Tag Archive for 'Philosophy'

Foucault’s Madness and Civilization

Madness and Civilization is one of those must-read texts of 20th century continental philosophy. In it, Michel Foucault argues that reason is based on the exclusion of the mentally ill, who are placed in institutions where society attempts to forget them. This, he says, came as a result of the classical age and the Cartesian concept of cogito, where sane people were supposed to be able to exorcise madness from correct thinking, and mad people were those who gave primacy to their hallucinations. They were once romanticized in art, like in the proverbial ship of fools, but now they are bound to reason.

He traces the great confinement – a term he uses for the locking away of the insane – to the closing of the lazar houses in the 17th century. These institutions were then used to collect the rabble and the mentally unfit. Unreason, therefore, became akin to disease, and now it replaced leprosy as the great unknown terror. Later, in the industrial age, they were seen along with the rabble as potential cheap labor.

He argues that the conception that madness is defined along scientific terms is mistaken – it is really the prevailing morality that defines what madness is. Madness confined cannot cause fear, and it cannot offend reasonable and moral citizens of a state.

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Einstein on Art, Science & Schopenhauer

Einstein gets mystical in this speech he gave at Max Planck’s 60th birthday, called The Principles of Research:

I believe with Schopenhauer that one of the strongest motives that leads men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one’s own ever shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from personal life into the world of objective perception and thought; this desire may be compared with the townsman’s irresistible longing to escape from his noisy, cramped surroundings into the silence of high mountains, where the eye ranges freely through the still, pure air and fondly traces out the restful contours apparently built for eternity.

I was amused to find out that in his bare Berlin study, in the year 1919, his walls were decorated with four photos, one of Schopenhauer and of three British physicists: James Clerk Maxwell, Michael Faraday, and Newton. (Link)

Everything is True

No really.

His Popeness, Herr Ratzinger, is a firm believer in absolute truth. Like he’s absolutely right. And you’re wrong. Unless you agree that he’s absolutely right.

Heidegger says truth is the disclosure of the Being to Dasein, or, in less pompous language, truth is reality illuminated to someone who is really really smart. But actually not really, because he says there is truth and untruth in everything. What a stinker.

Camus is a man of action. The pornstar of truth-sayers. He says fuck all absolute truth. Ride that bad bitch and don’t give her a moment’s rest. He says absolute truth leads to intolerance, tyranny and really shitty art. Not to mention disturbing body tics like thrusting your arm out and yelling “Heil!” anytime you see a man with a well-groomed mustache. (Heidegger take note.)

Saint Augustine says truth isn’t something that comes from the mind like a dirty limerick. You can’t buy it on Ebay either. In fact, truth is transcendental and mysterious and highly personal. Like your secret fascination with Brazilian fart porn. Or kind of like that.

All kidding aside, here’s a great repository of smart people saying things about Truth: All the Truths about TRUTH.

Wittgenstein says

Ludwig Wittgenstein on Bertrand Russells’s then-radical views on free love:

If a person tells me he has been to the worst places I have no right to judge him, but if he tells me it was his superior wisdom that enabled him to go there, then I know he is a fraud.

I can’t help but agree with the big W.

Germans vs. Greeks

This cracks me up every time. Nietzsche has just been booked for arguing with the referee, who is Confucius. He accuses Confucius of having no free will. Confucius say, Name go in box.

To his credit, Marx accurately calls Socrates’ goal off-sides. But it doesn’t matter anymore once the Greeks have won.