Madness has always been at loggerheads with sanity for a simple reason that sanity was always awarded the highest perch while insanity was condemned to the lowest grounds like it was a dirty secret fit only for the dungeons. Cage it, lock it and forget it, has always been the three-tier policy with respect to madness. I wouldn’t say that people did not critically analyze the mad and the madness, but in the popular perception how could those who dealt with the mad and their madness be any better anyway. And for that reason they have never been taken seriously. This might be one of the reasons why we do not understand what madness actually is, and that those who we see as sane may not be as sane as they appear to be. And, for the same reason, we might also have adjudged the perfectly sane or those who are saner than the sane insane.
What distinguishes the sane and the insane is not how they think, but what they believe in to start with. This fundamentally means that the question of sanity or insanity at the level of intellect is the question pertaining to the validity of assumptions and more than on the correctness of inferences, for even those who are perfectly sane are capable of drawing erroneous inferences. However, those who are sane would not start from an assumption that does not stand to reason. And this is where the tricky question steps forward.
How do we judge the validity of an assumption unless it is an inference by itself? Of course, there is no logical bar on an assumption’s being an inference, but assumptions have to be treated as granted for the correctness of the inference to be tested because if we keep questioning the assumptions, we would sink into infinite regress, for if every assumption is an inference, it has an assumption for it to be inferred from. Therefore, unless we find the basis of all assumptions and all inferences, we cannot be sure of the correctness of any assumption and any inference.
This would be like seeking the ultimate logical truth, or, in other words, the origin of all assumptions and all inferences. And that is no different from declaring that unless one knows the ultimate truth, one knows no truth. This might be the very basis of a philosophical system, but we can’t base our understanding of sanity on it, for it makes both the sane and the insane impossible.
Originally published on Ezine Articles on May 10, 2013.