Nietzsche Had The Advantage Of Suffering From Neurosyphilis

Monday Books blogs another Second Opinion excerpt:

There has been an epidemic of swallowing lately. One poor deluded soul swallowed a battery because he thought he was a robot and needed power. Another poor deluded soul thought he could elude the attentions of the police by swallowing the evidence, in this case heroin wrapped in condoms. He refused to have blood tests until his solicitor was present.

In the prison the day before, a prisoner informed me that he had swallowed a bottle of washing-up liquid. I asked him why.

‘My cellmate said he’d beat me up if I didn’t.’

This, of course, brings us to the interesting question as to why anyone would demand of another that he drink a bottle of washing-up liquid. I suppose it would take a Nietzsche to answer that particular question; but then Nietzsche had the inestimable advantage, from the point of view of explaining human behaviour, of suffering from neurosyphilis.


9 thoughts on “Nietzsche Had The Advantage Of Suffering From Neurosyphilis

  1. Jason

    Stories like Dalrymple’s make one long for the days of corporal punishment, or at least the social callousness that would allow modern society to let such self-destructive individual achieve their apparent goal of oblivion:-(.

  2. Rielouise

    Really? The first case: One poor deluded soul swallowed a battery because he thought he was a robot and needed power – occurred at the hospital. On a psychiatric ward. You’d dole out corporal punishment to someone with a mental illness? Interesting.

  3. Jason

    “or at least the social callousness” etc. I doubt the person in question was legitimately insane. More likely drugged to a fare-thee-well. In which case he should be allowed to auto-Darwinate and save the rest of society the bother, and expense, of repeated hospitalizations.

  4. rielouise

    ‘I doubt the person in question was legitimately insane’

    What makes you say that? Looks like a garden variety me. And in the ‘old days’ such a person would probably have been permanently institutionalised – the Victorians built huge asylums to accommodate such people. They were shut down in the late 1980s as a result of the care in the community policy. And yes, we could dish out cyanide capsules to mental patients to save the taxpayer a bob or two but then the great Dr Dalrymple would never have had a job. Psychiatrists depend upon these people. They are their raison d’être.

  5. Jason

    I say that because many/most of the characters Dr. Dalrymple writes about are victims of their own stupidity. Possibly this particular individual was a legitimate loony, in which case he needs to be institutionalized, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find that he was simply another junkie who’d done something stupid while under the influence.

  6. rielouise

    Yes, he does rather misleadingly create the impression that most of his patients are ill as a result of their own ‘stupidity’. Indeed, this very site quotes him saying that he chose psychiatry as a specialism because he wanted to ‘plumb the depths of human folly.’ He also creates the impression that most of his patients are impoverished. My mother is a psychiatric nurse who is also an agency nurse who works all over the city (of Birmingham) and one thing that strikes her about the psychiatric wards upon which she works is that they are surprisingly socially heterogeneous.

    Oh, and by the way, the legitimately insane aren’t accommodated in low security hospitals. They are on secure units. I’m sure you are aware of the difference between being ‘mentally ill’ and ‘insane’. They are not synonyms.


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