The Myth of the Muttering Madman is a project in self-realization.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Foucault: Madness and Civilization

Update: As Scottio rightly pointed out, this is hard to read without me letting on that each paragraph is a separate excerpt :D

Enjoy! (and buy and read this book - phenomenal!)

An important phenomenon, this invention of a site of constraint, where morality castigates by means of administrative enforcement. For the first time, institutions of morality are established in which an astonishing synthesis of moral obligation and civil law is effected. The law of nations will no longer countenance the disorder of hearts. To be sure, this is not the first time in European culture that moral error, even in its most private form, has assumed the aspect of a transgression against the written or unwritten laws of the community. But in this great confinement of the classical age, the essential thing -- and the new event -- is that men were confined in cities of pure morality, where the law that should reign in all hearts was to be applied without compromise, without concession, in the rigorous forms of physical constraint.Morality permitted itself to be administered like trade or economy.

Confinement hid away unreason, and betrayed the shame it aroused; but it explicitly drew attention to madness, pointed to it. If, in the case of unreason, the chief intention was to avoid scandal, in the case of madness that intention was to organize it. A strange contradiction: the classical age enveloped madness in a total experience of unreason; it reabsorbed its particular forms, which the Middle Ages and the Renaissance had clearly individualized into a general apprehension in which madness consorted indiscriminately with all the forms of unreason. But at the same time it assigned to this same madness a special sign: not that of sickness, but that of glorified scandal. Yet there is nothing in common between this organized exhibition of madness in the eighteenth century and the freedom with which it came to light during the Renaissance.

There comes a moment in the course of passion when laws are suspended as though of their own accord, when movement either abruptly stops, without collision or absorption of any kind of active force, or is propagated, the action ceasing only at the climax of the paroxysm.

Madness designates the equinox between the vanity of night's hallucinations and the non-being of light's judgments.

Madness and Civilization - Foucault


Scott said...


snarkyboojum said...

Think about it.

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