Monday, July 18, 2005

In two minds about LaFave

There's an old joke:
"I used to be schizophrenic, but I'm in two minds about it now."
That's the way I feel about Debra and her pleading insanity in the latest teacher having sex with minors case.
She is claiming that "she was insane due to emotional stress and did not know right from wrong when she had numerous times with a 14-year-old student..."

Her attorney added, "What teacher in her right mind would do something like this?"

That is really an important question and one that I have been philosophizing over for a while. What does it mean to commit a crime while "". In fact, what does "insane" really mean?

If its "not being right in the head", "not being of sound mind", or just generally "non compos mentos", haven't we all been that at some time?

How many times have you, or someone you know done something that was "out of character"? Did you ever do something you regret when you were drunk? Or just something you regret and when you look back say "What was I thinking?"

There's a school of thought that says there are actually hundreds of different "yous" all vieing for airtime within that skull of yours. Your actual personality is a mish-mash of the more dominant ones. Although you feel like one person, the different aspects of your personality may be controlled by individual self-centers.

So what happens when you do something that wasn't in keeping with your normal actions? Could it be that the more usual dominant parts are repressed somehow? Or another piece of the personality puzzle gains strength?

There are lots of examples of this in movies, many of the more famous ones played by Jim Carrey - The Mask, Me Myself Irene, The Riddler, to name but a few. In all these cases a subdued personality suddenly becomes dominate, often taken revenge on those that caused the, often weaker, personality misery.

If Ms Lafave truly was insane, it may just have been a subdued piece of her that was suddenly set free. I'm not arguing her case, I don't think what she did was right, and I'm not going to go into the "I wish I had teachers like that" story line, but at the end of the day, how does one go about proving she was, or wasn't "all there" at the time?

Science really needs to focus on this more. There are many questions: what is consciousness? What defines a person? Are we always responsible for what we do? When does consciousness begin and end? How does the notion of self, and the inherent personality change over time?

If it turns out that we are lots of mini-selves all vieing for airtime, which selves should get punished if one misbehaves? Can you just incarcerate one of them? Prosecuters wouldn't like that answer.

Me, I'd just like an answer. Until then, I'm in two minds about it...


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