News from academe

Philosophical ruminations.
Feb. 21 1998 3:30 AM

News from academe

News from academe.


Therapy Is for the Dodo Birds


All psychotherapies--from cognitive-behavior therapy to Freudian psychoanalysis--are equal, according to a study in a recent issue of Psychological Bulletin. After comparing more than 100 rival treatments, the study concluded, "The efficacy of bona fide treatments is roughly equivalent." This is the most ringing endorsement yet of what psychologist Saul Rosenzweig famously called the "dodo bird effect," in an allusion to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. ("At last the Dodo said, 'Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.' ") Anticipating a hostile reaction from clinical psychologists, some of whom are eager to prove that their therapies are as effective as drugs, the lead author of the study, University of Wisconsin at Madison Professor Bruce Wampold, says that counselors should abandon "the belief that psychotherapy treatments are analogous to medication." The key point, he says, is that troubled patients who receive any kind of therapy do better than those who get none at all.

Harvard's Shady Antiques

Once again, a museum is accused of having dealt in stolen goods. Harvard's Arthur M. Sackler Museum has been criticized for making new acquisitions, among them 182 Greek vase fragments, without sufficiently establishing their provenance. The director of Harvard's art museums, James Cuno, defended the decision, telling the Boston Globe that there was no definitive evidence that the objects had been stolen. But 80 percent of the antiquities market consists of looted objects, according to the Archaeological Institute of America, and many academics want to crack down on curators who turn a blind eye. In this spirit, Harvard fine-arts Professor Irene Winter told the Globe that "we are obligated to presume these items to be guilty until they are demonstrated to be innocent."

Leonardo Da Vinci's Bicycle

Contrary to popular belief, Leonardo da Vinci did not invent the bicycle. In 1974, an Italian lexicographer discovered a doodle for a bicycle in one of Leonardo's codices. The tiny drawing, found in a manuscript that had been partially glued shut for many years, was hailed as more evidence that the Renaissance artist was a technological prophet. (The drawing, in brown crayon, also depicted a pedal and chain.) Alas, the doodle turns out to be the handiwork of a mischievous monk who helped restore the page in the 1960s. The British magazine New Scientist reports that a German scholar, Hans Erhard Lessing, has scrutinized the crayon flaking on the manuscript and concluded that, in fact, da Vinci is responsible only for the two circles that form the bicycle's wheels.

Free Love vs. the Class Struggle

Margaret Mead's belief that Samoan youths practiced free love was the basis of her argument that monogamy was not universal. Her data were discredited in the 1980s--but she may have been onto something anyway. The anthropologist Cai Hua has just published a book in Paris claiming that the Na, a people in the remote Sichuan province of China, are equally casual about sex. In A Society Without Fathers or Husbands, the author argues that the matrilineal Na culture encourages dusk-to-dawn "furtive visits" between young men and women, and reports that most visits are not repeated and that many Na have more than 100 lovers. There is no marriage among the Na, and they don't particularly value monogamy. Apparently, the Na's sexual habits have angered Chinese authorities, who find that the lifestyle "hinders the people's awareness of the class struggle."

Heidegger at $125 a Pop

The job market for academic philosophers is as desperate as ever, but deep thinkers now have a range of alternative careers. A French outfit, Philocité, offers pricey "philosophical consulting" to companies looking to add Heideggerian heft to their marketing strategies. (Clients can subscribe to Philocité's telephone-consultation service for $2,600 per year.) In this country, the hot new field is "philosophical counseling," in which troubled souls consult with an epistemologist, say, rather than a therapist. Dr. Lou Marinoff, a philosopher of science at CUNY, has a booming New York City practice and currently is teaching a "pilot course" in the discipline at New Jersey's Felician College.


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