Tuesday, April 3, 2007

On the Nature of Insanity

On the Nature of Insanity

In conversation today Matt mentioned a man who wrote a 15,145 page story of a fictional world. Henry Darger was an American recluse, who apparently was obsessed with children and insanely enough brutal actions towards them, shown in his collection of newspaper clippings of murdered children. While the man was a bit insane he spent his working life as a janitor and the rest in the recluse of his home. As a child he was admitted to a mental institution for various odd reasons. With the passing of that, he wrote his life’s work entitled The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion. The story is illustrated in watercolor art that Darger painted himself (see above image) and only in his death were his works discovered and brought to light. Just goes to show you, despite a bit of insanity the man had some brilliance in him. Insanity almost brought it out of him, other wise he would of gotten too lazy to write and the work would never have been recorded from his mind. (for more info on Darger google him or ask Mr. Matt)
Some may say that a person who comes in from the world outside our little philosophy group (Is there a world outside?) may see all of Ed's posts and immediately assume he is insane, just like anyone who listens to me talk for more than two minutes. I however wouldn’t be so conceited to assume myself insane. As Thoreau wrote in his essay A Plea for Captain John Brown; “Many, no doubt, are well disposed, but sluggish by constitution and by habit, and they cannot conceive of a man who is actuated by higher motives than they are. Accordingly they pronounce this man insane, for they know that they could never act as he does, as long as they are themselves.” So while people hold a certain disdain for anything considered insane, perhaps the disdain should be towards normal, sane, and mediocre. Because monotony will drive a person insane. Ha ha.
A few people who were known to have mental illnesses, but are revered today for their brilliance: Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Vincent Willem van Gogh, Ludwig van Beethoven, Leo Tolstoy, John Keats, Ernest Hemingway, Michelangelo, Isaac Newton, Charles Dickens, to name a few. All of these individuals suffered or prospered due to bouts of manic depression, suicidal depression and all other flavors of true insanity. But the real questions comes from a statement made by Ed earlier today about the inhabitants of Mexico City and the Super Volcano under them and why they don’t leave. So I ask you if people don’t like their situation and don’t do anything about it, are they not the insane ones? Or are we all really just vulgar animals? If we know about a situation such as Mexico City and the inhabitants won't do anything are we unjust for not attempting to change these people’s decision to remain in a potential danger?


Matt. said...

To throw in my two cents on the topic, I don't think these people are insane for wanting to remain there; they hold different priorities and different values set than one might be accustomed to. As Aristotle said, it is up to us to set a personal value on things; we choose what we're willing to pay for something - that risk is what they pay to live there. If they knowingly accept that risk, because they value their life there more than the risk (cost), then they are justly dealing to themselves. Anyone in that sort of situation, one unpleasant as you said, but do not attempt to change it... are not insane, but merely hold value to different things. In the abusive relationship, the person being abused may want to stay in the relationship and value it more than the cost of being abused. It's a matter of priority and value.
As far as being unjust for not attempting to change their decision, I'd say no; again, they have a value set - we could attempt to 'barter' with them to change their decision to remain there, but unless we were able to get them to completely change their values, and make the risk of the volcano too much of a cost for them to bear - that is, for them to place a 'chance of something slightly tragic occurring' as more costly than their current life, home, possible tradition, family and all the other factors that they value more and go into their decision to stay; otherwise, we'd be dealing unjustly to them. Aristotle believed (at least what I gathered from the reading) that it is impossible for one to deal unjustly to oneself, since actions are voluntary, and aiming towards the (personal) Good. That said, there's my two cents... in a bit of a rambled-on, unstructured, unsubstantiated (much) form.

OnlyEd said...

"Without deviation progress is not possible." - fRANK zAPPA

I would go further and say that without deviation virtue is not possible.

OnlyEd said...

Y'know . . . I've reached another crossroads in my life where I adjust my philosophy -- the real philosophy that I live by. Perhaps Aristotle was right . . . perhaps there are vulgar people. Perhaps vulgar people make up the vast majority of the human race. That would explain everything very neatly and with impeccable rationality. It makes sense.

