chapter  4
23 Pages

Dualism Down the Drain: Thinking in the Brain

WithSergio Della Sala, Robert H. Logie

Friedrich Nietzsche (see Fig. 4.1) was one of the great thinkers and philosophers of the nineteenth century. He died at the end of August 1900, after 10 years of an incapacitating brain disease. Various biographies and movie scripts (e.g. Beyond good and evil, 1977, by L.Cavani) have suggested that the disease was probably a cerebral syphilis that Nietzsche had contracted some 20 years before (e.g. Moebius, 1902). The slowly progressive cerebral luetic infection hampered his ability for coherent thinking, and relatives and friends could not distinguish his behaviour from that of a madman. However, as is apparent from the numerous reports of the witnesses (see the biographies by Gilman, 1987; Hayman, 1995; Kaufmann, 1974), Nietzsche retained his memory, at least partially. He could speak without any slurring, remained free from movement dis orders and, until the very end, maintained the appearance of a healthy person. It is now well known (e.g. Harriman, 1984, p. 258) that neurosyphilis entails very severe and widespread neuronal disruption in the anterior cortex of the brain, the so-called frontal lobes. It appears therefore that

Nietzsche suffered from a “frontal” syndrome, and various hints to support this claim can be gleaned from the copious collection of letters from his relatives and friends. His main symptoms are described below along with classic or recent references to other case studies and group studies that have associated such abnormal behaviour with lesions in the frontal lobes (see Fig. 4.2).