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Need help with my Philosophy title, etc

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Hey, is the following too broad?

Some problems with madness: Does humanity truly hold the ability to distinguish between the sane and insane?

See, I am very passionate about this. A few people have said that even if it is too broad I can get writing and come back later, however I have already started research and there are a huge number of relevant points. I feel that I may write a huge volume of stuff (I'm a perfectionist) and then have to cut most out. Would it not be easier to be sure of the question and then write specifically for that?

Actually now wondering if I should pick one book of the following three, pick the main themes and ideas regarding madness and insanity and then use the book and other sources to analyse each idea. I could therefore focus my EE more....

The books are:

Foucault, M. 1989, Madness and civilization: a history of insanity in the Age of Reason, Routledge, London.

Badcock, C.R. 1988, Essential Freud, B. Blackwell, Oxford.

Collier, A. 1977, R. D. Laing: the philosophy and politics of psychotherapy, Pantheon Books, New York.

and the title of the EE would be something like

Some problems with insanity: An examination of the issues presented in Michel Foucault’s Madness and Civilization.

However is this fitting with philosophy enough and are the books too old?

Thanks a bunch.

Edited by Gersch

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I have not done my EE in Philosophy, but I am doing Philosophy HL as one of my subjects. I am actually unsure whether or not the research questions for Philosophy EEs should be broad to a certain extent, like yours. I would say yours is pretty broad, but allows for research and analysis that is very relevant to your topic.

For your question on what is the easiest to do: writing toward a question or not. Sure it will be easier, but for now you are in the start up phase of your EE I assume. Thus, in the beginning it might not be that important since you are 'testing' your interests and trying to figure out what you are writing on and is interested in.

Take a read in all of the books, that might make it more clear to you aspects of philosophy of madness that you find interesting and might like to focus on. The books are good, and it isn't really an issue that they are bit old - they are still relevant to your topic. Try finding some newer literature if you like, but I don't know if it is any point.

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Hey, is the following too broad?

Some problems with madness: Does humanity truly hold the ability to distinguish between the sane and insane?

See, I am very passionate about this. A few people have said that even if it is too broad I can get writing and come back later, however I have already started research and there are a huge number of relevant points. I feel that I may write a huge volume of stuff (I'm a perfectionist) and then have to cut most out. Would it not be easier to be sure of the question and then write specifically for that?

and the title of the EE would be something like

Some problems with insanity: An examination of the issues presented in Michel Foucault’s Madness and Civilization.

However is this fitting with philosophy enough and are the books too old?

Thanks a bunch.

Your title could be made better. If your title is talking about Foucault's book, then your question should focus on an issue from there. So you're analysing an argument from within the book which links to the topic you actually want to talk about. However, you could start writing if you wanted to and worry about the title later. The only problem with this, is that you might not know what you're actually trying to answer until you have a proper question in mind.

Also, what will your essay actually be focusing on? Whether you can define the words 'insane' or 'sane' properly? Or whether 'normality' exists and all those who don't fit in that spectrum are classified as insane? In order for you to focus your research question more (or at least have a more concise idea of what you're talking about), you should read more of your book and see if there's an argument you'd be willing to focus on.

You'll need more that 3 books. The books aren't too old. They're quite young actually :P If someone can write a book on Plato's republic without worrying if the book is too old, then you'll be fine.

If you need me to clarify anything... I'll try to.

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Thanks a bunch to both of you, rather helpful. if you wouldn't mind reading through the following draft and seeing if it all seems relevant? If so I would most likely then flesh it out to make the essay.

An issue with insanity: the boundary between sanity and insanity in western societies is inherently blurred.

The holy fool

  • Someone may be a genius but perceived as insane, and then after a number of years or after the value of their ideas are realized by society, they can be shuffled to the sane basket quite easily; the distinction between the two must be quite blurred.
  • Insane until proven genius argument
  • We seem to see madness and genius as having similar base “To be insane is to be unsound of mind, and to have difficulty dealing with reality. To be genius is to possess exceptional intellectual ability and creativity, and to think beyond the scope defined by reality.” And this seems to indicate the association of insanity with social convention.

