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The Rebellious NoVariations on a Secular Theology of Language$
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Noëlle Vahanian

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823256952

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823256952.001.0001

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Madness and Civilization

Madness and Civilization

The Paradox of a False Dichotomy

(p.64) 4 Madness and Civilization
The Rebellious No

Noëlle Vahanian

Fordham University Press

Derrida, in “Cogito and the History of Madness,” offers an important reading of Descartes’s First Meditation as a counter to Foucault’s own reading of the same text in his Madness and Civilization. Accordingly, hyperbolic doubt inscribes madness not outside of reason and as its opposite, but instead, as the condition of reason. As soon as Descartes lets go of the hyperbolic doubt, his thinking no longer rebels against the institutional ideas and logic of his age and education. He succumbs to the order of things. What if the very manifestation of subjectivity was, more than one side of a necessary polarity (order/disorder), as order-itself, therefore mad? Erasmus, in his Praise of Folly, mocks clerics and learned men for the folly of their perfected systems and rigid dogma, and celebrates the folly of faith as being that much more sensible than the folly of reason alone. Still, this chapter proposes to re-cast and reverse the traditional dichotomies madness/sanity, disorder/order, abnormal/normal, unreason/reason, immoral/moral, illusion/reality in order to formulate a propaedeutic for rebelling against the longstanding bias of Western thought to equate any desire to put the order of things in question with childish immaturity, unreason, artistic license, or plainly with madness.

Keywords:   Agamben, Arendt, Biopower, Derrida, Descartes, Foucault, Madness, Modern philosophy

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