.

And "health" is also one of these terms. One cannot specify any
kind of line or criterion "below" which a person is sick while
"above" it he or she is healthy.

To deal with health, therefore, one must use a degree of common
sense, which is to say, reasonableness -- i.e., a concept just as im-
precise as "health" itself.


Ardeshir <>.


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