2021 Abstracts Stage 2

Exploring Nietzsche’s madman and the concept of madness

This essay examines the concept of madness and discusses whether madness should have a place in our metaphysical framework. It begins by exploring Nietzsche’s presentation of madness in his text The Gay Science, and concludes that madness ought to be included within philosophy. It then goes on to examine Foucault’s historical analysis of madness in his text, Madness and Civilisation, which demonstrates how the voice of madness has gradually been reduced to silence as the language of reason takes over. This essay concludes that the voice of madness ought to be included within philosophy for at times it is only the authoritative voice of madness that can lead us to new truths.

2012 Abstracts Stage 2

A Discussion of Ronald David Laing as an Existential Psychoanalyst in the History of Madness

Laing was a psychoanalyst in the mid sixties who was a revolutionary and controversial character. Within my project I will discuss the impact Laing had on the liberation of the voice of madness in the 60’s. Even though his practices were not well renowned towards the end of his career, at his peak Laing was the ‘pop star’ of the psychological world. His medical practices were considered to be revolutionary in that he took madness out of the asylum and created a home within a city where the mentally insane were housed. His practices were controversial in that he condoned excessive drug use in order to access a ‘higher reality’ and due to the fact that he considered psychotic regression to be a necessary stage within the healing of madness. For example, he allowed one of his patients to smear her walls with her own faeces and to be fed out of a bottle like a baby.

Once I have explained Laing’s position within the history of madness I will focus the rest of my project on Laing’s first book: ‘The Divided Self’. Within, he explains the existential view of madness from the stages of the schizoid condition to schizophrenia and psychosis. I will relate Laing’s discussion of madness to Sartre’s views on Bad Faith and the Other, as expressed within ‘Being and Nothingness.’ This will allow me to have a detailed discussion of Laing’s existentialism of madness as expressed as the loss of the self to the point where the patient can be considered to be existentially dead.

“The self, being transcendent, empty, omnipotent, free in its own way, comes to be anybody in phantasy and nobody in reality.” – R. D. Laing

2012 Abstracts Stage 3

The Method behind the Madness. Does Society Inhibit the Recovery from Psychosis?

At first glance, the answer to the above question may seem straight forward. Some may argue that the recovery rate of psychosis has surged within the last century. The development of new drug treatments and behavioural therapies has meant that symptoms are now easier to live with than ever before. In addition, the ability to integrate sufferers back into the community is said to be at an all time high; many are able to live, what our civilisation would call, a ‘normal’ life.

Here lies the problem. In our modern era, the recovery of those dealing with psychosis seems to be too easily structured around normality, therefore ignoring the basic structure of what it actually means to be ‘mad’. Secondarily, with this realisation also comes confusion about the definition itself – what exactly is madness?

In order to strengthen the debate I have chosen to use Darian Leader’s (2011) text What is Madness? Leader is able to provide knowledgeable focus on many topics of primary interest. For example, he uses comparative analysis to insist that old techniques regarding recuperation are often overlooked. Michael Foucault’s text Madness and Civilisation adjoins philosophical depth to the discussion. Foucault suggests that our view of madness is controlled by our culture and constructed by society. The treatment of those who have gone mad depends primarily upon how civilisation perceives them.

2012 Abstracts Stage 3

“We’re All Born Mad. Some Remain So.”- Interpreting the Psychiatric Standards of Mental Disorder

“ About a fifth of the population of the United states are seen as suffering from a mental disorder each year and about half from at least one disorder at some point in their lives.” (Horwitz, 2002,3)

•What is the reality of what psychiatrists define as mental disorder, inside and outside the standards of the psychiatric context, in relation to convention and nature?

