This is a book I strongly recommend    "Madness and Civilization"   , by Michel Foucault,  if you like philosophy, if you...

Silent Transcendence



This is a book I strongly recommend  "Madness and Civilization"  , by Michel Foucault, 
if you like philosophy, if you like Nietzsche, for example, you're definitely going to like Foucault. If you never read philosophy book in your life I actually think this is the right book to start with. It's very readable, in a way that it's not a typical philosophy book. And people are still, today, disputing is Foucault a philosopher at all. Well, if he isn't, he is definitely one of the greatest thinkers. The book is about the history of insanity (the archeology of it as he said) and all that follows it from institutions, the rise of them, doctors and the different treatments of patients that varied from century to century.
It's always rewarding when you come for one thing and get another and so much more. I went to Foucault for philosophy only to find myself being delighted with fine lyrical thoughts on the verge of poetry. 


  "...night of quasi-sleep which surrounds the images of madness, 
giving them, in their solitude, an invisible sovereignty..."


"...​​​​​​​figures inscribed at the corners of sleep..."
"...sight sees itself in the moment of its disappearance..."
There are not that many  instances like that, because the book refers a lot to real historical documents on treatments of mental illness and the perception of the same. But that's what adds to the weight of this book, real doctors, real patients, real people.
Yet the book won me over wit its humor, it's sort of funny in a sarcastic way and that sarcasm is horrible in a way...Here:
"Renaissance men developed a delightful, yet horrible way of 
dealing with their mad denizens: they were put on a ship and entrusted to mariners because folly, water, and sea, as everyone then "knew," had an affinity for each other. Thus, "Ships of Fools" crisscrossed the seas and canals of Europe with their comic and pathetic cargo of souls. Some of them found pleasure and even a cure in the changing surroundings, in the isolation of being cast off, while others withdrew further..."

Or here:
  "First the evil began to ferment in the closed spaces of confinement. It had all the virtues attributed to acid in eighteenth- century chemistry: its fine particles, sharp as needles, penetrated bodies and hearts as easily as if they were passive and friable alkaline particles. The mixture boiled immediately, releasing  harmful vapors and corrosive liquids... (...)
 These burning vapors then rise, spread through the air, and finally fall upon the neighborhood, impregnating bodies and contaminating souls."
Someone may draw an analogy to zombies... and the book has two or more delightful, yet horrible and above all unexpected analogies skilfully entangled in the flow of sentences; you have to look for them like hidden jewels, a treasure hunt that's intellectually fulfilling.
This book addresses important questions of  social divisions. The institutions were used as devices to 'sweep things under the rug'. As if they tried to remove everyone that was unpleasant to the eye from sick, homeless, criminals, 'libertines' (try saying this word without cynicism), (now say it with British-I'm-a-condescending-bastard accent), religious fanatics, homosexuals and of course the poor - beggars, idlers and other variations of human existence that come in form of wearing rags.
This raises many questions and that's what Foucault's philosophy does - it raises questions, without offering answers. And it shouldn't we as a society and you as  an individual should continually question things. What doctors 'knew' decade ago is now ridiculed, what's been offered as a cure is found out to be cancerous, who's to know what ten years from now will be ridiculed and we all believed to be for our own good. And why did we believe, because it's doctors , scientists? Which brings me to theme that Foucault addresses in all his work and that's the relationship between power and knowledge, and how the former is used to control and define the latter. What authorities claim as 'scientific knowledge' are really just means of social control. ( Philip Stokes)
It is also interesting to find out about extraordinary changes in the treatment of the mad and obscures devices designed for the same matter. If you're a woman it is interesting to find out about the origin of the word hysteria. And how they imagined human inner anatomy. Or what they 'knew' about it.
There are creative and liberating forces that insanity represents. 
“Madness is a gift from the gods.” - Plato
One must wonder about that as one goes through the names that Foucault lists, from van Gogh to Artaud.
And since this is an art blog I must say that the book is rendered with art, Foucault doesn't just mention some paintings  in passing he describes them in detail to illustrate his point and to give us additional visual and emotional experience such as Francisco Goya's “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters” and the Madhouse.
or you may take a walk to your local library and just borrow it. It is as I said before really rewarding reading. I'm going to end this with more of Foucault's wisdom: (from an interview)
"In a sense, I am a moralist, insofar as I believe that one of the tasks, one of the meanings of human existence—the source of human freedom—is never to accept anything as definitive, untouchable, obvious, or immobile. No aspect of reality should be allowed to become a definitive and inhuman law for us."
- "I was telling you earlier about the three elements in my morals. They are (1) the refusal to accept as self-evident the things that are proposed to us; (2) the need to analyze and to know, since we can accomplish nothing without reflection and understanding—thus, the principle of curiosity; and (3) the principle of innovation: to seek out in our reflection those things that have never been thought or imagined."



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1 comment:

  1. I love this, so inspirational! Loving your blog, keep up the good work gorgeous gal! x


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