The madness of philosophers

Can philosophy lead to madness? Or madness lead to truth?

The medicalisation of madness in our physicalist age has consequences. Once upon a time the mad were thought to have access to divine truth, but now madness is just a symptom of unhealthy neurobiology and any realisations come to in altered states are ignored. Of course, madness can be dangerous and damaging. But from Wittgenstein to Nietzsche, some of our greatest philosophers have experienced periods of madness and yet, their philosophy is just as vital in spite of, or possibly because of, this madness, writes Wouter Kusters.


In his seminal work Madness in Civilisation the American sociologist Andrew Scull examines the way madness has been both an ineradicable aspect of any ordered human society, a haunting image of fear and terror, as well as a fascinating realm that inspires and attracts artists and thinkers. With the Greeks the Hippocratian tradition began, in which physicians tried to explain deviations from the average mental and bodily behav

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