Halakhah and Phenomenology – Addendum: Placebos

One more thought about my “Halakhah and Phenomenology” series….

A basic assumption behind the series is that what justifies looking at the world as experienced and as it could be directly experienced is the idea that this is what shapes a person and makes the deep down changes in character, in how the person relates to Hashem, other people and themselves. That all of one’s intellectual knowledge of the science involved only impacts the person on a more surface level, that any emotions brought about because of it do not make the same existential change.

Well, Time Magazine recently carried a story that supports this notion (click on title for full story):

Placebos Work Even if You Know They’re Fake:
by Maia Szalavitz Monday, December 27, 2010

Physicians have long believed that some form of deception is essential to the placebo effect: after all, if you tell people that you’re giving them a fake drug, why would they respond by getting better? But new research suggests that it may one day be possible to use placebos in everyday medicine without misleading patients into thinking they might get active treatment…

So, it would seem that knowing intellectually that something is a placebo doesn’t operate on a level low enough to invalidate the placebo effect. Similarly, knowing intellectually that a maggot didn’t spontaneously generate from the meat doesn’t change the psychospiritual effects of eating that maggot. The difference between spontaneous generation and birth from a microscopic egg cannot be experienced, and therefore doesn’t impact our deep level responses.

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