Insanity is relative
It is usually defined in terms of the “rational” members of the society. When a person begins to say things that do not make logical sense to the general populace, he is considered insane. When he begins to see things that “normal” people cannot see, he is considered delusional.
The problem with this method of testing sanity or otherwise is that, logic is relational. As one progresses in life, logic tends to morph and even ends up being turned on its head. When I was in primary school I was taught that you cannot subtract a number from a smaller number (you cannot execute 200 minus 300). However, by the time I was in 7th grade I was taught that 1 – 2 = -1. And that -1 + 1 = 0.
This was madness to my growing brain. Yet, my teacher was right! Another example: I was taught in primary school that plants do not move. In 10th grade I was taught about photosynthetic plants that grow along the path of light. I believe that until 200 years ago, to suggest that plants grow in response to light, an untouchable thing was insanity.
Until Galileo Galilee, everyone knew that the earth was flat; that the sun and solar bodies orbited the earth and that if you walked long enough you would get to the end of the world and simply fall off the edge. Experienced sailors had maps (sailor’s charts) to prove this. In fact, the Church was the official authority on the matter. It was madness and even suicide for anyone to think that Man, the pinnacle of God’s creation would not be the centre of the world! In fact, Galileo had to recant his propositions as being inspired by the devil, and insanity (I guess!) or else he’d have been burned at the stake for his heresy.
But ask any child now what the earth looks like, and he’d tell you it’s like a round blue ball. She might even go on to rattle off the names of the continents and the animals you can find there. Tell that child that the world is flat and she thinks someone’s gone crazy!
I begin to see therefore that an alarming amount of “insanity” and delusions are visited upon people that possess the ability to perceive beyond what others do not see. I read a 1980 Cyberpunk book “Virtual Light” that described a futuristic piece of technology that when worn as glasses, you could look at a building and see information about that building. That was utter sci-fi prophecy/madness at the time. But 2 years ago, Google released the Google glasses that show you more than the information of the building. Now you can see the shops/offices in a building, the history of the building, the building plan, the contact address of the offices within that building. You can even know what’s on the menu in a restaurant by LOOKING!!!
Skype? That was witchcraft some 30 years ago. In fact, the internet by which you might be reading this was beyond some people’s imaginations in the past. Anybody who said all of the above in 1940 would be referred to as insane. Or at best a fanciful dreamer.
So back to our perception of insanity. The fact that a person is reasoning in patterns that do not make sense to you does not make that person insane. I think you should be concerned that you cannot understand what this person is handling so easily. You should be worried that your 5 senses are not enough to perceive what someone else is seeing.
If someone thinks he sees ghosts or talks to invisible people. Why do we think such a person is insane? Do we realise that talking about music to a person who was born deaf (or explaining colours to someone who was born blind) is relative insanity? To that person, you’re talking madness. He may not know that he is the one that is impaired!
Perhaps our psychiatrists and psychologists can begin to study more about the logic of insane people. We at least know that the concept of time that “rational” people believe in hardly applies to insane people. Do they have a concept of morality? Do they have a sense of loyalty? Or is their moral code a residue of what they had inculcated in their former, sane lives?
By writing this I understand that I have brought my own sanity under the microscope. I shall be glad to find what you evaluate me to be. Nietzsche once commented that creativity often requires a flavour of madness.
The amount of Savants thrilling us with wonderful music, wowing us with their mathematical prowess but distressing us with their autistic withdrawal from social contact is a suggestion that perhaps insanity is an exercise of one ability above all others. Thus if I am exceptionally astute as a philosopher but lacking in social grace or even fashion sense, I may be considered mad by my peers.
Insanity is the ability to perceive phenomena beyond the spectrum of sensory/experiential Knowledge.
Insanity is Relative