Sunday Dec 04, 2022

Insanity is Relative

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


3 thoughts on “Insanity is Relative

  1. Although I a naturally agree that insanity is a relative concept, I would go further along the lines of Nietzche and other such thinkers. Is insanity little more than just diverging from the general consensus on an ambiguous truth.
    Is insanity merely the term who have gone past the edge, past the limits of their humanity and entered a realm which is impossible to relate too? Is chemical insanity the same as insanity, are hallucinations merely visions conjured up by the mind, or is there more? When a person takes LSD for example their brain is less active not more, which has lead to experts believing that it merely shuts down filters in the mind. Does this not imply that those who confine themselves to this human, societal reality are not themselves insane?
    Insanity is relative in the sense that sanity is entirely subjective. In a room with just you and a mad man, who are you to say that you are sane and he is mad. Simply put, I would argue that insanity simply does not exist, it is merely a condition used to label those who have gone too far for society to condone.

  2. THIS is exactly the sort of intellectual analysis on the issue that i expect psychoclogists to take up beyond textbook definitions. We live in times when people pierce their bodies, sit their tongues, tattoo profanities, deliberately rip their clothes, starve themselves to skeleton-point in order to conform to the latest craze or the other. some 20 years ago any one of the above would have been considered a definite sign of insanity in many countries of the world.

    Interestingly, intellectual exercises that involve delving into the realm of metaphysics are branded psychofraud, while far more patent signs of textbook insanity are totally ignored. you are right- with just me and a “mad” person in a room- who's to say i'm the sane one?

    truly, insanity is only a comfortable classification for people who have ceased to function as the society would want them to

  3. To think that just yesterday i had this thought as-well; is baffling. Funny how minds could be in tandem.

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