Abstract for “The Carnival of the Mad: Foucault’s Window into the Origin of Psychology”

I have been accepted to present the paper, “The Carnival of the Mad: Foucault’s Window into the Origin of Psychology,” at the Psychology and the Other Conference in Boston, MA in October 2019. I am looking forward to the conference. Here is the short abstract. If you would like the longer version or a copy of the paper, please contact me.

Foucault’s participation in the 1954 carnival of the mad marked the beginning of his critical reflections on the origins of psychology. Using the cultural expression of this carnival as a starting place, this paper goes beyond carnival costumes to uncover the historical structures underneath the discipline of modern psychology. I will argue that these structures reveal motives behind certain psychological experiences, such as resistance to a mental disorder diagnosis and unexplained guilt from disordered behavior.

PhD Complete

On May 13, 2019, I successfully defended my dissertation and officially became a doctor of philosophy in philosophy. I graduated from the University of Dallas on May 19, 2019. Here is the abstract of my dissertation.

Title: Madness in Merleau-Ponty and Foucault: Toward an Inclusive Account of the Nonrational in Human Experience

This project begins with the problem found in relating the human to the nonrational. I seek to address two primary questions: First, is the nonrational only found in madness? And second, if not, what role does it play in human experience? To answer these questions, I offer an inclusive approach to the human-nonrational relationship by bringing together the phenomenological perspective of Merleau-Ponty and the historical-structural perspective of Foucault. I use their respective discussions on madness as a focus topic by which we can understand the broader implications of the nonrational in human experience. The subject of madness, however, is not chosen at random, since it is traditionally a term designated to make a stark contrast between abnormal “mad” humans and normal “rational” humans. By investigating the cases of madness, we will find that such clear-cut categories do not exist, neither phenomenologically nor historically, but rather that the subject of madness illustrates the type of relationship that all humans have to the nonrational. Thus, I argue that nonrationality plays a pivotal role in all of human experience, not just in cases of psychopathology, and that it must be understood inclusively in order to have a proper view of humanity. I further believe that an inclusive account of nonrationality not only adds to the philosophical conversation, but it also offers fresh ideas to the practice of psychology.

Abstract for the Journal of Speculative Philosophy: “At the Opening of Madness: An Exploration of the Nonrational with Merleau-Ponty, Foucault and Kierkegaard”

I am happy to announce that my article, “At the Opening of Madness: An Exploration of the Nonrational with Merleau-Ponty, Foucault and Kierkegaard,” has been accepted for publication with the Journal of Speculative Philosophy. It should be published in a couple of months. Here is the abstract.

This essay offers the beginnings of a taxonomy of madness through the analysis of three different approaches: the phenomenological, the historical-structural and the existential-religious. While there have been many avenues by which the Continental tradition has sought to counter the understanding that madness is inaccessible and unintelligible, these methods are often restricted to viewing madness from one particular angle. By using this tri-perspectival approach, I argue that insight into madness exposes the diverse forms of the nonrational, which I define as the prerational, the irrational, and the suprarational. Each of the forms reveals the reliance on the nonrational in several areas of the human condition, including displays of mental disorders, dynamic structures of society, and experiences of extreme faith. Through these descriptions, we see how expressions of madness immediately bring to the surface the way the non- rational plays an integral role in the common human condition.

Abstract for “The Need for Merleau-Ponty in Foucault’s Account of the Abnormal”

I presented a paper at the 2018 International Merleau-Ponty Circle on November 10, 2018 in Chattanooga, Tennessee entitled “The Need for Merleau-Ponty in Foucault’s Account of the Abnormal.” I am happy to announce that a version of this paper has been submitted as a chapter in an edited book entitled, Normality, Abnormality and Pathology in Merleau-Ponty. Here is the abstract for my chapter.

Due to both his historical contributions as well as the simple persuasive power of his writing, many of us are drawn to the work of Michel Foucault on the history of the abnormal. And yet, while we acknowledge the insights offered by his account of the abnormal, we may feel that something is missing from his historical narrative and wonder if it can be fully trusted. In this chapter, I will argue that we can only successfully draw on Foucault’s work on the abnormal once we recognize that it is Merleau-Ponty’s work in psychology that serves as its hidden foundation.

To do so, I begin by giving a brief summary of Foucault’s account of the abnormal according to his 1961 History of Madness and his 1974-1975 lectures entitled Abnormal. Foucault describes how the abnormal of the modern age comes out of an understanding of madness that can be traced in the previous ages. He then reveals some common historical structures present in each age; in particular, how the notion of madness is dependent on the societal constructions of the rational and the nonrational. But we are left asking: Where are these constructions coming from? And why is madness inextricably linked to our understanding of the rational and nonrational in every age? Foucault’s account of the abnormal seems to tell us how the notions of madness play out in society, but offers no explanation for why the historical structures are shaped in this way.

I turn to Merleau-Ponty for aid and find that the very historical structures recounted by Foucault are actually rooted in Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological patterns of the abnormal. Drawing on the Phenomenology of Perception, I describe the phenomenological foundation of the abnormal as a way to make madness both accessible and meaningful. We find that this foundation is precisely what is needed for the arbitrary historical constructions of Foucault. To close, I look at the presence of these patterns in the disorder of schizophrenia, demonstrating how the unity of a historical-phenomenological account of the abnormal can provide deeper insights into the experience of a mental disorder.