Study Guide

Michel Foucault - The Mad Hatters

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The Mad Hatters

This group loves madness in all forms. Each week, one person dresses up as a different madman and everyone acts out society's constructed response to this individual. Example? Someone might be put in a straightjacket, forced to take freezing showers, and treated like an animal, and then the rest of the gang will try to "cure," "purify," or "reform" them.

Foucault encourages members to raise questions and issues that interest them, but to be honest, he almost always falls back on his intellectual obsession with how the "reasonable man" coerces the "mad man" into accepting medical care, transforming madness into a disease that has a set of manifest symptoms, a cure, and all that jazz. According to him, madness deserves a voice—plain and simple.

Descartes, Kant, Schelling, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Husserl

Honorary Members

These big burritos of thinking are really into the entire philosophy of subjectivity, asking the big questions: who am I? Why am I? Who makes me? Whom do I make? Why am I wearing this chartreuse jumper and brown galoshes? Do any girls like me? Their work also raised important questions about man's dark double—a sort of Jekyll and Hyde scenario.

Jacques Derrida

Sounding Board

This guy thought that the self is ultimately not less of a self for being crazy. His opinions go something like this: "Even if my thoughts are completely whackadoodle, they are still thoughts, which means that I still am." It's like the cogito ergo sum idea, but with an added twist.

Sigmund Freud

Occasional Panelist

Freud has a lot to say about madness, but he's often dismissed by other members of the group for being, well, mad. He blabbers too much about paranoia and how it's an retreat from madness, not an embrace of madness. Foucault is all about this; how paranoia makes people monitor their behavior because they fear that they are always of being watched. Still, Freud's whole smug attitude sometimes rubs him the wrong way.

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