Bioethics Blogs

Why to Read Winnicott after the US Election, and How by Leo Coleman

Commentary and speculation after this election have focused on voters’ motives and emotional states, and, especially in the day or two after the result, why experts didn’t know in advance how this would turn out. Why did public opinion polling skew the way it did? What does this teach us about voting and its psychological and social dimensions? These questions touch upon areas of interest and practice among Somatosphere readers—intention, the plastic brain, political subjectivity, and biosocial and neurosocial collaborations have all been addressed in these pages in ways relevant to understanding politics. Still, we readers and contributors may not usually be professionally involved in the political arena; we may feel less than personally addressed by questions about prediction and public opinion, and the popular debate about “media responsibility” that ensues. I’m not going to suggest that we change either of those things and “get involved.” But with all our varied expertise, at the interface of the mind, the body, and the social, we may have more tools handy than we might think to help in understanding—really understanding—current events. While we might want to continue cultivating our gardens, as it were, I think that just working over our own specialist knowledge and theories at a time like this can itself contribute something of importance to the public sphere, and in fact provides a basis on which we can know more about what just happened. The historian and New Yorker writer Jill Lepore said, on the “Politics and More” podcast on November 11, that when it comes to historical models and political science predictions, “what we thought we knew we don’t know anymore.” Other kinds of knowledge about politics are urgently needed.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.