Philosophy and Insanity

The ordinary philosopher – a philosopher, that is, not altogether sophistical, not altogether bad at his work – cannot wholly escape insanity, cannot but have a touch of madness mixed among the various humors of soul combined and roiling within him.  It is, I dare say, the price of–seeing, in this twisted, broken world of ours, the cost of being brought up from the muck to enter simultaneously into the light of day and deep expanse of night.  Yes; sanity must to some degree be sacrificed by–no, must be ripped  from the one who would be a philosopher, one worthy of the hand of Lady Philosophy; insanity is the fire in which she bathes her lovers, the coal she leaves lodged and smouldering in their souls.

How can this be?  Is not one’s being in philosophy a penetrating insight into the beating heart of things or their rot, as things would go, an awareness of all that is that cuts through to the very lineaments of what is real, and a touching – if ever so slight – of the foundations of the world?  Is it not, too, a state no more determined, clouded, obscured, by false opinion, by the lies and deceit and seductions of twisted sensuality; is it not a state in which one finds himself no longer swayed, subdued, enslaved by the will to power so insidiously at work in the hearts of others–and one’s own?  It is; that is why Philosophy demands of those who would love her that they give up something of their sanity.

Why is this so?  How can the most noble of human activities – human activities, that is, apart from any further determinations or instantiated conditions – require a relinquishing of a good we hold most dear in ourselves as humans, and on account of the loss of which we–despise others, hold them at arm’s length as–alien?

Well, what is sanity?

Certainly, we would admit – would we not? – that it involves a holding in general truce (if not harmony!) the Dionysian and the Apollonian, with the Apollonian  having at least ostensible rule over the Dionysian.  (Today, as things are, the Apollonian is made to fulfill Hume’s dream for the Dionysian, is it not!) That is, one through reason and will must have–control, even in the act of letting go.  If one is to be swept away, it must be only because one wanted to be swept away, thought it good and saw it happen.

More importantly, however, sanity involves essentially involvement, participation, permanent placement in and with the group, the community–other people.  (Let it be put aside, the question whether the group is more often than not not more than a herd).  For sanity, whatever else it is, is the right working of reason, and reason maintaining governance over whatever it is we say it ought to have governance, and operating as we have tacitly agreed it ought to operate; this is all–compounded by the fact that reason absolutely considered is public – as Wittgenstein, a philosopher many would count among the insane, has put it:  Language is for us a medium of thought; language is public, rather than private; and reason is the activity of thought, and thought’s progenitor:  Reason and thought mate, and they beget thought; they cannot be realized otherwise.  Sanity, then, involves one in the community, requires one’s participation in the community; it requires, in light of this, the accepted control – though not mastery, perhaps – over the Dionysian and Apollonian:  the institutionalization of the insane is a formal recognition of the insane man’s exclusion, even excision, from the community:  The insane man, we say, has lost the use of reason, has lost control of the delicate dialectic seemingly forever enacted between the Dionysian and the Apollonian:  The insane man has lost contact with others and control, the control required by others (the herd?) in order for one to be found in public.

The ordinary philosopher, however, must go the way of the insane man, because he is required by Lady Philosophy to forego both participation in the community as the community has deemed participation must be if there is to be participation at all, and must let go of notions of proper comportment of oneself toward the Dionysian and Apollonian within.  Because full participation in the community requires subordination of oneself to the complexus of wills to power that is the function of individual wills to power working in discordant concert, or requires that one through his own will to power become temporary conductor of the whole dark symphony (or just conductor – or merely willful conductive-participant – of the most basic human symphony, the family, or the next basic symphony, the regional polity), Lady Philosophy demands of her potential lover that he throw himself away from all of this; he cannot see well enough for Lady for Philosophy unless his soul be formed by her art and not the art of the human community, unless he see as she would have him see and not as others would–demand that he see.  Of her lovers Lady Philosophy demands, too, that they let loose the Dionysian and Apollonian so that they may be formed and governed by her and her alone:  The rules of the–herd she despises, and only accepts her own when she is considering those she loves – as only the best of lovers would.  Thus, the ordinary philosopher must take his place among the insane, must take his place among the outcasts of the community of those to whom nature has given the gift of thinking, and among those whose control (or utter lack thereof) does not conform to the standards set by the uneasy concordance found in the polity that shoots forth from the temporary coordination of wills to power.  The ordinary philosopher leaves the community and its standards behind, and seeks after the secrets Lady Philosophy has hidden for those who truly would love her, who she would deem worthy of raising aloft.

Of course, at this point the perspicacious reader asks:  Can you really say that leaving the community and its rules of rule behind for Lady Philosophy really leaves one in the company of the insane?  Does Lady Philosophy really plant within one’s soul the smoldering coal of insanity?  Already, such a questioner is reflecting on the what and wherefore of our committing the insane to the realm of the insane and judging ourselves removed from it; no doubt, such a questioner ponders now the reflections of Bowen and Laing, and the many indications the latter gives that the so-called insane are more sane than those who would to judge them insane.   More importantly, though, such a questioner is reflecting on the paradoxical notion that the very height of human achievement (or, should we say, rapture?) necessarily involves insanity.  No doubt, such a questioner is already on the verge of seeing, the philosopher is insane in the eyes of the community as he is caught up by Lady Philosopher for her own, and experiences this insanity in himself: The philosopher is by this separated from the very public sphere in which is reason is in many ways meant to stay and flourish, and the others upon whom he (the philosopher) depends for such flourishing; moreover, the philosopher has had to give up his control over the Dionysian and Apollonian required of him by that very community for membership therein.  But, that questioner is already on the verge of seeing – no, has perhaps already seen – that at the heights of such insanity lies the truest and loveliest–sanity!  For in leaving behind the community for the sake of Lady Philosophy, the ordinary philosopher has forsaken reason as determined by the community for reason as determined and directed by Lady Philosophy herself, and has thus traded dirt for purest gold, has traded veritable unreason for reason itself:  Reason finds itself, finds its place, within the whole vast luminous fugue of all that is, but cannot find itself within the community of reasoners that has deemed itself private;  the Dionysian and Apollonian can but find themselves balanced in harmony within the vast realm of contrapuntal existential harmony, and not within the community that has set between itself and the whole all but irreconcilable dissonance.




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