Plato Not Prozac!

The neurochemical reshaping of personality has had many unanticipated consequences. I acknowledge that the debate is not ended by the Chapter in my A Rumor of Empathy on “Plato Not Prozac,” the name of which is hereby acknowledged to be from Professor Lou Marinoff’s penetrating and incisive book of the same title. Resistance to empathy and the prescribing of psychotropic medications intersect. Indeed the battle is just joined.

I have identified and referenced scientific papers that argue that such medications increase “rapid cycling,” not just in bipolar symptoms, but across a diversity of DSM disorders from anxiety to psychosis. If there is a polemical part of my work, then the debate about medication is it. All in. There is simply no empathic way to bury the hatchet – even metaphorically – in the head of the over-prescriber. This is where empathy gives way to a response resembling narcissistic rage – or at least righteous indignation.

A rumor of empathy gives way to the scandal of empathy. Years before DSM-I appeared and pharmacologists announced that chlorpromazine had antidepressant effects, Aldous Huxley was prophetic: “The need for frequent chemical vacations from intolerable selfhood and repulsive surroundings will undoubtedly remain” (1954: 64; see also Lane 2007: 170). Hey, if one is going to step in front of a bus take the medicine and live to fight another day; but just be aware that there is more work to be done – a lot more work. Language is at least as powerful as pharmacology and conversation changes one’s neurons, too. (Plato Apology 38a). The examined life strikes back. It just might be a timely counter-attack as Stephen Stahl (2008: 383), one of America’s eminent psycho-pharmacologists, has for some time been publishing on the “life shortening” effects of second generation anti-psychotics. Life shortening indeed. No half measures.


Lou Agosta. (2014). A Rumor of Empathy: Rewriting Empathy in the Context of Philosophy. New York: Palgrave Pivot.

Lou Agosta. (2015). A Rumor of Empathy: Resistance, Narrative, Recovery in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. London: Routledge.

__________. (2014). “A rumor of empathy: Reconstructing Heidegger’s contribution to empathy and empathic clinical practice,” Medicine, Healthcare, and Philosophy, 17 (2): 281-292.

Breggin, Peter R. (2008). Medication Madness. St. Martin’s Press.

Lane, Christopher. (2007). Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Marinoff, Lou. (2000). Plato Not Prozac! New York: Quill Publishing, 2000.

Stahl, Stephen. (2008). Stahl’s Essential Psychopharmacology: Neuroscientific Basis and Practical Applications. 3rd Edition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Whitaker, R. (2010). Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America. New York: Broadway Paperbacks. [See the references to Ronalds 1997; Weel-Baumgarten; Patten 2004]

Written By Lou Agosta

Plato Not Prozac! was originally published @ Listening With Empathy and has been syndicated with permission.

Photo by QuotesEverlasting


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