The Opposite of Wisdom?

Plato, Alcibiades 2

Socrates: “I suppose you remember agreeing that madness is the opposite of wisdom?

Alkibiades: Yes, I do…

Soc. And isn’t it also the case that there is no third stage in the middle which makes a person neither wise nor mad?

Alk. I agreed to that too.

Soc. For, clearly, there how could there be two opposites for a single thing?!

Alk. Yeah, that’s not happening.

Soc. So, then, foolishness and madness run the risk of being the same thing.

Alk. It appears so.”

ΣΩ. Οὐκοῦν μέμνησαι ὁμολογήσας ὑπεναντίον εἶναι μανίαν φρονήσει;
ΑΛΚ. Ἔγωγε.
ΣΩ. Οὐκοῦν καὶ μηδὲν εἶναι διὰ μέσου τρίτον πάθος, ὃ ποιεῖ τὸν ἄνθρωπον μήτε φρόνιμον μήτε ἄφρονα εἶναι;
ΑΛΚ. Ὡμολόγησα γάρ.
ΣΩ. Καὶ μὴν δύο γε ὑπεναντία ἑνὶ πράγματι πῶς ἂν εἴη;
ΑΛΚ. Οὐδαμῶς.
ΣΩ. Ἀφροσύνη ἄρα καὶ μανία κινδυνεύει ταὐτὸν εἶναι.
ΑΛΚ. Φαίνεται.

Image found here

A Happy Side of Madness

I love this story. It fills me with hope and envy.

Aristotle, On Amazing Things Heard 832b

“The story goes that in Abydos there was a man who was afflicted with madness. He went into the theater and watched for many days as if there were actually people acting and applauded. When he had a respite from his affliction, he said that this was the most enjoyable time of his life.”

Λέγεται δέ τινα ἐν Ἀβύδῳ παρακόψαντα τῇ διανοίᾳ καὶ εἰς τὸ θέατρον ἐρχόμενον ἐπὶ πολλὰς ἡμέρας θεωρεῖν, ὡς ὑποκρινομένων τινῶν, καὶ ἐπισημαίνεσθαι· καὶ ὡς κατέστη τῆς παρακοπῆς, ἔφησεν ἐκεῖνον αὑτῷ τὸν χρόνον ἥδιστα βεβιῶσθαι.

This made me think of Thrasyllos again.

Aelian, 4.25

“Thrasyllos from the deme Aiksône endured an incredible and novel madness. For he left the city and went to the Peiraia and stayed there. He believed that all the ships that sailed in were his and he wrote down their names, checked the list when they left and rejoiced when they returned safely to the harbor again. He spent many years living with this sickness.

When his brother returned from Sicily, he took him to a doctor for treatment and he freed him from that sickness. But he often remembered the avocation of his sickness and used to say that he was never as happy as when he took pleasure at the sight of ships that weren’t his returning safely.”

Θράσυλλος ὁ Αἰξωνεὺς παράδοξον καὶ καινὴν ἐνόσησε μανίαν. ἀπολιπὼν γὰρ τὸ ἄστυ καὶ κατελθὼν ἐς τὸν Πειραιᾶ καὶ ἐνταῦθα οἰκῶν τὰ πλοῖα τὰ καταίροντα ἐν αὐτῷ πάντα ἑαυτοῦ ἐνόμιζεν εἶναι, καὶ ἀπεγράφετο αὐτὰ καὶ αὖ πάλιν ἐξέπεμπε καὶ τοῖς περισωζομένοις καὶ ἐσιοῦσιν ἐς τὸν λιμένα ὑπερέχαιρε· χρόνους δὲ διετέλεσε πολλοὺς συνοικῶν τῷ ἀρρωστήματι τούτῳ. ἐκ Σικελίας δὲ ἀναχθεὶς ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ παρέδωκεν αὐτὸν ἰατρῷ ἰάσασθαι, καὶ ἔπαυσεν αὐτὸν τῆς νόσου οὗτος. ἐμέμνητο δὲ πολλάκις τῆς ἐν μανίᾳ διατριβῆς, καὶ ἔλεγε μηδέποτε ἡσθῆναι τοσοῦτον, ὅσον τότε ἥδετο ἐπὶ ταῖς μηδὲν αὐτῷ προσηκούσαις ναυσὶν

Related image
Bodleian 264

One Without a Greedy Heart: Horace’s Minor Madness

Horace, Epistles 2.118-125

“This mistake, this minor madness, still possesses
This many advantages—consider them. The poet is
Not one with a greedy heart. He loves his lines, and desires
This alone. He mocks lost money, the flight of slaves and fires
There’s no thought of fraud against his friend or his ward
He lives as well as thin gruel and dry bread can afford.
Although he’s slow and a bad soldier, he’s still of use,
If you believe this: that grand affairs are helped by small matters too.

