George Levy writes:

Bruno Marchal wrote:

Godel's result, known as Godel's second incompleteness theorem, is that no consistent machine can prove its own consistency:

            IF M is consistent then M cannot prove its consistency


After I read your email, we had a gathering of family and friends, and my head being full of the subject of this post. I wanted to test the idea of Godel's second incompleteness theorem on the average people just to see how they would respond. I found the right place in the discussion to insert the paraphrase:

If I am sane, it is impossible to know for sure that I am sane.

This povoked some hilarity, especially with my kids (young adults) who probably view me as some kind of nutty professor. While this statement is mathematically true, it was not considered serious by the people I was talking with. I guess that the average human has no doubt about his own sanity.(But my kids had some doubts about mine) One way to prove that you are crazy is to assert that you are sane. This means that the average human is crazy! :-)

"If I am sane, it is impossible to know for sure that I am sane."

Everybody believes he is sane, whether he is sane or not, and nobody can prove he is sane. In psychiatry, this is the key problem with delusions. If it were possible in general to prove one's own sanity, then deluded patients, who more often than not retain their ability to think logically, would be able to demonstrate to themselves that they were deluded. But by definition of a delusion, this is impossible.

If you want to know what it is like for a psychotic patient to have forced treatment, imagine that people from the local psychiatric facility knock on your door tonight and, after interviewing you, politely explain that your belief that you are an engineer, married with adult children, own the house you are living in and the car in the driveway, and so on, is actually all a systematised delusion. All the evidence you present to show you are sane is dismissed as part of the delusion, and all the people you thought you could trust explain that they agree with the psychiatric team. You are then invited to start taking an antipsychotic drug which, over time, will rectify your deranged brain chemistry so that you come to understand that your current beliefs are delusional. If you refuse the medication, you will be taken to the psychiatric ward with the help of police, if necessary, where you will again be offered medication, perhaps in injection form if you continue to refuse tablets.

Frightening, isn't it?

Stathis Papaioannou

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