Too Mad to be True III - The Paradoxes of Madness

October 30-31, 2024, Ghent (Belgium)  + online

In 2021 we held the firstToo Mad to be True conference in Ghent, with as general theme Philosophies of Madness. In 2023 the second TMTBT conference took place which focused on the Promises and Perils of the First Person Perspective. The vibrant intellectual atmosphere of the events spread through various kinds of networks, media, and individuals, and the direct and indirect feedback convinced us to organize a third edition in 2024.


On October 30 and 31, 2024 (Wednesday and Thursday) the third edition of Too Mad to be True is set to take place in Ghent at the Dr. Guislain Museumtitled The Paradoxes of Madness.

In addition to the more academic and scientific contributions, this edition will also provide the opportunity for more artistic explorations. We want to give more space to creative expressions on the border between philosophy and madness. In collaboration with the Dr. Guislain Museum, the event's venue, we will put together a diverse program with text, performance, art and music, all around the theme of paradoxes of madness.


Call for papers and presentations

We invite you to send abstracts for contributions to this event, according to the following guidelines:

  • Presentations are 20 minutes +5 minutes discussion. Contributions with a different duration and/or other special needs are on request.   
  • One document is in Word with 1. Name of the contributor(s), 2. Short bio in max 60 words.
  • Another document is preferably also in Word and has a summary of the presentation in max 200 words, and on max two pages.
  • Send these to us as attachment in one email to info@psychiatrieenfilosofie.nl
  • Abstracts can be sent to us until May 1, and we will reply before the 1st of June.
  • For questions and more info, send us an email via the above address

Tickets (soon available via our webshop)

  • Online participation  € 20,00
  • Participation in person + lunch/drinks  € 80,00
  • Participation in person + lunch/drinks (psychiatrists + accreditation will be applied for)  € 120,00
  • Participation in person + lunch/drinks (students)  € 40,00 


Invited speakers

Lorna Collins

Dr. Lorna Collins is an artist, filmmaker, writer and researcher in creative health, based in South-East England. She writes about art, philosophy and mental health, in books such as Making Sense: Art Practice and Transformative Therapeutics. She also writes fiction and poetry. Her creative œuvre engages with her lived experience of traumatic brain injury and consequent condition of organic psychosis. She is currently working on a documentary film about this theme, and an Arts Council-funded research project ("A Creative Transformation") about the brain, trauma, mental health and creativity. https://lornacollins.com @sensinglorna

Sofia Jeppson

Sofia Jeppsson is associate professor of philosophy at Umeå University in northern Sweden. She started her philosophical career writing on free will, moral responsibility and topics in applied ethics. In 2018, when she gained her current position with stability and job security, she fully came out of the madness closet, and has since then published primarily on topics concerned with madness and psychiatry.


Mark Losoncz

Mark Losoncz (1987) defended his PhD thesis at the University of Novi Sad (Serbia) with the title The Concept of Time in Bergson’s and Husserl’s Philosophy. He accomplished part of his doctoral research at École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) in Paris. As a postdoctoral researcher, he was the guest of the Institute of Ethics at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich. He is a researcher at the University of Belgrade (Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory) since 2011. His research interests include: consciousness studies, theories of sense of reality, philosophy of love of and philosophy of death, philosophy & spirituality, and philosophy & psychiatry. He has published several works on the Hungarian minority community in Serbia. He is the (co-)author and/or (co-)editor of fifteen books. His works are published in English, French, German, Serbian/Croatian, Romanian, Slovenian and Hungarian. He received the award for the best philosophical book in Hungarian in 2024.


Sebastian Vörös 

Sebastjan Vörös is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. His research interests encompass philosophy of science, epistemology, phenomenology, and philosophy of religion. He is the author of Podobe neupodobljivega (The Images of the Unimaginable; KUD Logos; University of Ljubljana Press 2013), in which he investigates the phenomenon of mystical experiences from neuroscientific, phenomenological, and gnoseological perspectives. He has (co)edited numerous articles on embodiment, enaction and (neuro)phenomenology. Additionally, he has translated several philosophical texts into Slovene, for instance, work by Damasio, Dennett, William James, Whitehead, and Varela and Thompson. Sebastjan Vörös is the head of the transdisciplinary institute Metanoia, and is currently writing a book on the philosophical and scientific work of Francisco Varela.

Natalie Depraz (more info will follow)


Organisers
Jasper Feyaerts (Ghent University), Bart Marius (director of museum dr. Guislain in Ghent) and Wouter Kusters (Foundation for Psychiatry & Philosophy)

Mad caveat
Although madness on this conference is mainly considered on a philosophical and psychopathological level, we cannot forget about madness, on a global, societal level. In the context of global warming and ecological destruction  we therefore ask all conference participants to be aware of their CO2 emissions and reduce them as much as possible while traveling to and from the conference.

