Mars Essay

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In the first two chapters of An Anthropologist on Mars Oliver Sacks describes two cases of brain damage that are very different in etiology and in the effects on the victims’ attitudes and perceptions of the world. In “The Case of the Colorblind Painter,” the subject Mr. I. loses his ability to see color in a car accident; in “The Last Hippie” the subject develops an untreated brain tumor that blinds him and causes some amnesia. Both of these cases have drastic effects on the lives of they touch, destroying the worlds of these people as they had known them. Both cases, then, deal with violence as James Gilligan describes in his aptly titled work, Violence. Gilligan separates violence into three types at the outset of his discussion: pathos, tragedy, and morality plays. Pathos encompasses “those natural disasters or ‘acts of Nature’—sometimes called ‘acts of God’—over which we have no human agency or control” (6). The paradigmatic case for Gilligan is the biblical book of Job, in which lots of bad things happen to a good man. Harm, as it falls on Job, has no greater significance than the lesson that the world is often arbitrary, absurd, and irrational—which is a valuable lesson to learn, especially as it leads to humility, but does not say anything about dealing anthopogenic violence. Tragedy deals with humans as perpetrators of violence: “the tragedy of violence involves not just victims, but also victimizers. What we need to see—if we are to understand violence and prevent it—is that human agency or action is not only individual; it is also, unavoidably, familial, societal, and institutional” (7). Both of these types of violence stand in contrast to morality plays which seem to correspond to an idealized form of axiological judgment underwriting the juridical system. In “the mode of discourse of the criminal legal process in the courtroom, only two questions

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