Illness and Suffering   /   Fall 2006   /    Articles

Just One Critter

Jonathan Shay

This is an invitation to a shipwreck. If you come along, the only life raft I can offer is to keep the tone light. Perhaps I have spent too many years being sprayed by the pungent, cynical, raunchy, and irreverent humor of soldiers—the humor of Aristophanes—to take awful stuff any other way. I am a physician, an unlicensed philosopher, and a missionary for the veterans I serve. Primarily, I am their missionary to military forces: they don’t want other young kids wrecked the way they were wrecked. But it’s also fair to say that I am a shameless intellectual, deeply immersed in the perennial philosophic quest: what is this wonderful/terrible critter, this Human? I have come to see trauma as a vista-opening standpoint for inquiry and research, as rich and productive in its own way as e. coli, drosophila, and c. elegance have been in biology. It is not only a crossroads from which to observe the interactions of brain, mind, social system, and culture, but a similar crossroads in philosophy for ethics, epistemology, and ontology.

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