Madness as rationality incarnate
"The insights of 'depth' psychology were impossible earlier for the same reasons that
the fully 'round' character of the nineteenth-century novel was not possible before its
time. In both cases, the textual organization of consciousness was required."
- Ong, Orality and literacy
Madness and the ontology of reason
How refractory we understand a madness situation to be relates to how we
understand the effect of rationality when involved in redeeming it. Reason,
when failing to control may provoke reactive irrationality, or again the
crudeness of rational system may leave the madness essentially unavailable to
With knowing proceeding from involvement rather than analysis,
however, the criterial issues convert to how burdensome, tricky, or disturbing
the situation is. Thus, when you are a prisoner you have to worry about the
physical confinement, not just correct understanding in the abstract, but still
finally the dungeon and torture situation was made by people.
The strength of a madness redemption effort grows out of the involvement
process we invest in making it come off. The ambiguity of two-sided common
sense derived topics - fraught with attitudes based on responses to
inappropriate control events - challenges us to arrive at good understanding and
good judgment. On the other hand, 'joint action' in the context of a madness
situation, as in Vico's metaphor of Jove's thunderbolt, creates the possibility
of a new direction leading away from the operant situation. Invention, invoking
'joint action', evolves to full-flown discourse, as it were, 'providentially'
derives the new metaphor, for another 'line of reasoning'.
Advocacy, expressing the reasoning thus derived, is produced in the context
of pre-set attitudes, to which it may or may not be sensitive, or relevant.
Descartes sees reason in a proposition which we "present so clearly and so
distinctly to the spirit that there can be no opportunity to put it in doubt."
In fact our 'social conscience' or appropriate linkage to situated topics is
limited by our 'sense-making procedures', is never so pure as that ideal
proposition. The appropriateness of our advocacy is based, not on clarity, but
on the ways we monitor and relate to the madness that is tangled every which
way in connections with common sense.
Polity, the intersection of advocacy and society, frames a distorted,
uncertain, 'mad', tension where discourse is created and situated. Likewise,
the way our reasoning involves itself with tradition, in what Shotter calls
'traditions of argumentation', is no kind of expression of 'pure reason',
rather, it develops in this fluid space of tensions. Given that a remedy to a
madness situation calls for rationality in the form of advocacy, our issue is to
understand the how to identify, how to design such a 'tool'. The tractability
of the polity to all kinds of effects, from pragmatic effects to the role of the
Vichian 'ricorso', defines the merit of such discourse, the authenticity of its
challenge to the limitations of ignorance, to the disconnect of madness.
The delusory role of rationality
The symbol of the poet Ezra Pound being locked up for "'mental illness'" in
lieu of being tried for treason illumines the rationality of the madness control
system. Our Enlightenment-informed system of reason serves as a double standard
- not only as advocacy for traditional values, but as cover for their
contradictoriness. The ironic defense of free thought as a balance of
brutalities serves to reduce people's grasp on reality as it poisons the
inventions of their madness. Where the freedom of mind-scramble merges with the
disconnect of madness, wide-scale irrationality threatens social dysfunction and
calls for a dispelling of rationality's reduction of perspective.
As there is no certainty as to the adequacy of our involvements with
irrationality, we have a 'right living' problem for what we metaphorically call
our 'mental state'. In so doing, we advocate social values, we involve with the
polyphony of them and navigate the 'vibrations' thus produced, and we invoke
what we can of the nuances of common sense. In order for our conversations to
challenge the methods of rationally managing madness when we are involved with,
when we are in dialogue with their rootedness. Ultimately, we have to be
willing to 'hear voices', to hear the voices from those common sense topics,
from the dialogic (Bakhtin) that pervades the margins of our rationality.
The somatic aspect of our mental involvement is well remarked, be it the
muscle tension theory of 'resistances' or the neurotransmitter theory of mental tempering. But even when the effects become quite familiar, the biological
situation is incidental to the human question of how the person is involved with
the biology. Heavily biologized explanations for madness are a variant of
rational system, and their impact is in the first place social and reflective of
the social role of rationality, one that is defensive of 'traditional values'.
Thus a primary social impact of biological rationality is to reinforce the
traditional system of madness control by punishment, inspiring delusion and
helping to reify the 'medical model'.
A helping process of professionals operating on the rational premises of
'mental illness' is an organized system of delusory behavior, perpetrating
irrationality. For the rituals spawned by this tradition support what amounts
to a cover story for disorganized involvement with irrationality, for
irresponsibility. People get entrapped in the mentality of this rationality and
lose touch with the 'uncertain task of being members of the community' and thus
with their ways of being. So, finally, those who start with 'reason' and act
within the rubric of the dominant tradition end up stunned, again in contact
with the irrationality they had thought to put away.
