Sunday, July 19, 2009

In Pursuit of Mad-"ness"

In Pursuit of Mad-"ness"

On 12th July 2009, temptation of an unknown cause brought together a few people whose names cannot be mentioned due to my bad memory but who will hopefully make themselves heard through this blog very soon.

In order to de-mystify this unknown cause we began with the question: why are you here? The answer which opened up new portals of ambiguity – in pursuit of madness. We all agreed unanimously that none of us knew what madness was or is, thereof began the Foucauldian journey to stir up what has been camouflaged as “madness”.

Although the above answer pretty much established the tone of our class for the day, several other equally puzzling answers followed, with each of us introspecting to understand this unknown cause that had brought us here.

If madness is pathological, sufferings, unreason or even a positivistic perspective, the only consensus one can come through this is that madness cannot be universalized. But in our modern context, we are not simply suffering but are agonizing over the consequences of universalizing one such impossibility.

From discovering, much to our dismay that Madness and Civilization is not an original Foucault to finding out it’s a compilation from The History of Madness that earned Foucault his PhD, a process that took place between St. Anne’s Hospital where Foucault was being treated by Lacan and the University.

Madness as an integral part of modernity gave way to many suspicions about it being a superficial construction on political terms. It is undisputedly believed that madness makes space for the unreason, the illogical and the like but the ever-green question remains – can there be a logic of the mind? (Aristotle).

We progressed towards investigating science as objective, more importantly as linear in its evolution which endows it with that prestigious title of being objective alongside essential for the modern society. As an example, we explored the concept of Intentionality first proposed by Ponty.


Biologically we are all equipped with the ability to optically view our environment where we see things with our eyes. But we seldom passively look at things, along with simply seeing we are predisposed to “visualize” our surroundings that is translated by our mind instead of the brain. And this process of “visualizing” takes place as a part of the internal mental structures which are products of not just our biological or physical factors. Therefore, we are seeing by the I that each one of us possesses.

This question of intentionality that is not explained by any pure science was raised in Psychoanalysis and once again in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT; therefore one is left to wonder – is science really linear or rather is any progress linear in nature? Something else that is disturbing is when science proclaims its present status as the best status undermining any other possibility from any other discipline.

Modernism: The rise of the categorizers!

Venturing into the manufacturing of such categories through inadequate science the invention of disease and cure, madness and reason etc by themselves seem illogical. Different civilizations have positively differed in their response to be it madness or psychosomatic reactions etc but with the birth of the clinic in 19C began a universal or “objective” methodologies to “treat” them instead of incorporating it into the larger system. A fairly recent example would be the sudden expansion of B-schools who claim to teach “management” or “home science” as an authority to justify your culinary skills thereby giving an illusion that one did not know how to manage “scientifically” before these influential inventions.

We can use the same analogy in order to trace the history to madness – let us not debate for the moment if madness even as heresy was an integral part of a community or not but has our scientifically trained mind equipped appropriately to accommodate madness as an essential part of a given community? Such as the Sufism that celebrates madness in the most positivistic fashion and Hinduism where madness was considered a divine intervention. Peculiar to Hinduism and the rise of the categories which perpetually designed “hindus” from the Bhagvad Gita in 1789 as Warren Hastings required an identity in order to dissolve it.

Modernity thus seeks very desperately to identify, create, and categorize things even if it is to live in a chimera that we have complete understanding of them. Thus, we concluded for the day this course is going to be not just in pursuit of revealing madness but understanding the “ness” in madness as it was and as it is concealed in our glorious days of modernism.

Michel Foucault’s writings:

The History of Madness
  • Birth of The Clinic
  • The Order of Things
  • The Archaeology of Knowledge
  • Discipline and Punish
  • Discipline and Punishment
  • Abnormal
  • History of Sexuality – Three Volumes

Other references made:

  • George Canguilhem – “Normal and the Pathological”
  • Ponty – “Theory of Intentionality”
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Stephen _______________ - “Brain Unconscious”
  • Louis Althusser – “Future Lasts A Long Time”

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