sanity

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  • #202692
    Weird Jim
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    You need to prove your character ( a leader) is sane. How are you going to do this? Bear in mind that Hitler’s Nazis did nothing illegal until they started the war. Those who were convicted were found guilty of conspiracy to wage war. (That’s my understanding anyway.) Are cannibals sane, for instance? How do you know you’re sane?

    #240420
    MarFisk
    Moderator
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    You must first define sanity, and it is not possible to do some without cultural bias. Cannibals in modern, Western societies are insane by the definitions of that society. The act itself, while not the wisest as far as the risk of disease, is not biologically unknown.

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    #240421
    Magic Seeker
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    Proving sanity would be hard. Proving insanity might be easier. It might be easier to prove a sane person is insane, just by the way you ask the questions. You could convince a sane character to doubt his/her sanity just by asking the questions.

    I agree, it often comes down to social norms. The cannibal leader who refuses to eat human flesh could be deemed insane, particularly in a time of famine. The Nazis who refused Hitler’s orders could be called insane, because insubordination could get them shot.

    To prove it in a story … I think I’d show it by the character acting consistently and ethically under stress. But proving it to other characters? It’s like proving a negative (there’s no mice in the meadow – but how can you prove there’s no mice in a place they’d be happy to live?).

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    #240422
    zette
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    Sanity is defined by society and culture, so you must define those first before you can make a decision on what is sane and note sane within your story. Things that women do now would have been called insane a hundred years ago and gotten them locked away, for instance. You cannot define sanity (except in the very widest areas) without defining the beliefs and expectations of the society first.

    #240423
    Wandering Author
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    • Topics - 34
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    “Sanity” versus “insanity” have always been subjective concepts. Many Romans thought the Jews insane for their devotion to the idea of monotheism – to a Roman, accepting all gods was seen as sane. Women’s roles have changed dramatically in the past hundred years – look at psychological literature from a hundred years ago and you will discover that, by those definitions, nearly every woman alive today is insane. Homosexuality was defined as a psychological disorder in the DSM into the 1960s or 1970s.

    Many times in the DSM, if you read descriptions of this or that disorder, it will list a symptom, then qualify that by specifying it must be extreme enough to interfere with an individual’s functioning in society. That seems reasonable enough… but if you remember the criticisms of Soviet psychiatry because they classed dissidents – or political prisoners – as insane, it is rather ironic. After all, in the Soviet Union, if you disagreed with the official wisdom, you were unable to function in that society. So, by the standards we use, those dissidents were insane for that society.

    I am not agreeing or disagreeing with the Soviet system as a whole – that whould be outside the scope of your question and the TOS. I’m just pointing out that sanity is in the eyes of the beholder. So if you are in deep disagreement with those accusing you of insanity, it may be impossible to prove to them you are insane. Or, at least, you’d have to turn their view of the world upside down to do it. Which is something many people have tried, but very few have succeeded at. Sorry, but them’s the rules. ;)

    There are a few very narrow senses in which that may not be the case. For example, if you are accused of having hallucinations, you may be able to prove what you’re seeing is actually there. Or, if a particular action is questioned as insane, an explanation of the unusual circumstances which led up to it and justified it may also establish your sanity. But in the broader sense, in a country of madmen, it is the sane who would be sent to psychiatric hospitals.

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