“The question of truth will never be posed between madness and me for the very simple reason that I, psychiatry, am already a science.”(Foucault, 2006,134)

•there are genetic and biochemical grounds for supposing that both schizophrenia and depressive disorders have a physical basis. (Gelder, Mayou, Cowen, 2001,88)

“What does man actually know about himself? Does nature not conceal most things from him – even concerning his own body?”(Nietzsche, Ansell-Pearson, Large, 2006,115)

•“A postmodern scientist does not discover ‘truth’, he simply tells stories – though he has a duty to verify them within the terms of the relevant language game.” (Rojek, Turner, Lyotard, 1998,68)

“A schizophrenic out for a walk is a better model than a neurotic lying on the analyst’s couch.” (Deleuze, Guattari, 2004,2)

2011 Abstracts Stage 2

“Madness. Death. Passion. Perfection.” A Philosophical Commentary of Black Swan and The Red Shoes

Is madness a symptom of a quest for perfection, or is madness a social failure? Is it passion that kills us, or does death consume us once our passion is achieved? These are the territories I will explore in response to my concept of Black Swan and The Red Shoes.

Black Swan and The Red Shoes are cinematic experiences of the ballet world, and of a passion that leads to madness and death. One protagonist is trapped by a perfection that makes her envy her lucid alter ego, and the other protagonist is torn between the love of her work and the love of her life. Both are alike in a tragic finale of death. But it must be asked – was it the ballet that led to their downfall, or were they in themselves a destructive force?

Apollonian + Dionysian ≠ A Beautiful Soul

Nietzsche’s Apollonian and Dionysian from The Birth of Tragedy, proved that the ballerinas were tormented. The Apollonian was the “ethical deity” of the innocent white swan, and the “self knowledge” of outstanding ballet ability. The “chaotic” Dionysian was the seducing black swan, and despairing romance. In being torn between two passions, and two perfections, the ballerinas became mad.

Schiller’s notion of the “Beautiful Soul” reveals why. There must be inner harmony between the formal and sense drives in order to have a beautiful soul. In always allowing the Dionysian to devour the Apollonian, the ballerinas could never have harmony. Real perfection was in the culmination of both passions.

A Tragic Finale

Nietzsche enforced that “the continuing development of art is tied to the duality of the Apollonian and the Dionysian” , whilst Freud warned that satisfying dreams could hide “painful ideas”. The ballerinas could not equate their two passions, and so their art could not continue. Death became inevitable. Their aspirations were not pleasurable, they were painful.

Foucault’s Madness and Civilisation discusses madness a symbol of passion verses madness a social fault. It allows the conclusion that the ballerinas cause their own downfall. And death became a necessity. Madness and torment was seeping into their art. It was slowly destroying their inability. And so they had to die, because it was the only way to preserve the legacy of their passion.

2011 Abstracts Stage 2

Madness: Social Construct or State of Affairs

Madness is instantly an attractive subject to investigate because of the alien nature of ‘mad’ behaviour to the ‘sane’ majority. In investigating something so mysterious the line of enquiry I am following is not political or ethical, as I am not intending to investigate the ethical considerations when it comes to confinement or treatment of the mentally ill. Although ethics surrounding the treatment of the mentally ill would no doubt be fascinating, it has been talked about throughout history and well documented. It is easy to question what is right and wrong in the treatment of the mentally ill however what I think is more important and interesting is the nature of madness, what it is and where it comes from. Although it has been long discussed there has been no definite conclusions as to what defines madness, whether it be nature, nurture or something else. It is therefore my task to investigate madness in this manner as it interests me most, and it will, in my opinion, offer a more worthwhile conclusion.

As I previously stated I am going to discuss madness in reference to Michel Foucault and Sigmund Freud. Foucault’s Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason will be my main focus but I will also use his work The Order of Things: An Archaeology of The Human Sciences and The Archaeology of Knowledge. In discussing Freud I will primarily reference The Ego and the Id and Civilization and Its Discontents. Throughout Madness and Civilization Foucault describes what society perceived to be ‘mad’ at certain points in history and how the ‘mad’ have been treated. He works from the Middle Ages up to the his present day (Madness and Civilization was published in 1961.) Foucault sees psychoanalysis to be the most modern method of treatment and the new medical approach that deals with attempting to find a cure for madness. Psychoanalysis is a Freudian method of psychological treatment and Foucault deals with Freud’s teachings to a certain extent. In analysing Foucault I will discuss what he claims modern society’s perception of the essence of madness to be. I will contrast these claims with those of Freud. Freud’s claims are of a scientific nature whereas Foucault’s point to a changing social discourse and therefore changing opinions of madness. I will argue that Freud’s argument is currently relevant and grounded in relatively logical thought that makes sense in our current method of thinking in the western world. Foucault’s arguments undermine the whole nature of the way the human sciences operate and that because of certain assumptions made upon apparent scientific truths, social discourse is affected. Considering this I will argue that Freud’s argument is the most useful as far as a timely and useful definition is concerned but Foucault’s argument attempts to invalidate human sciences and brings Freud’s ideas into question but does not supply a useful definition of madness and is largely a bitter critique of psychiatry.

