Madness and Death in Philosophy (SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy)


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In , Foucault returned to France to teach psychology in the philosophy department of the University of Clermont-Ferrand. He remained in that post until , during which he lived in Paris and commuted to teach.

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From , Defert was posted to Tunisia for 18 months of compulsory military service, during which time Foucault visited him more than once. This led to Foucault in taking up a chair of philosophy at the University of Tunis, where he was to remain until , missing the events of May in Paris for the most part. It became a bestseller despite its length and the obscurity of its argumentation, and cemented Foucault as a major figure in the French intellectual firmament.

Returning to France in , Foucault presided over the creation and then running of the philosophy department at the new experimental university at Vincennes in Paris. The new university was created as an answer to the student uprising of , and inherited its ferment.

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After scandals related to this militancy, the department was briefly stripped of its official accreditation. The early s were a politically tumultuous period in Paris, where Foucault was again living. He covered the Iranian Revolution first-hand in newspaper dispatches as the events unfolded in and He began to spend more and more time teaching in the United States, where he had lately found an enthusiastic audience.

He developed AIDS in and his health quickly declined. He finished editing two volumes on ancient sexuality which were published that year from his sick-bed, before dying on the 26th June, leaving the editing of a fourth and final volume uncompleted. He bequeathed his estate to Defert, with the proviso that there were to be no posthumous publications, a testament which has been subject to ever more elastic interpretation since.


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In these works, Foucault displays influences typical of young French academics of the time: phenomenology , psychoanalysis , and Marxism. This slim volume, commissioned for a series intended for students, begins with an historical survey of the types of explanation put forward in psychology, before producing a synthesis of perspectives from evolutionary psychology, psychoanalysis, phenomenology and Marxism. From these perspectives, mental illness can ultimately be understood as an adaptive, defensive response by an organism to conditions of alienation, which an individual experiences under capitalism.

Foucault first modified the book in in a new edition, entitled Mental Illness and Psychology. This resulted in the change of the later parts — the most Marxist material and the conclusion —to bring them into line with the theoretical perspective that he had by then expounded in his later The History of Madness. According to this view, madness is something natural, and alienation is responsible not so much for creating mental illness as such, but for making madness into mental illness. This was a perspective with which Foucault in turn later grew unhappy, and he had the book go out of print for a time in France.

Madness and Death in Philosophy

Since imagination is necessary to grasp reality, dreaming is also essential to existence itself. It is best known in the English-speaking world by an abridged version, Madness and Civilization , since for decades the latter was the only version available in English. History of Madness is a work of some originality, showing several influences, but not slavishly following any convention. The link is stronger even than the title indicates: much of the work is concerned with the birth of medical psychiatry, which Foucault associates with extraordinary changes in the treatment of the mad in modernity, meaning first their systematic exclusion from society in early modernity, followed by their pathologization in late modernity.

It has wider philosophical import than that, however, with Foucault ultimately finding that madness is negatively constitutive of Enlightenment reason via its exclusion. The exclusion of unreason itself, concomitant with the physical exclusion of the mad, is effectively the dark side of the valorization of reason in modernity. For this reason, the original main title of the work was Madness and Unreason. Foucault argues in effect for the recuperation of madness, via a valorization of philosophers and artists deemed mad, such as Nietzsche, a recuperation which Foucault thinks the works of such men already portend.

Still, Foucault wrote several short treatments on artists, including Manet and Magritte, and more substantially on literature.

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Still, the figure of Roussel offers something of a bridge from The History of Madness and the work that Foucault will now go on to do, not least because Roussel is a writer who could be categorized as rehabilitating madness in the literary sphere. Roussel was a madman — eccentrically suicidal — whose work consisted in playing games with language according to arbitrary rules, but with the utmost dedication and seriousness, the purpose of which was to investigate language itself, and its relation to extra-linguistic things. This latter theme is precisely that which comes to preoccupy Foucault in the s, and in the form too of uncovering the rules of the production of discourse.

Despite that the Roussel book was the only one Foucault wrote on literature, he wrote literary essays throughout the s. All of these works contribute to a general engagement by Foucault with the theme of language and its relation to its exterior, a theme which is explored at greater length in his contemporaneous monographs. The Birth of the Clinic examines the emergence of modern medicine. It follows on from the History of Madness logically enough: the analysis of the psychiatric classification of madness as disease is followed by an analysis on the emergence of modern medicine itself.

