Sunday, October 18, 2009

Circle the Profession

In Psychiatric Circles This is Also Known as the Double Bind
Catch-22 (logic)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Catch-22 is a term coined by Joseph Heller in his novel Catch-22, describing a set of rules, regulations or procedures, or situation which presents the illusion of choice while preventing any real choice. In probability theory, it refers to a situation in which multiple probabilistic events exist, and the desirable outcome results from the confluence of these events, but there is zero probability of this happening as they are mutually exclusive.

The archetypal Catch-22, as formulated by Heller, involves the case of John Yossarian, a U.S. Army Air Forces bombardier, who wishes to be grounded from combat flight duty. To be grounded, he must be officially evaluated by the squadron's flight surgeon and found unfit to fly. Any pilot willing to fly such dangerous missions would be found unfit, as one would have to be mad to want to take on such missions. But to get this diagnosis he must ask for it, which would prove he is actually sane because he wants to avoid dangerous missions.

The "Catch 22" is that "anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn't really crazy".[1] Hence, pilots who request an evaluation are sane and must therefore fly in combat, but those who don't request an evaluation don't receive one and as a result can never be found insane, meaning they must also fly in combat. Catch-22, then, ensures that no pilot can ever be grounded for being insane - even if they are.

A logical formulation of this situation is:

1. (Premise: If a person is excused from flying (E), that must be because they are both insane (I), and request an evaluation (R));

2. (Premise: If a person is insane (I), they should not realize that they are, and would have no reason to request an evaluation)

3. (2, Definition of implication: since an insane person would not request an evaluation, it follows that all persons must either not be insane, or not request an evaluation)

4. (3, De Morgan: since all persons must either not be insane, or not request an evaluation, it follows that no person can be both insane and request an evaluation)

5. (4, 1, Modus Tollens: since a person may be excused from flying only if they are both insane and request an evaluation, but no person can be both insane and request an evaluation, it follows that no person can be excused from flying)

The novel contains several examples of the Catch-22 regulation and other similar situations. One example occurs when Luciana is distraught because no man will marry her because she is not a virgin. Yossarian offers to marry her, but she claims he is crazy for wanting to marry a non-virgin like herself and says she can't marry a crazy man.

Major Major creates a Catch-22 when he instructs his sergeant that no one may come in and see him, unless he is not in. If he is in, people must be told to wait — until he has left via the window.
Besides being an unsolvable logical dilemma, Heller's text contains two more distinct clauses of Catch-22. In the first chapter, officers who censor the privates' letters must sign their own name according to Catch-22, and in the final chapters it is restated simply as “anything can be done to you that you can not prevent”. The latter clause, in some instances, provides a solution to Catch-22 which is captured by the old German expression, die Flucht nach vorne antreten (“to take flight [flee] forward”): In the case of Orr, a friend of Yossarian (Heller’s main character), the solution was to desert and flee to Sweden, a solution that Yossarian ultimately adopts himself.

Yes there is little you can do when trapped in the double bind other than distance yourself physically from the rule makers. Or... perhaps expose .all of the irrationality of it all to the public so that everyone can get a really good sense of what it is like to be on the receiving end of this. PL

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