|Evening Sky, June 2009, Phoenix Park, Dublin|
In English, the word "sane" derives from the Latin adjective "sanus" meaning "healthy". The phrase "mens sana in corpore sano" is often translated to mean a "healthy mind in a healthy body". From this perspective, insanity can be considered as poor health of the mind, not necessarily of the brain as an organ (although that can affect mental health), but rather refers to defective function of mental processes such as reasoning. Another Latin phrase for "sane" is "compos mentis" (lit. "of composed mind"), and a euphemistic term for insanity is "non compos mentis". In law, "mens rea" means having had criminal intent, or a guilty mind, when the act ("actus reus") was committed.
|Another view of the evening sky, Phoenix Park, June 2007|
Great wits are sure to madness near allied -Pope was quite insightful in this remark which he confined to the thin line of demarcation between geniuses and mad persons. He definitely could have gone further by saying that the partitions were equally thin between the normal person and the not so normal person.
And thin partitions do their bounds divide.
With these thoughts long established in my mind I began reading the short but incisive history of madness by the late great scholar and historian of psychiatry Dr. Roy Porter. This short wee book is entitled Madness: A Brief History (OUP, 2002).