Too much sense, and not enough gentleness, empathy and humour. But what the heck . . . I'm a man, right? (yep, got one of those and two of the other things)Ny my maleness I deserve to be in charge of someone, even if it is only a wife. Better to have a cow, but . . . what's a cityboy gonna do with a cow? A women is much better around the apartment. She's gotta be a good cook, ya understand, and quiet and respectful, a good listener who only gives opinions when asked. She's gotta be a good housecleaner, frugal shopper, forgiving of my vices yet have none of her own, and, of course, be a good-looker and be good in bed . . . and do whatever I say, and do it with only one thing in mind -- a desire to please me.

After all . . . I am a man. It's what I deserve.

Alex said...

...? What says that anyone deserves anything? And what virtue demands one be in control of anything other than their own actions?

OnlyEd said...

Practical Wisdom, Justice, Magnificence, Friendliness, Self-Control . . .

I don't have our school book here, but using the Gutenberg Press version (JA Smith 1998) . . .

Book XI paragraph 8, 9 & 10:
"Further: Just, in the way of metaphor and similitude, there may be I do not say between a man and himself exactly but between certain parts of his nature; but not Just of every kind, only such as belongs to the relation of master and slave, or to that of the head of a family. For all through this treatise the rational part of the Soul has been viewed as distinct from the irrational.

Now, taking these into consideration, there is thought to be a possibility of injustice towards one's self, because herein it is possible for men to suffer somewhat in contradiction of impulses really their own; and so it is thought that there is Just of a certain kind between these parts mutually, as between ruler and ruled.

Let this then be accepted as an account of the distinctions which we recognise respecting Justice and the rest of the moral virtues."

Book VIII paragraph 4:
"Euripides has thus embodied this sentiment; "How," says one of his
Characters, "How foolish am I, who whereas I might have shared equally, idly numbered among the multitude of the army ... for them that are busy and meddlesome [Jove hates]," because the generality of mankind seek their own good and hold that this is their proper business. It is then from this opinion that the notion has arisen that such men are the Practically-Wise. And yet it is just possible that the good of the
individual cannot be secured independently of connection with a family or a community. And again, how a man should manage his own affairs is sometimes not quite plain, and must be made a matter of inquiry."

Book II paragraph 8:
"To all our elders also the honour befitting their age, by rising up in their presence, turning out of the way for them, and all similar marks of respect: to our companions again, or brothers, frankness and free participation in all we have. And to those of the same family, or tribe, or city, with ourselves, and all similarly connected with us, we should constantly try to render their due, and to discriminate what belongs to each in respect of nearness of connection, or goodness, or intimacy: of course in the case of those of the same class the discrimination is easier; in that of those who are in different classes it is a matter of more trouble. This, however, should not be a reason for giving up the attempt, but we must observe the distinctions so far as it is practicable to do so."

. . . and to make clear the subservience of the female . . .
Book V paragraph 2 & 3:
"I mean the Brutish, as in the case of the female who, they say, would rip up women with child and eat the foetus; or the tastes which are found among the savage tribes bordering on the Pontus, some liking raw flesh, and some being cannibals, and some lending one another their children to make feasts of; or what is said of Phalaris. These are instances of Brutish states, caused in some by disease or madness; take, for instance, the man who sacrificed and ate his mother, or him who
devoured the liver of his fellow-servant. Instances again of those caused by disease or by custom, would be, plucking out of hair, or eating one's nails, or eating coals and earth. ... Now wherever nature is really the cause no one would think of calling men of Imperfect Self-Control, ... nor, in like manner, such as are in a diseased state through custom.

[Sidenote:1149a] Obviously the having any of these inclinations is something foreign to what is denominated Vice, just as Brutishness is: and when a man has them his mastering them is not properly Self-Control, nor his being mastered by them Imperfection of Self-Control in the proper sense, but only in the way of resemblance; just as we may say a man of ungovernable wrath fails of Self-Control in respect of anger but not simply fails of Self-Control. For all excessive folly, cowardice, absence of Self-Control, or irritability, are either Brutish or morbid. The man, for instance, who is naturally afraid of all things, even if a mouse should stir, is cowardly after a Brutish sort; there was a man again who, by reason of disease, was afraid of a cat: and of the fools, they who are naturally destitute of Reason and live only by Sense are Brutish, as are some tribes of the far-off barbarians, while others who are so by reason of diseases, epileptic or frantic, are in morbid states."