However, this new study is a considerably more modest work than the other, due largely to a significant methodological tightening. The preface to The Birth of the Clinic proposes to look at discourses on their own terms as they historically occur, without the hermeneutics that attempts to interpret them in their relation to fundamental reality and historical context.

That is, as Foucault puts it, to treat signifiers without reference to the signified, to look at the evolution of medical language without passing judgment on the things it supposedly referred to, namely disease. The main body of the work is an historical study of the emergence of clinical medicine around the time of the French revolution, at which time the transformation of social institutions and political imperatives combined to produce modern institutional medicine for the first time.

There is some significant tension between the methodology and the rest of the book, however, with much of what is talked about in the book clearly not being signifiers themselves. The mainstay of the book is not concerned with this narrow area, however, but its pre-history, in the sense of the academic discourses which preceded its very existence.

Foucault does not concern himself here with why these shifts happen, only with what has happened. Only with The Order of Things is archaeology formulated as a methodology. In The Order of Things , Foucault is concerned only to analyze the transformations in discourse as such, with no consideration of the concrete institutional context.

The consideration of that context is now put aside until the s. He shows that in each of the disciplines he looks at, the precursors of the contemporary discipline of biology, economics, and linguistics, the same general transformations occur at roughly the same time, encompassing myriad changes at a local level that might not seem connected to one another. Before the Classical age, Foucault argues, Western knowledge was a rather disorganized mass of different kinds of knowledge superstitious, religious, philosophical , with the work of science being to note all kinds of resemblances between things.

With the advent of the Classical Age, clear distinctions between academic disciplines emerge, part of a general enthusiasm for categorizing information. The aim at this stage is for a total, definitive cataloguing and categorization of what can be observed. Science is concerned with superficial visibles, not looking for anything deeper. Language is understood as simply transparently representing things, such that the only concern with language is work of clarification.

For the first time, however, there is an appreciation of the reflexive role of subjects in the enquiry they are conducting — the scientist is himself an object for enquiry, an individual conceived simultaneously as both subject and object.

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Then, from the beginning of the nineteenth century, a new attention to language emerges, and the search begins for precisely what is hidden from our view, hidden logics behind what we can see. To this tendency belong theories as diverse as the dialectical view of history, psychoanalysis, and Darwinian evolution. Foucault followed the Order of Things with his Archaeology of Knowledge , which was published in Archaeology, Foucault now declares, means approaching language in a way that does not refer to a subject who transcends it — though he acknowledges he has not been rigorous enough in this respect in the past.

That is not to say that Foucault is making a strong metaphysical claim about subjectivity, but rather only that he is proposing a mode of analysis that subordinates the role of the subject. Foucault in fact proposes to suspend acceptance not only of the notion of a subject who produces discourse but of all generally accepted discursive unities, such as the book. Instead, he wants to look only at the surface level of what is said, rather than to try to interpret language in terms of what stands behind it, be that hidden meaning, structures, or subjects.


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If we did not know what sameness and setting-against were, we could never comport ourselves toward ourselves as selfsame in each case; we would never be alongside ourselves, we would never be ourselves. I believe this predication is more important than whether Plato regards them as unchanging forms or not, because he opens the possibility of reading absence within the structure of things that are present in terms of presence, that is, the presence of beings to thought.

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PHILOSOPHY: Immanuel Kant

Insanity Law -- History. Mental illness -- History. Death -- History. Philosophy -- History. Contents Introduction : madness and death 1. Plato : death and madness in the Phaedo and Phaedrus 2. Hegel : the madness of the soul and the death of the spirit 3. Heidegger : death as negativity 4.

Heidegger : madness, negativity, truth, and history 5. Foucault : the history of madness Conclusion : madness is not a thing of the past. Notes Formerly CIP. Includes bibliographical references p. View online Borrow Buy Freely available Show 0 more links Set up My libraries How do I set up "My libraries"? Mannix Library. La Trobe University Library. Borchardt Library, Melbourne Bundoora Campus.

Madness and Death in Philosophy (SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy) Madness and Death in Philosophy (SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy)
Madness and Death in Philosophy (SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy) Madness and Death in Philosophy (SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy)
Madness and Death in Philosophy (SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy) Madness and Death in Philosophy (SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy)
Madness and Death in Philosophy (SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy) Madness and Death in Philosophy (SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy)
Madness and Death in Philosophy (SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy) Madness and Death in Philosophy (SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy)

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