December 17, 2004

Genius/ Lunatic/ Oedipus


Interview with John Nash, New Scientist, this week

Recovered Schizo as Oedipus?

'This is dreaming, this is not communication.....' Hmmmmmmm

'An obvious question to kick off with: is there a connection between madness and genius?'

There's certainly a connection between mental illness and 'thinking out of the box'. If you're going to be anything like a genius you have to think out of the box. In that sense genius is something other than perfect normality, but I wouldn't say there is a strong connection.

Mathematicians are comparatively sane as a group; it's the people who study logic that are not so sane. Logical scholars like Kurt Godel are certainly not a good example of sanity.

... Do you still hear voices?

I was a long way into mental illness before I heard any voices. Ultimately I realised I am generating these voices in my own mind: this is dreaming, this is not communication. This is coming from an internal source, not from the cosmos. And simply to understand that is is to escape form the thing in principle. After understanding that, the voices died out. My son hears voices, but I haven't heard any for a long time.

So there was an elment of rational decision-making involved in dealing with your symptoms?

There's a lot of choice in this, I think. I know this is not the standard point of view. The standard diocrine is that we are suppposed to be non-stigmatic in terms of these people: they are constitutionally, necessarily, schizophrenic. But I think there is an element of choice. A person doesn't pass into insanity when their situations are good. If their personal life is successful, people don't become insane. When they're not so happy, when things aren't so good, then they may become clinically depressed, and then maybe schizophrenic. Wealthy people are less likely to become schizophrenic than people who are not wealthy.

Are you saing that some people simply choose to opt out of a difficult reality?

It provides an escape. In another way, a person might choose a monistic life; become a monk or a nun. There are various forms of escape in human societies, leading to another life where you do not face the same challenges, the same burdens.

So is it a rational choice to come back?

Being sane is like being a computer that is properly programmed to do useful things. Being insane is like being a computer that is not programmed to do anything useful. Yu have to come back to where you are expected to work. I can see that in my son. He does not appreciate work. We can't get him to do anything around the house. If he could be given small chores and do them, he would be more ready to come out of it. I don't know whether he'll come out of schizophrenia or not now.

Posted by mark k-p at December 17, 2004 08:29 PM