Hic error tamen et levis haec insania quantas
virtutes habeat, sic collige. vatis avarus
non temere est animus; versus amat, hoc studet unum;
detrimenta, fugas servorum, incendia ridet;
non fraudem socio puerove incogitat ullam
pupillo; vivit siliquis et pane secundo;
militiae quamquam piger et malus, utilis urbi,
si das hoc, parvis quoque rebus magna iuvari.

Horace reads before Maecenas, by Fyodor Bronnikov

Philo Can’t Trust His Mind: On Senses and Self

Philo, On the Cherubim, 116 (33)

“Is my mind my own private possession? It is a creator of lies, a founder of wandering, of paranoia, of foolishness, a thing revealed to be the opposite of a mind in its mania and depression and eventual old age.

Is what I say my own private possession or the organs of speech? Isn’t a minor sickness enough to weaken the tongue or to sew up the mouth of even the most articulate? Doesn’t the expectation of terror strike and render most people mute?

And I am not revealed to be master even of my perception—instead, I think I am even its servant following wherever it leads to colors, shapes, sounds, smells, tastes and other corporeal things.”

ὁ δὲ νοῦς ἐμόν ἐστιν ἴδιον κτῆμα; ὁ ψευδῶν εἰκαστικός, ὁ πλάνης οἰστικός, ὁ παρανοῶν, ὁ μωραίνων, ὁ εὑρισκόμενος ἄνους ἐν ἐκστάσει καὶ μελαγχολίᾳ καὶ μακρῷ γήρᾳ; ἀλλ᾿ ὁ λόγος κτῆμα ἐμόν; ἢ τὰ φωνῆς ὄργανα; μικρὰ νόσου πρόφασις οὐ τὴν γλῶτταν ἐπήρωσεν, οὐ τὸ στόμα καὶ τῶν πάνυ λογίων ἀπέρραψεν; οὐχὶ δεινοῦ προσδοκία καταπλήξασα μυρίους ἀχανεῖς ἐποίησε; καὶ μὴν οὐδὲ τῆς αἰσθήσεως ἡγεμὼν εὑρίσκομαι, τάχα δέ που καὶ δοῦλος ἀκολουθῶν ᾗ ἂν ἄγῃ, πρὸς χρώματα, πρὸς σχήματα, πρὸς φωνάς, πρὸς ὀσμάς, πρὸς χυλούς, πρὸς τὰ ἄλλα σώματα.

 

This image has nothing to do with this passage. I just think it is amazing.

University Library Heidelberg

How To Talk to a (Potentially Deranged) Patient

Rufus of Ephesus, Quest. Medic. 2

“It is right to ask someone who is sick questions from which something of the matters concerning the sickness might be diagnosed and might be treated better. First, I advise to make inquiries from the one who is sick himself. For you might from this learn how much the person is sick or healthy in respect to judgment along with his strength and weakness and what type of sickness and what place he has suffered.

If the patient answers right away and properly and plausibly and without stumbling in speech or sense and if it is according to is typical matter—if he is otherwise orderly, in a gentle and orderly way, but, if otherwise bold or fearful, in a brash or timid manner—it is right to consider him to be in his right mind. But if you ask him some things and he should answer others or forget in the middle of speaking, if his speech is unsteady and unclear and there are shifts from his first manner to the opposite, these are all signs of being deranged.”