Madness guidelines for reason
The alternative possibility to the practicum of 'mental illness' is the
experience of involvement in madness situations, in 'rational-invisibility'.
Under the intensity of such experience, the mind goes to a core place, of
extreme vulnerability, where major disconnect can happen. Focused at the 'mind
torture point', the knowing process becomes radically dysfunctional, so there
develops an availability to 'brainwashing'. Personality's rational presentation
thus becomes hesitant, the excessive subjectivity challenges the mind's capacity
to cope, and the survival demand becomes 'mental tempering'.
Having opted for, having dared involvement with the madness realm, we have to
learn to transcend the medical politics governing mind, 'regress' into
irrationality, and dance into connection. We must eschew the 'counterfeit
constructions' reflective of narrative entrapment and get into the psychology of
experiencing florid madness. Dandy explanations like that of infantile
sexuality, whether by way of conventional analytic rationality or 'new age'
provenance, are themselves but florid expressions of narrow involvement
parameters. They succeed, when they do, like others - only to the extent of our
cognitive 'fusion', when they emerge from a 'clearing' of social process, where
'ego' dies and self merges with its social origin.
Actual social connection, actual involvement extends beyond the domain of
polity, is in the 'commodius vicus of recirculation' of language, the reliving
of the Jovian thunderbolt experience. A program like Joyce's 'reconstructing
the nocturnal life' cultivates irrationality through linkage with the
irrationality of rootedness in tradition. Encounter with the 'mind torture
point' is properly tempered not by the brainwash-violence of Cartesian doubt,
but by that 'topic-fusion' derived from the 'regression' experience. Invention
can hold reason in organic relation to madness by relying on the rooting of
knowledge that derives from authentic moral relation to irrationality.
We socially construct intractable madness situations - such as
'schizophrenia', 'bipolar disorder', 'depression' - as rationalities with a
panoply of associated 'clinical support' behaviors. An involvement approach
will need to temper us intentionally to connect with the dynamics of disorders
of mood and thought, tasking us with developing dialogue with the survivors of
the mental health system. The recipe for this sort of madness advocacy -
almost, in the spirit of the 'positive polity' of Comte - is to invent a
'madness', to 'regress' by making a 'road map' of the rationality of social
being, through the tangle of the topics of tradition to a line of reasoning.
Creating rationalities is more than logic, more than embellishing positive
assertions by making them appealing, it's in developing the logic of the
imaginary topics of social process, used familiarly, and used madly, as if
they were real.
When we madly interact with 'social structure', conceived of as 'reality', we
go out of the 'parlor' level of conversation and into the active use of language
for empowerment. Taking the rhetoric of 'social structure' seriously
'ominously' challenges the boundaries of polity and mandates a reinterpretation
of the topics of tradition. The responsibility we thus provoke is to 'right
involvement' with the madness and the brainwashing outcomes that ensue, but is
ponderous due to the possible clumsy or opaque impact of its effects. Given the
intensity or grossness of such violent or burdensome effects, Wittgenstein's
'perspicuous representations' reflecting the discipline of involvement
are what is available to map a way through.
When we madly envision 'social structure' as reality, we habituate ourselves
to regimes characterized by excesses of sect, business, and polity described
above. The primitive response to the 'reality' of 'social structure' is to
create new enterprises, in effect new institutions with new economies based on
the new habits. These constitute excesses, with craziness of structure, leaving
us flopping around without an appropriate ground for involvement which we might
'call our own'. This 'acrobatic demand' challenges the rootedness of
traditional involvements, challenges the 'habits of imagination', and provides
the opportunity and necessity for bringing forth new metaphors.
When we employ 'social structure' as though it were reality rather than
idealization, we 'disconnect' from the rooting of common sense in tradition. On
the occasion that this situation gets interpreted as 'madly' dysfunctional, we
would seek to help out by a studied involvement process, as above, a process
that ministers to the disconnect. The instrumentality of connection is in the
social networking of the likes of poets who derive the needful metaphors and of
rhetors who express them. The institutions of rationality likewise begin where
their 'advertisers' ground them in appropriate metaphor, where people learn and
teach the healing dynamics to help others 'consume' them.
When we set our minds to the framework of 'social structure' thinking, we
'madly' carry our traditions of argumentation and drape them on new ideals of
rationality. For 'those who must wait for succeeding kings' the violence can be
too great, the institutions too rigid, but the involved rationality can
nonetheless expose less noted irrationalities. Rational 'tools', reflecting
social knowledge arising from tradition, reflecting history, are appropriate for
transcending the obstructions of ossified control and habituated irrationality,
for seeing past the 'medical model'. The hope is for a new tradition of knowing
- for the inspiration to go into the madness, to touch the originary topics of
tradition, to express madly the poetry of the new rationality, and to