Insanity can be taught

Religiousness and insanity in the context of society and the changing times

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Mental Illness Throughout History

3 Society and Insanity

4 Healthy or sick from a social point of view

5 Conclusion and Outlook

1 Introduction

In order to understand the term mental illness as well as possible, it is necessary to delve into the history and origins of this connotation. For this purpose, this work will analyze different sources and try to clarify the origin and form of the different paradigms on the topic. The main question here is to what extent society's view of mental illness has changed.

On the basis of Foucault's work “Madness and Society”, the development of his so-called concepts of “different”, “mentally ill” and “lunatic” is to be presented in an overview in order to illustrate the changes in the various perspectives. With the help of Bourdieu's work “Social Sense” and in particular the chapter “Faith and Body”, it should then be explained how society develops rules and norms.

This work deals with the history of mental illness in Europe. It should be noted that the so-called “mental illness” in Europe differs greatly from the rest of the world, both historically and socially today. In Europe and some other countries, people with mental disorders are not seen as sick or even curable today. Nevertheless, there is still a stigma attached to mentally ill people in today's society. Large parts of the population are still afraid of dealing with those affected. In any case, there is still a lot of educational work to be done in dealing with the mentally ill. Nevertheless, it should be said that, unlike many other countries, Europe is progressive in dealing with mental illness. In Indonesia, for example, mentally ill people are still doing very badly today - they are sometimes chained up and forgotten (cf. Kuntz, 2013)

In this work the terms “lunatic”, “crazy”, “insane” and “mentally ill” are used because they can be found in the literature used.

2 Mental Illness Throughout History

In the course of history, from around the 19th century BC to our present day, the use and definition of the term “mental illness” has changed continuously. These developments are directly correlated to societal, social and political changes as well as to advances in science.

According to Allen Thiher, "madness" has been a diffusely used term since ancient times. In ancient Greece, a man was considered a madman who was prevented by anger or pain from using his intellect and in the course of which he switched off his intellect or was attacked by a divine power through madness. In addition to negative madness, there is also positive, divine madness that leads to true scholarship. Plato, for example, describes delusion as a process controlled by instinctuality and psychological effects. (cf. Gentner, 2007, p. 4f.) The first medical perspectives on mental illness emerged in ancient times. Here, ancient Greece can be described as a pioneer. "The aim of Hippocratic medicine was to support nature in its endeavors to create a healthy mind in a healthy body." (Porter, 2005, p. 40). Hippocrates saw mental illness as a result of brain ailments in contrast to Celsus, who in the 1st century AD linked insanity with mental illness that was present in the entire body. He divided mental illness into three categories. The first category is associated with fever, the second is associated with sadness caused by an excess of black bile. And the third form includes both insanity with delusions and delusions with a healthy intellect. Therapeutically, Celsus used healing shock in extreme cases, healing pain or healing conversations.

From the Middle Ages onwards, society began to increasingly grapple with the issues of insanity and mental illness. The work “Madness and Society” by the philosopher Michel Foucault illuminates madness and mental illness from the Middle Ages onwards. In summary, it can be said that during this time there was a clear step backwards with regard to the social attitude towards the mentally ill. Leprosy disease, which emerged in the 12th century, was to have significant implications for dealing with mental illness. Leprosoria, spread all over Europe, became the forerunners of the later insane asylums.

From the 15th century, when the number of lepers decreased significantly, these were replaced by venereal diseases. At this time, the lunatics or lunatics who previously lived within society are excluded and placed in these above-mentioned leprosories along with people suffering from venereal diseases. According to Foucault, this had the consequence that the sexually transmitted diseases moved “alongside madness in a moral space of exclusion” (Foucault, 1973, p. 24). Foucault describes a tendency to exclude the mad from society. Fear of infection was one of the reasons. Foucault reports that the madmen were chased away and that society wanted as little as possible to do with them. In addition, so-called ships of fools existed on which the madmen were abandoned in order to regain their senses (cf. Foucault, 1973, p. 25f).

In Germany in the 15th century there were sometimes special madhouses for the mentally ill and disobedient sick. In these madhouses the madmen were locked up and occasionally put on display for the amusement of society and for a fee. This practice was widespread and in some places was to survive into the 19th century (see Foucault, 1973, p. 138).

In the Renaissance, madness experienced a separation, whereby two aspects developed further:

On the one hand, society characterizes madness as unreasonable. On the other hand, the madman has a special role to play alongside his ridiculousness. Above all in literature, he becomes the subject of truth-finding who gives signs in indistinct gestures and languages. (see Foucault, 1973, p. 31f)

In general, it can be said that up to the 17th century there was an ambivalence in dealing with the mentally ill by excluding “insanity”, but famous lunatics, which the audience liked to amuse themselves, played a social role.

In the middle of the 17th century the view of the madman changed when the “Hospital general” was founded in Paris. In his chapter “The Great Captivity”, Foucault describes this epoch as a time in which madness is silenced (cf. Foucault, 1973, p. 68). At this time there is a kind of social perception of madness. Since the insane are locked up together with the poor, beggars and criminals, in short, with all who show signs of decay in terms of order, reason and custom, the insane are now completely excluded from society.

According to Foucault, this development is due to the fact that there is more and more a separation between reason and unreason. The internment of the insane and the handling of them is a kind of punishment for the irrational. Since the insane are imprisoned together with the poor, beggars and criminals, the insanity with guilt has entered into a moral as well as societal relationship can't be solved so soon. The internment, which affects many socially disadvantaged people, can also be seen as an answer to the economic problems of the time. People who were considered insane could be interned at the time without any medical examination. The families of those affected could also request the admission of a family member. Here one can clearly see that the mentally ill were deprived of all rights and were from now on completely outside of society.


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