     ᾿Ερωτήματα χρὴ τὸν νοσοῦντα ἐρωτᾶν, ἐξ ὧν ἂν καὶ διαγνωσθείη τι τῶν περὶ τὴν νόσον ἀκριβέστερον καὶ θεραπευθείη κάλλιον. πρῶτον δὲ ἐκεῖνο ὑποτίθημι τὰς πεύσεις αὐτοῦ τοῦ νοσοῦντος ποιεῖσθαι. μάθοις γὰρ ἂν ἐνθένδε ὅσα τε κατὰ γνώμην νοσεῖ ἢ ὑγιαίνει ὁ ἄνθρωπος καὶ ῥώμην αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀσθένειαν, καὶ τίνα ἰδέαν νόσου καὶ τίνα τόπον πεπονηκὼς <εἴη>. εἰ μὲν γὰρ ἐφεξῆς τε ἀποκρίνοιτο καὶ μνημονικῶς καὶ τὰ εἰκότα καὶ μηδαμῆ σφαλλόμενος μήτε τῇ γλώττῃ μήτε τῇ γνώμῃ καὶ εἰ καθ’ ὁρμὴν τὴν οἰκείαν, —εἰ μέν ἐστιν ἄλλως κόσμιος, πράως καὶ

κοσμίως, ὁ δ’ αὖ φύσει θρασὺς ἢ δειλὸς θρασέως ἢ δεδοικ<ότ>ως—τοῦτον μὲν χρὴ νομίζειν τὰ γοῦν κατὰ γνώμην καλῶς ἔχειν. εἰ δὲ καὶ ἄλλα σὺ μὲν ἐρωτᾷς, ὁ δὲ ἄλλα ἀποκρίνοιτο καὶ εἰ μεταξὺ λέγων ἐπιλανθάνοιτο, αἱ δὲ τρομώδεις καὶ ἀσαφεῖς γλῶσσαι καὶ αἱ μεταστάσεις ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀρχαίου τρόπου πρὸς τὸ ἐναντίον, πάντα ταῦτα παρακρουστικά.

 

Image result for medieval manuscript medicine doctor
Sloane MS 1975, f. 91v

Searching For the Land of Truth Inside Oneself

Earlier posts examine Hippocratic and Galenic takes on different signs of ‘melancholy’, which is generally the ancient diagnosis that best corresponds to madness or depression. In this letter, Hippocrates seems to describe a manic dedication to one thing paired with other antisocial symptoms.

Hippocrates, Epistles 12

“We might encounter good fortune and then we will arrive, as we imagine, with better hopes as was made clear in the letter, if the case is that the man is not displaying madness but instead some overwhelming strength of spirit—this despite the fact that he is considering neither children nor wife nor relatives nor any other thing at all—and he has spent day and night by himself, staying alone for the most part in caves or deserted places or under the shadow of trees or in soft grasses or alongside the quiet flows of water.

It is many times the case for those suffering from melancholy to exhibit these kinds of behaviors. Such people are sometimes quiet and solitary and love isolation too. They keep themselves apart from people and consider their own tribe to be a foreign sight.

But it is not unreasonable for those who have been dedicated to education to shake off other thoughts because of a single category in wisdom. For, just as slaves and slavewomen who are yelling and fighting in their homes, when their mistress suddenly appears, step apart in quiet because they are afraid, in the same way too the rest of the thoughts in human minds are servants of evils; but when the sight of wisdom made itself seen, the rest of the sufferings have retreated like slaves.

It is not only the insane who desire caves and peace at all, but many people who have contempt for human affairs do too because of a desire not to be troubled. For whenever the mind, struck by external thoughts, longs to rest the body, then it returns to peace as soon as possible and, standing straight up, searches in a circle in himself for the land of truth in which there is no father, mother, wife, child, brother, relative, slaves, nor chance, nor at all any of those things which create a disturbance.”

῎Ελθοιμεν δ’ ἂν αἰσίῃ τύχῃ, καὶ ἀφιξόμεθα ὡς ὑπολαμβάνομεν χρηστοτέρῃσιν ἐλπίσιν [ἢ] ὡς ἐν τῇ γραφῇ παραδεδήλωται, οὐ μανίην ἀλλὰ ψυχῆς τινὰ ῥῶσιν ὑπερβάλλουσαν διασαφηνέοντος τοῦ ἀνδρὸς, μήτε παίδων μήτε γυναικὸς μήτε ξυγγενέων μήτε οὐσίης μήτε τινὸς ὅλως ἐν φροντίδι ἐόντος, ἡμέρην δὲ καὶ εὐφρόνην πρὸς ἑωυτῷ καθεστεῶτος καὶ ἰδιάζοντος, τὰ μὲν πολλὰ ἐν

