The Dao of Madness: Mental Illness and Self-Cultivation in Early Chinese Philosophy and Medicine
By Alexus McLeod
The Dao of Madness investigates the role of mental illness, specifically “madness” (kuang), in discussions of self-cultivation and ideal personhood in early Chinese philosophical and medical thought, and the ways in which early Chinese thinkers probed difficult questions surrounding mental health. Alexus McLeod explores three central accounts: the early “traditional” views of those, including Confucians, taking madness to be the result of character flaw; the challenge from Zhuangists celebrating madness as a freedom from standard norms connected to knowledge; and the “medicalization” of madness within the naturalistic shift of Han Dynasty thought. Understanding views on madness in the ancient world helps reveal key features of Chinese thinkers’ conceptions of personhood and agency, as well as their accounts of ideal activity. Further, it exposes the motivations behind the origins of the medical tradition, and of the key links between philosophy and medicine in early Chinese thought. The early Chinese medical tradition has crucial and understudied connections to early philosophy, connections which this volume works to uncover.
Introduction: In the Shadows of the Chinese Tradition
Chapter 1. Self, Mind and Body, Agency
Chapter 2. What is Mental Illness? Contemporary and Ancient Views
Chapter 3. Madness of Last Resort: Feigned Madness, Ambivalence, and Doubt
Chapter 4. The Wilds, Untamed, and Spontaneity: Zhuangist Views of Madness
Chapter 5. Synthesis and Medicalization in Early Han Views of Mental Illness
Conclusion: Madness and Self-Cultivation: Ways Forward
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