 

Background: The Paradoxes of Madness

Madness - or psychosis as it is often called – is replete with problems, obstacles, aporias or contradictions that can be subsumed under the term paradoxes. Such paradoxes appear under various guises and modalities, nested within concepts like language and experience, expression and observation, thought and perception, action and passivity, objectivity and subjectivity. These conceptual oppositions may regularly shift places, or may even be seen to paradoxically co-exist in mad experience: delusions may be upheld with unsurpassable certainty, yet may also seem irrelevant for conducting everyday life; mad reality can appear as flimsy, insubstantial and strangely unreal, yet also as more intensely real, coherent and meaningful than anything ever experienced; the boundaries of mad subjectivity can take on cosmic proportions, encompassing the whole of the universe, yet private thoughts and feelings may seem infinitely far way and under alien control. As such, understanding mad experience seems to require a philosophical sensitivity and openness to the possibility of contradiction and paradox, whether as features that are distinctive to madness, or perhaps as cracks and fissures running through ordinary subjectivity and reality.

In the next 2024 edition of the Too Mad to be True conference, we aim to invite papers and contributions that explore the notion of contradiction and paradox in madness, philosophy and related fields. The following (non-exhaustive) subthemes may be addressed and discussed:

Act and/or affliction: madness is sometimes portrayed as an affliction passively suffered by individuals, yet it may also have—a less emphasized—intentional quality, more or less actively ‘willed’, brought about, and (to some extent) under self-conscious control. Reconciling, or at least acknowledging, these contradictory aspects of act/affliction might be crucial for advancing contemporary understandings of the development and recovery of/from madness.

 

Freedom and/or necessity: In first person accounts of madness, as well as in psychopathological theories, implicit or explicit notions of freedom versus restriction/determinism are often applied. Some accounts describe madness as a form of transgression, involving boundless human desire and extreme inner freedom. In others, madness is described as something which severely restricts subjective autonomy and freedom, determined by compulsive thoughts, voices and visions.

 

Self and/or non-self: alterations of selfhood are recognized as crucial features of madness. Some forms of self-experience—e.g., in so-called first-rank symptoms—seem to entail diminshed forms of selfhood, whereas others—e.g., subjectivism, quasi-solipsism, ontological paranoia—seem characterized by an excessive or exaggerated sense of self. In some forms of mad experience, these contradictory and antithetical aspects of self can even combine and co-exist. How can these complex forms of selfhood be understood? And what are their critical implications for contemporary models of so-called minimal self-disorders?

 

Pride and/or problems: In much modern discourse on psychosis, care and treatment, it is acknowledged that in addition to all negative aspects of psychosis as a mental disorder, there is at least a sense of making strength out of weaknesses, or conceiving a crisis as an opportunity for change. To what extent can madness be considered as something to be proud of (mad pride), something as an extra (psychological) power, and how can both its problematic and its pride aspects be accounted for?

 

Person and/or system: When we take care of each other, do we act within systemic frameworks, acknowledging theory and institutional responsibilities? Or should care take place on a person-to-person base? How can balances be found between empathic, engaged and personal involvements on the one hand, and professional considerations that take place within a broader social and economic field on the other hand?

 

Universal and/or aberration: In some theories (e.g., in psychoanalysis), psychosis is approached as an essential trait, common to all human subjectivity, but perhaps varying in the extent to which it becomes manifest. In others, psychosis is identified as something wholly distinct from normality, ascribed to only some individuals and/or occurring at particular moments in time. While the former view might struggle to clarify differences between mad and ordinary subjectivity, the latter might cover over forms of madness already present in everyday experience. How do these oppositions of the universal and the particular play out in theoretical approaches of madness? Is there a way to reconcile them, or should we privilege one over the other?

 

Literal and/or figurative: How should psychotic language be understood? Is it to be interpreted and translated as a form of metaphorical, figurative, or poetic expression? Or should some statements better be taken at face value, as ordinary descriptive and empirical statements? What contexts of reference and which linguistic approaches can be of relevance in clarifying differences between psychotic and non-psychotic language?

 

The nature of paradox: What is the philosophical and/or ontological status of paradox? Does it describe a mere figure of thought, a telling sign of confusion, symptomatic of the troubled philosophical or mad mind? Or do paradoxes actually exist in the reality? If so, are all paradoxes formally equal, or should we distinguish between different kinds of paradox (e.g., Zeno’s, McTaggart or Russell’s paradoxes)?  And if so, are they perhaps related to different kinds of madness?


Advisory board

Alastair Morgan (Senior Lecturer Mental Health/ Critical Theorist at the University of Manchester, UK).

Angela Woods (Professor of Medical Humanities at the Durham University, UK).

Clara Humpston (Lecturer in Mental Health at the Department of Psychology at the University of York, UK).

Louis Sass (Professor of Clinical Psychology at the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University, US).

Stijn Vanheule (Professor of Psychoanalysis and Clinical psychological Assessment at Ghent University).