ἄντροισι καὶ ἐρημίῃσιν ἢ ἐν ὑποσκιάσεσι δενδρέων, ἢ ἐν μαλθακῇσι ποίῃσιν, ἢ παρὰ συχνοῖσιν ὑδάτων ῥείθροισιν. Συμβαίνει μὲν οὖν τὰ πολλὰ τοῖσι μελαγχολῶσι τὰ τοιαῦτα· σιγηροί τε γὰρ ἐνίοτε εἰσὶ καὶ μονήρεες, καὶ φιλέρημοι τυγχάνουσιν· ἀπανθρωπέονταί τε ξύμφυλον ὄψιν ἀλλοτρίην νομίζοντες· οὐκ ἀπεοικὸς δὲ καὶ τοῖσι περὶ παιδείην ἐσπουδακόσι τὰς ἄλλας φροντίδας ὑπὸ μιῆς τῆς ἐν σοφίῃ διαθέσιος σεσοβῆσθαι.

῞Ωσπερ γὰρ δμῶές τε καὶ δμωΐδες ἐν τῇσιν οἰκίῃσι θορυβέοντες καὶ στασιάζοντες, ὁκόταν ἐξαπιναίως αὐτοῖσιν ἡ δέσποινα ἐπιστῇ, πτοηθέντες ἀφησυχάζουσι, παραπλησίως καὶ αἱ λοιπαὶ κατὰ ψυχὴν ἐπιθυμίαι ἀνθρώποισι κακῶν ὑπηρέτιδες· ἐπὴν δὲ σοφίης ὄψις ἑωυτέην ἐπιστήσῃ, ὡς δοῦλα τὰ λοιπὰ πάθεα ἐκκεχώρηκεν.

Ποθέουσι δ’ ἄντρα καὶ ἡσυχίην οὐ πάν- τως οἱ μανέντες, ἀλλὰ καὶ οἱ τῶν ἀνθρωπίνων πρηγμάτων ὑπερφρονήσαντες ἀταραξίης ἐπιθυμίῃ· ὁκόταν γὰρ ὁ νοῦς ὑπὸ τῶν ἔξω φροντίδων κοπτόμενος ἀναπαῦσαι θελήσῃ τὸ σῶμα, τότε ταχέως ἐς ἡσυχίην μετήλλαξεν, εἶτα ἀναστὰς ὄρθριος ἐν ἑωυτῷ περιεσκόπει κύκλῳ χωρίον ἀληθείης, ἐν ᾧ οὐ πατὴρ, οὐ μήτηρ, οὐ γυνὴ, οὐ τέκνα, οὐ κασίγνητος, οὐ ξυγγενέες, οὐ δμῶες, οὐ τύχη, οὐχ ὅλως οὐδὲν τῶν θόρυβον ἐμποιησάντων·

Image result for medieval manuscript insane person
Medieval Manuscript Images, Pierpont Morgan Library, Hours of Anne of France. MS M.677 fol. 211r

A Troubling Take on Reason and Rage

Seneca, De Ira 19

“I say that anger has this evil: it is not willing to be ruled. It is irate against truth itself it truth seems to be against what it desires. It attacks those it has selected with bellowing, chaos, and near complete bodily seizure when it piles on insults and curses.

Reason does not do this. But if there is a need, it quietly and secretly destroys whole households and families which threaten the state along with wives and children. It demolishes the very roofs themselves and wipes out the names of those opposed to liberty.”

Habet, inquam, iracundia hoc mali; non vult regi. Irascitur veritati ipsi, si contra voluntatem suam apparuit; cum clamore et tumultu et totius corporis iactatione quos destinavit insequitur adiectis conviciis maledictisque. Hoc non facit ratio; sed si ita opus est, silens quietaque totas domus funditus tollit et familias rei publicae pestilentes cum coniugibus ac liberis perdit, tecta ipsa diruit et solo exaequat et inimica libertati nomina exstirpat.

Image result for medieval manuscript rage
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 66 (99.MK.48), fol. 55