Re: crazy people/Re: explination of feminist perspective

Bob Green (
Sun, 13 Apr 1997 07:39:44 +1000


Regarding your recent post,-

>1) For me, 'crazy' is simply a characterization, formulated in language
>as either an opinion or a fact, made by an observer, of some aspect(s)
>of themselves or another. What that suggests to me is that we should
>turn our attention from the conundrums of naming.
> ~Instead, as I believe you agree, we might better focus our attention
>on grounding or operationalizing the distinction, 'crazy.' I believe
>this will require that we posit some standards of assessment we can
>agree upon, regarding observable actions / behavior, which we say
>constitute the presence of'crazy.'
> ~Even then, we are left with the possibility that what we come up with
>will be distinctions of opinion vs. distinctions of replicable,
>inter-subjectively reliable fact.

In my view the problem can we readily agree on what is crazy? Even offical
classification systems change over time as to what constitutes a mental
disorder. This can be as much a sociological/historical question, e.g.,
homosexuality is no longer classed as a mental illness/disorder.
Interreliability studies abound on judgements made by psychiatrists and
other mental health workers, from my recollection agreement varies
significantly according to the type of diagnosis being considered (e.g.,
schizophrenia versus some form personality disorder). the literature on
professional judgement suggests experts do not necessarily agree, even when
it comes to things like reading an x-ray.

There will probably be some extremes of behaviour we can readily agree upon
as "crazy", it gets far more contentious as subtleties are encountered.
Then there is the practical issue of dealing with someone who is labelled as
"crazy", validating them as a person and not being able to share some of
their construing of the world. To me this is another core issue.

>2) Regarding another of your points:
>> In my private discussions with Jim I think the notion was discussed of some
>> events being more readily verifiable than others (e.g can I swim or is a
>> rock heavy?), whereas psychic events (behaviour/speech) is far more
>> subjective and less readily agreed upon, in terms of what it "means".

>Does this mean that you believe that behaviour/speech are 'psychic'
>events, hence are intrinsically less able to be observed / measured
>than swimming or rock weight? Would you say more on this?

Psychic probably isn't a good description, I couldn't readily think of
another. The short anawer is that most people will agree (I assume) that a
dog is a dog, however if someone struck that dog, there could be
innummerbale attributions attached as to why the person struck the dog.
This is where individual personal constructs and construing of events
operate. It is not so much that this action couldn't be measured but what
are you measuring? What would strike rate per minute or increase in pulse
rate reveal about what happened?

>> To describe someone as crazy there must be some idea of what constitutes its
>> opposite, otherwise evreyone is seen as crazy becuase discriminations
>> between people can'rt be made. Constructs are tools used to make these
>> discriminations..
>I, too, appreciate Tim's contribution. But I'm curious to know where
>the notion arose that...
>> >
>> >Bipolarity refers to the presence of an opposite pole (whereas a
>> >concept does not necessarily imply its opposite)....
>I am concerned that we are likening linguistic interpretations
>(bipolarity) with physical dimensionality (...there must be some idea of
>what constitutes its opposite....) I'm not very clear on this, but take
>a look,will you? As best I can see, there is no 'opposite pole' that
>exists or can be logically-determined as a function of the establishment
>of an initial 'pole.' Rather, we are simply constructing an
>interpretation of both the distinction 'construct,' and of its
>anatomy.Or is my ignorance simply showing here?

Tim has commented on this and his suggested reading is a good place to start.

>4) Regarding your final point:
>> This is the core of the issue, is there some shared understanding of what
"crazy" refers to, is it a useful construct/concept, and what is the process
of labelling people as "crazy"?
>I look forward to continuing to inquire with you, and our other
>interested maillist colleagues, as to the answers to this excellent

As a starting point what constitutes 'crazy behaviour for you? What sorts
of actions/behviour speech suggest craziness? Your examples will provide an
interesting basis to concretely examine how much shared agreement there is.