Insanity’s History

  • Seems to indicate that this issue may have been realized, and so the mad were dehumanized in an attempt to create a more solid boundary between the two (us, and the insane). Madness threatened society with the return to an animal freedom, which humans feared. Also, as the insane were “freely roaming the streets” they were an ‘invisible force’. A way to deal with this was to establish the solid barrier between the two; the people and the insane. The insane were thereby treated like animals and to an extent became animals.
  • Nowadays, and leading on from events such as the liberation of the insane at Bicêtre, humanitarianism has made it difficult again to distinguish the difference between sanity and insanity. Whether this is actually a good thing as we have no real language with which to communicate with them, should they be put with people with similar problems so that they may understand each other?

Problems with psychology and psychiatry

  • The body is physical, and the mind could be described as non-physical. We attempt to use physicality to describe, measure and sometimes treat what is not.
  • The idea that madness is an ‘illness’. Human society is so used to dealing with physical sickness such as broken bones, etc that having to deal with a non-physicall sickness we are having trouble switching to the non-physical treatments.
  • It is impossible to enter into the mind of another, whereas we can directly contrast our physical bodies using look, feel, smell, taste and sound, whereas we cannot do this with someone’s mind. Could this dividing line between the sane and insane then be a line between ourselves and those that are different in ways that we cannot understand or are afraid of. The reason that it would therefore be blurry is that there are the several defining people who have defined insanity and its sub-denominations (the different mental illnesses), but they themselves have the different ideas, and so does the doctor who diagnoses it himself, thereby creating a somewhat ambiguous thing called insanity.

Self-implication, the paradox of insanity and the sanity plea

  • If someone can commit themselves into a place such as an asylum, and not be insane, then the defining line must be incredibly blurry.
  • The paradox (once you’re in, you can’t get out unless you accept it) may be a ‘safety-catch’ construction in acknowledgment of the blurriness on the principle that it’s better to be safe than sorry, and you don’t have insane people working out how to beat the system by saying they weren’t in the first place and using it to get out.
  • In the interest of law, it is probably better to keep the line blurry in order to be able to admit people and skip-out on death sentences, etc.

Religion, faith and worship

  • Religions and similar beliefs are not seen as insane, or mad. Those that claim to have seen Jesus, etc are not diagnosed as schizophrenic. In the interest of religion the line would be kept blurry.

Capitalism

  • Greed seems to drive humanity. It is only in the last few hundred years that madness has been viewed as it has, and this has perhaps followed the rise of modern capitalism. The money that can be made, and fear that can be created in order to control society, by mental illness. The Mental Disorders List, 100 years ago was very slim pamphlet, now 886 pages with 374 mental disorders. Is greed pushing us to label what’s essentially normal human behavior as a mental disorder?
  • “In fact, capitalism, perhaps at its most remorseless is a physical manifestation of psychopathy.” As “capitalism at its most ruthless rewards psychopathic behavior, the lack of empathy, the glibness, cunning, manipulative.” Therefore if the ‘men who run the world’ are most likely to be insane, it is in their interest to keep it blurred.
  • Children’s behavior, which was once labeled normal (temper tantrums, mood swings, etc.) is now being diagnosed as insanity and mental issues, and being heavily medicated.

Implications for the future

  • It may be society’s desire that these lines are kept lose for safety’s sake (better to be safe than sorry), but as more are diagnosed, it means less to be diagnosed and there presenting problems in the future.

These raise the primary questions of:

  • Is insanity even real?
  • If it cannot be defined for certain, and people could lose their lives over wrong judgment, should it be there at all?

There seems to be the primary argument: is the blurriness kept as it is because it is best for society to keep it this way, or is it for the reason that insanity itself is not able to be clearly defined as that is its inherent nature, or we are just as of such unable to ‘map the mind’.

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