The Epistemology of the Pathological: Essays on Mental Health from Plato to Foucault

The Epistemology of the Pathological: Essays on Mental Health from Plato to Foucault

Kevin S. Jobe

Language: English

Pages: 99

ISBN: 2:00145606

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Scope and Method of Study. The scope of this study is three-fold. I begin in Section I by attempting to lay a discursive foundation for talking about madness and mental illness. I attempt to trace out both a moral and a medical-scientific discourse of madness, beginning in Plato and continuing to the present. I examine the claims of Foucault that modern psychiatric practice is overlain with the "myths of objectivity and neutrality" by examining some of the contemporary discussions over mental illness. In Section II, I continue my investigation into the discursive formation of madness by examining our contemporary understanding of the 'homeless mentally ill' in the United States. My main argument is that the most prevalent mental disorders found among the homeless are those which are moral and not clinical in nature, and that this shows that the claims of observer-objectivity and value-neutrality in mental health are likely false. I continue my investigation into the discursive formation of madness in Section III by uncovering two distinct discourses of madness in the work of Plato. I argue that there are two distinct forms of madness in Plato, only one of which meets the criteria of mental disorder found in the DSM.



















or diagnosis of the disorder in question depends upon factors external to the knowledge intended for clinical settings, such as moral categories. Charland, in his presentation of Cluster B types, appears to have just this distinction in mind. But whether we accept this clinicalmoral distinction, or reject it on the grounds that most if not all clinical judgments involve a necessary moral component, we are still faced with the question of why Cluster 50 B disorders and their identification,

incontinence “is reputed to be voluntarily wicked and not diseased; although, in truth, this sexual incontinence, which is due for the most part to the abundance and fluidity of one substance because of the porosity of the bones, constitutes a disease of the soul.” [86d] Therefore this type of madness that is due to excessive pleasure is caused by the intemperate behavior of one’s actions. However, this type of madness, we are told, also comes about involuntarily: (A)nd indeed almost all those

health has been appropriated by a scientific discourse that attempted to separate the moral realm from the scientific/natural realm (17). According to Weiner, problems arising from mental health and illness were traditionally conceived and spoken of in terms of moral virtue. He observes that “…in the traditional language of morality, deviations from psychological health are generally vices. This, in turn, means that health encompasses some rough form of virtue”, further contending that “the

in the Enlightenment (specifically for Foucault in the late nineteenth century). Beginning with the notion of psychological health and illness in Plato as a certain ‘harmony of the soul’ which treats health as virtue and illness as vice, we are able to trace a moral discourse of madness as a relatively distinct discourse up to its codification in the Edict of 1656: the organization of the mad within the moral institutions of the state. It is only until that period, as both Weiner and Foucault

became displaced in the Enlightenment by a medical-scientific discourse. For Foucault, the story is much more complex. It is not the case, according to Foucault, that the traditional moral and religious discourse of madness ceased to have influence or came to a halt with its displacement by an Enlightenment medical-scientific discourse of madness. Rather, as Foucault shows, the scientific “capturing of madness” as mental illness in the eighteenth century is made possible through the

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