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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Excursus on Madness versus Reason/Unreason


Excursus on Madness versus Reason/Unreason

It is instructive that the English translation of Foucault’s most famous work, Madness and Civilization (1973),[1] highlights madness versus reason (civilization). In French, the original title was Folie et Déraison, or Madness and Unreason (1961). As Ian Hacking points out in his Foreword to the complete English translation of the French text[2] and elaborated in his essay, “Déraison,”[3] Foucault agreed with the English title and collaborated in the editing of the first English edition which differed significantly from the original French. This maps a dance of thought, a complex archaeology between reason and unreason in the establishment of mental illness. “The language of psychiatry,” Foucault argued, “is a monologue of reason about madness” – revealing “a broken dialogue” that has fallen silent, a rupture that was forgotten. Foucault’s work, he insisted, is neither a history of psychiatry nor an archaeology of psychiatric discourse, “but rather the archaeology of that silence.”[4] The major English translations of this Foucauldian archaeology include: Madness: The Invention of an Idea, his introduction to Binswanger’s Dream and Existence,[5] Madness and Civilization (abridged version) and History of Madness (complete version), Abnormal,[6] Psychiatric Power,[7] and his essay on “Madness and Society.”[8] Edgardo Castro’s lexicon of the Foucauldian oeuvre covers: Abnormal, Antipsychiatry, Apparatus, Asylum, Madness, Medicine, Normal, Power, Psychoanalysis, Psychology, Psychiatry, Subject, and Subjectivation.[9] 




[1] Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization (1973); intriguingly, no translator is named.
[2] Michel Foucault, History of Madness (2006).
[3] Ian Hacking, “Déraison,” in: James D. Faubion, ed., Foucault Now (2014), pp. 38-51.
[4] Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization (1973), pp. x-xii.
[5] Michel Foucault and Ludwig Binswanger, Dream and Existence (1993).
[6] Michel Foucault, Abnormal (2003b).
[7] Michel Foucault, Psychiatric Power (2008).
[8] Michel Foucault, “Madness and society,” in: The Essential Foucault (2003), pp. 370-376.
[9] Edgardo Castro, El Vocabulario de Michel FoucaultUn recorrido alfabético por sus temas, conceptos y autores (Spanish original, 2004); Vocubulário de Foucault (Portuguese translation, 2008).

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