Attitudes Towards Madness Analytical Essay by Shaad

Attitudes Towards Madness
A historical analysis of how attitudes towards madness have changed from ancient Greece to modern times.
# 145084 | 1,702 words | 6 sources | MLA | 2009 | BD
Published by on Oct 25, 2010 in Psychology (Social) , History (General) , Philosophy (General)

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This essay charts the history of the attitude towards madness, focusing to a large extent on Michel Foucault's historical analysis. The writer looks at the disparity between ancient and modern society regarding how madness is viewed. Foucault's distinction between madness and unreason is presented, where the latter is explained to be the source of human creativity. Greek religion and Aristotle's views are also brought forward in this context. The writer also shows how such attitudes blend into the Christian view of madness, where pure sanity is deplored as ungodly. The critical departure is shown to occur during the Renaissance and the rise of humanism. The reform of Pinel and Tuke are discussed, before the emergence of psychiatry and psychoanalysis is explained. Finally, Foucault's critique of psychoanalysis and the modern attitude to madness is presented.

From the Paper:

"The attitude towards madness reveals much about the character of the society that holds it. In today's Western society the predominant attitude is that madness is merely a physical problem that should be treated by the doctor through the means of positive science. But this view is opposed by Michel Foucault in his seminal work Madness and Civilization. His claim is that psychoanalysis and psychiatry use the language of positive science in order to camouflage the bourgeois values that are being imposed on social deviancy. In order to make his point he charts the history of the attitude towards madness within the classical era, i.e., from the 17th to the 19th century inclusive. This essay follows Foucault's analysis its broad outlines. However, it traces the history further back from ancient Greece, and also provides an account of the Middle Ages.
"In ancient Greece and Rome madness is an integral part of society. In Greek mythology we find the gods acting in illogical, irrational and whimsical ways, which to the modern eye projects insanity. However, those who worshiped these gods held a very different point of view."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Foucault, Michel. History of Madness. Ed. Jean Khalfa. Routledge, 2006.
  • Miller, Peter. Domination and Power. Routledge, 1987.
  • Porter, Roy. The Cambridge Illustrated History of Medicine. Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • Shorter, Edward. A History of Psychiatry: From the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac. John Wiley and Sons, 1997.
  • Waller, John. Leaps in the Dark. Oxford University Press, 2004.

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