Dear Fellows of mine on the list,

I am very glad that someone has raised the question of psychopharmacology=
, because for a while
I have been thinking of a sentence of Foucault.
In "La folie, l'absence d'oeuvre", that is, in one of the appendices in =
the second edition of
Folie et deraison (p. 582) he wrote the following: "dans les hopitaux, =
la pharmacologie a deja
transforme les salles d'agites en grands aquariums tiedes." I must admit =
I do not know whether
the paper has been translated into English, but a translation would be: =
"in the hospitals, the
pharmacology has already transformed the rooms of the agitated mad into =
huge lukewarm
aquariums." And that was written in 1972. Nowadays the psychiatrists are =
proud of being able to
achieve better performance than the traditional hospital departments.

My questions are the following:
1. Is there a moral critique in what Foucault wrote? I mean: did he want =
to express resentment by
using the metaphor "lukewarm aquarium," or he only wanted to register a =
fact, and the metaphor
was just to show the contrast between the early and the late modern situa=
2. What does the metaphor express?

I do think that Foucault is mostly "beyond good and bad", that is, beyond=
the problem whether
something, e.g., a situation is good or bad. It means the contrast must =
have been the more
important and not a possible resentment, even if there may be a kind of =
irony at least in the use of
exactly that metaphor.
The first thing that came to my mind was the painting of E. Munch "The =
Cry" [I hope that
is not far away from its English title!], where a human being (one cannot=
make out if it is a woman
or a man) is crying but in a way that the other passers-by do not seem =
to pay attention, probably
because the cry is dumb. Just like the fish when they are gaping in their=
lukewarm aquarium.
This "lukewarm" may also be significant. Remember the classical age theo=
ries on
madness, their stress on the qualities, particularly on the temperature =
of the spirits inside the

mad. How they used to connect mania to heat and melancolia to cold. Lukew=
arm is neutral, it is in
between where all the extremities are got rid of.
And that is the point where we could turn to the point 1.: is it a probl=
em, is it bad that
modern society wants to get rid of the extremities, is that loss really =
so grave, so sorrowful, or we
ought to be happy (modestly, of course, never extemely) of it?
I do not think Foucault wanted to make judgement of that sort. He may =
have wanted no
more than just draw attention to a situation where the society is scared =
by anything that is not
lukewarm. The date is important: 1972, he was about to deal with the prob=
lems of the prison,
discipline, disciplinary power, normalization and so on.
Perhaps the word "extremity" is not appropriate, since extremity belongs=
to the society for
which it is extreme. And that is the point: extremity is the word for all=
the things, all the
phenomena that are supposed not to belong to the modern society, but whos=
e heterogeneity
could not and should not be admitted, because in that case it would turn =
out that there is a
sphere, perhaps a whole world outside our own.
If it is true, the marvellous progress of psychpharmacology is a clear =
continuation of the
modernist project which is not willing to put up with heterogeneity even =
if it is closed behind high
walls and heavy doors, as classicism was, it wants to turn everything luk=
ewarm. The mad used to
cry, now they are just gaping.
One more thing only! A friend of mine, a psychiatrist told me that after=
the medicinal
treatment the patients cease to feel emotions as intensive as they used =
to, they get rid of both
intensive sufferings as well as intensive pleasures.


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