April 05, 2015

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Then there is the effect upon character of upbringing, social circumstances and the general cultural environment. In no case is there a one-to-one correspondence between any of these supposed factors and character: the worst upbringing for example, does not in every case give rise to the worst characters, nor does the best upbringing necessarily give rise to the best characters. Nevertheless, there is a statistical tendency strong enough to suggest an influence: in which case some might argue that the culpability of those of bad characters who have been exposed to deleterious influences beyond their control is lessened. Taken to extremes, of course, this argument leads to the denial of all individual responsibility.

As for cultural influences, I cannot help but think that our culture is propitious to the promotion of narcissism of the type that I suspect that Lubitz suffered from “€“ or made others suffer from. Such narcissism is not new, for where human frailty is concerned there is nothing new under the sun: it is the frequency of the respective frailty rather than its novelty that is at issue.

It is said, however, that by the age of forty every man has the face that he deserves. The same might be said of a man’s character, only earlier in his life. It is part of the mystery and glory (perhaps also of the misery) of human existence, that our character is in part self-created: not entirely, but not negligibly, either. We are dealt a hand of cards, no doubt, but we do not have to play them in a pre-determined order. No determinist, however firm his philosophical belief, can live as if determinism were true: therefore he can never believe what he believes, or tells himself that he believes.

Psychiatry will never make the likes of Andreas Lubitz whole (if he was as I surmise he was), and of this, in a way, I am glad: for it means that the powers of psychiatry will remain limited. We shall never be putty in technicians”€™ hands. That is not the same as saying that he should have been allowed to fly aircraft. A little more stigma and prejudice would have saved the 149 lives he so egotistically snuffed out.


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