Book VII paragraph 5:
"[Sidenote:1150b] Again, he who fails when exposed to those temptations against which the common run of men hold out, and are well able to do so, is Soft and Luxurious (Luxury being a kind of Softness): the kind of man, I mean, to let his robe drag in the dirt to avoid the trouble of lifting it, and who, aping the sick man, does not however suppose himself wretched though he is like a wretched man. So it is too with respect to Self-Control and the Imperfection of it: if a man yields to pleasures or pains which are violent and excessive it is no matter for wonder, but rather for allowance if he made what resistance he could (instances are, Philoctetes in Theodectes' drama when wounded by the viper; or Cercyon in the Alope of Carcinus, or men who in trying to suppress laughter burst into a loud continuous fit of it, as happened, you remember, to Xenophantus), but it is a matter for wonder when a man yields to and cannot contend against those pleasures or pains which the common herd are able to resist; always supposing his failure not to be owing to natural constitution or disease, I mean, as the Scythian kings are constitutionally Soft, or the natural difference between the sexes."

Book XI paragraph 4:
"[Sidenote: _1171b_] But their presence has probably a mixed effect: I mean, not only is the very seeing friends pleasant, especially to one in misfortune, and actual help towards lessening the grief is afforded (the natural tendency of a friend, if he is gifted with tact, being to comfort by look and word, because he is well acquainted with the sufferer's temper and disposition and therefore knows what things give him pleasure and pain), but also the perceiving a friend to be grieved at his misfortunes causes the sufferer pain, because every one avoids being cause of pain to his friends. And for this reason they who are of a manly nature are cautious not to implicate their friends in their pain; and unless a man is exceedingly callous to the pain of others he cannot bear the pain which is thus caused to his friends: in short, he does not admit men to wail with him, not being given to wail at all: women, it is true, and men who resemble women, like to have others to groan with them, and love such as friends and sympathisers. But it
is plain that it is our duty in all things to imitate the highest

Book XII 9th paragraph:
"Between Husband and Wife there is thought to be Friendship by a law of nature: man being by nature disposed to pair, more than to associate in Communities: in proportion as the family is prior in order of time and more absolutely necessary than the Community. And procreation is more
common to him with other animals; all the other animals have Communion thus far, but human creatures cohabit not merely for the sake of procreation but also with a view to life in general: because in this connection the works are immediately divided, and some belong to the man, others to the woman: thus they help one the other, putting what is peculiar to each into the common stock."

Book IV paragragh 30:
"Once more: all people value most what has cost them much labour in the production; for instance, people who have themselves made their money are fonder of it than those who have inherited it: and receiving kindness is, it seems, unlaborious, but doing it is laborious. And this is the reason why the female parents are most fond of their offspring; for their part in producing them is attended with most labour, and they know more certainly that they are theirs. This feeling would seem also to belong to benefactors."

. . .and from JA Smith's intro . . .

"As was pointed out above, the proem (Book I., cc. i-iii.) is a prelude to the treatment of the whole subject covered by the _Ethics_ and the _Politics_ together. It sets forth the purpose of the enquiry, describes the spirit in which it is to be undertaken and what ought to be the expectation of the reader, and lastly states the necessary conditions of studying it with profit. The aim of it is the acquisition and propagation of a certain kind of knowledge (science), but this knowledge and the thinking which brings it about are subsidiary to a practical end. The knowledge aimed at is of what is best for man and of the conditions of its realisation. Such knowledge is that which in its consumate form we find in great statesmen, enabling them to organise and administer their states and regulate by law the life of the citizens to their advantage and happiness, but it is the same kind of knowledge which on a smaller scale secures success in the management of the family or of private life."

2,300 years plus haven't proved him wrong as far as humans actually act. Who am I to say we should act any differently? So no matter if I am a vulgar man, woman is always one step below me in the natural order of things -- that's the science of nature, and the politics of humanity.