Re: [Sartre] Sartre + Bad Faith + Mental Illness
I read that article and some of the comments. It is
amazing how unquestionable terms such as "mental
illness" go today. People believe it, they go and see
doctors, they buy drugs, it is a whole industry.
Well, drugs can change the state of our body when
"healthy"; they can do the same when "sick". This is
what drugs do: change the way my body lives its
situation in the world. They dont heal. Because there
is no sickness, in the first place. If I have a
headache, I am not sick, my body wants to live the
world through a headache; if some foods ellicit a
certain reaction of my body, that is because my body
wants to regulate its world-intake in a certain way -
the world may be too sugary for him, or too bitter.
My body is not a machine that is supposed to work in a
certain way, and when disrupted requires repair. My
body is its own end, and knows what is good for him
and what not - and only my body knows it, not the
doctor, not the other.
Sounds a bit extreme? My opinion on "health" is
foucauldian, like Foucault I dont believe in medecine.
And so not only there is no such thing as "mental
illness" for me; there is no such thing as "illness",
period. Society requires us to live: it is mandatory.
It has taken possession of our bodies and uses them as
machines; each machine has a price, and if it breaks
down prematurely, it needs repaired. As Foucault put
it, if the king once made you die and let you live,
democracy now makes you live and lets you die... What
belonged once to the king was our death; what now
belongs to democratic society is our life.
Camus, in his novel "The Plague" said that we need
doctors, not saints, i.e. we need to take care of our
bodies, not deny them and worry about souls. I dont
entirely agree with his terms though: we dont need
doctors either; we need to let our bodies take care of
themselves. Freedom begins at home...
--- Tommy Beavitt <tommy@...> wrote:
> Hi Sava,http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1988397,00.html
> Good thread this. Thanks.
> On 17 Jan 2007, at 16:44, sava wrote:
> > Hi,
> > see, if we start talking about "mental illness",
> > stop talking about Sartre's views on madness...
> I agree. The character of the existentialist hero,
> Roquentin, shows
> classic symptoms of mental illness. His diary would
> form a perfectly
> adequate basis under the Mental Health Act for being
> sectioned. At
> least, that is, if he wasn't able to pass it off as
> a literary
> > Personally I find such term as "mental illness"
> > confusing. It is a term forged by a whole net of
> > preconceived ideas. Who is the "mentally ill"? Can
> > mind be sick? Is the illness of the "mind" an
> > just like any other bodily affection? What is the
> > "mind"? Is it the "soul"? Then, it cant be
> > sick, because the soul isnt material. Is it the
> > But you can have a sickness of the brain (like
> > epilepsia), and still not be "mentally sick". Is
> > what we call "mental retardation"? But this is
> > relative, because those who are "retarded" are in
> > retard with respect to others who are "keeping the
> > pace", so to speak... Go see for example some old
> > immigrant from some poor country here in the U.S.,
> > will find them very retarded: they can't speak the
> > language, can't process the amount of information
> > around in the american society, and yet in their
> > country they are not considered to be retarded.
> IQ tests, in some eyes an objective measurement of
> mental ability (or
> "health") are undeniably culturally influenced.
> Quite aside of the
> question of which language they are written in
> (making performing
> well in them harder for those struggling with a
> second or third
> language) the culture within which their assumptions
> are valid will
> also make a great deal of difference.
> > Plus, usually those that have some incapacity of
> > sort in their "intelligence" are compensated with
> > unusually strong capacity for something else -
> > of the "Rain man" (Dustin Hoffman).... If you
> > that movie the boundary between misadaptation and
> > faked misadaptation in that man is hard to be
> > Same goes with autistic persons: they may have
> > difficulty at first in their life, they are told
> > are not "normal", and then they act like "not
> > sometimes they even like it, it gives them special
> > rights, they use it as an excuse against others or
> > themselves.
> Viewed "from without", i.e. objectively, as
> many highly energised people, like van Gogh for
> example, might show
> signs of "abnormality". They don't conform to what
> it is expected of
> people - perhaps they might not even value their own
> survival. Or
> they might find some of the assumptions central to
> the rationale of
> their contemporary society completely without
> foundation, thus their
> interests and pronouncements strike those who
> consider themselves
> insiders to that society as "irrational" or "mad".
> A musician, writer and artist friend took his own
> life and that of
> his terminally ill partner last week.
> I can't remember a time when there was such an
> outpouring of public
> grief here in Scotland upon the death of an artist.
> Yet upon watching
> the images he produced in the later part of his
> life, what seems
> remarkable is that he was able to support the burden
> of reality as
> long as he did. Mad? We would be greatly culturally
> impoverished if
> we were to brand other such geniuses "mentally ill".
> > Some "mentally ill" persons are also great
> > and scientists. Think of "A beautiful mind" - the
> > is a math genius, but he has hallucinations. Well,
> > what we call hallucination may very well be
> > real to the person who has them - so is it the
> > that sees something that isnt, or is it "we" that
> > see something that is? To be able to decide on
> what is
> > real, and what isnt, this is madness, as
> > said: "The instant of decision is madness".
> I think that quote of Kierkegaard is very similar to
> the position
> Sartre took in La Nausée.
> > We live in a mad world, sometimes madness shows as
> > silence, sometimes as a chatterbox...; sometimes
> > madness is emprisonned behind hospital walls,
> > sometimes it runs out there in the open and wreaks
> > havoc... As Pascal put it: "This world is so
> > necessarily mad, that not to be mad is another
> form of
> > madness."
> We had an interesting discussion on this subject on
> the Guardian
> Comment is Free blog a few days ago if anyone is
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