2011 Abstracts Stage 2

The Dual Nature of the Artist as Genius & Madman and its Repercussions for the Theory that Art is a Source of Moral Enrichment

The aim of my project is to explore the potential repercussions of the non-dichotomous relationship between the genius, the madman, their works of art and the concept that said works of art may be used for the purposes of moral edification.

The western tradition of linking art with morality began with Plato and Aristotle, who each viewed the potential of art in a different way; Plato believed art was dangerous and should be censored, whilst Aristotle believed that art could get people to emotionally engage with traumatic events that they had not yet experienced.

However, the turning point for art originated in the 18th century with the work of Kant, who cemented the relationship between art and morality by concluding that judgements concerning beautiful things were of the same nature as judgements concerning the ethical and the good.

From Kant’s work, the concept arrived in the philosophies of Schiller and Schopenhauer. Schiller believed that art was necessary in order to heal that which he saw as the fractured human spirit; beautiful art would improve the soul and return it to its proper moral course. For Schopenhauer, the beautiful was a part of the realm of Ideas, a, concept for which Schopenhauer is indebted to Plato. In turning our intellect towards the study of the beautiful, in whose realm resides also the moral, we can cancel out the influence of the will on our lives, the will which is the source of all human suffering.

These ideas form the philosophical basis of my project, in which the next step would be to apply the concepts of Schiller and Schopenhauer’s philosophy to the work of an accepted genius/madman.

For this part of the project I chose the work of Sylvia Plath, as I think she fulfils the criteria for both the genius and the madman. After her suicide, Plath left behind a rich body of poetic works, the themes of which correlate nicely with the work of Schiller and Schopenhauer. As such, I was able to examine her poetry using their philosophy and conclude that there are undeniable repercussions associated with the study of the artwork of a mad genius.

At the end of my study, I was able to discern that art, in a moral capacity, exists as somewhat of a double-edged sword and that we should be careful not to put too much faith in its ability to lead us to morality.

2010 Abstracts Stage 2

From the Ship of Fools to Anti-Psychotic Medicine

I believe that society, and therefore madness, are based on the main system of thought of every era and that through this we can study why changes in the treatment of madness occur.

Heavily influential in this work are Michel Foucault and Friedrich Nietzsche.

2010 Abstracts Stage 3

Manic Depression: an Illness Rooted in its Dark Past

An examination of the modern treatment and diagnosis of bipolar disorder in the light of Michel Foucault

Territory: Bipolar Disorder – This project looks at how the term bipolar has been constituted and how it came about, as well as identifying the stigma still attached to diagnosis.

Michel Foucault: – Foucault talks of madness and looks back over history to see how the mad were treated and viewed by society and doctors. The constitution of the term “madness‟ is historically negative so that today it is often viewed in conjunction with manic depression.

“What is called “mental illness‟ is simply alienated madness…”

Aims: To research the diagnosis and treatment of the disorder, historically linking it to Foucault’s thought.
Case study: America’s Medicated Kids – Louis Theroux, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Stephen Fry BBC Documentary.

2004 Abstracts Stage 2

The Concept of ‘Madness’ and the use of the Stage in the Creation and Classification of Reality

My place: The stage, the stage defines a reality Madness and Norms, the idea that a person’s existence can be defined by a definition. How key madness is to our concept of the world ‘we only have reason through the classification of madness’ We only have reality through make believe Objective The stage defines a reality, an exploration between the reality of madness as a concept and the reality of the stage. How fundamental madness is to our concept of the world ‘we only have reason through the classification of madness’. We only have reality through make believe. Sources: Foucault: Madness and Civilization, Derrida: Dissemination, Nietzsche, Shakespeare Part 1: Defining madness Part 2: Classification of madness Part 3: Madness and the stage Part 4: The mind as the stage, concept of reason and rationality