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Strong Imagination Madness, Creativity and Human Nature

by Daniel Nettle

  • ISBN: 9780198507062
  • ISBN10: 0198507062

Strong Imagination Madness, Creativity and Human Nature

by Daniel Nettle

  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Oxford Univ Pr
  • Publish date: 04/01/2001
  • ISBN: 9780198507062
  • ISBN10: 0198507062
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Description: Madness is the central mystery of the human psyche. Our minds evolved to give us a faithful understanding of reality, to allow us to integrate into our communities, and to help us adapt our behaviour to our environment. Yet in serious mental illness, the mind does exactly the opposite of these things. The sufferer builds castles of imaginative delusion, fails to adapt, and becomes a stranger among his own people. Yet mental illness is no marginal phenomenon: itis found in all societies and all historical epochs, and the genes that underlie it are quite common. Furthermore, the traits that identify the madman are found in attenuated form in normal thinking and feeling. The persistence of madness, then, is a terrible puzzle from both an evolutionary and ahuman point of view. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare suggested a link between madness and artistic creativity: 'The lunatic, the lover, and the poet', he wrote, 'Are of imagination all compact'. Recent studies have shown that there is indeed a connection. Rates of mental illness are hugely elevated in the families of poets, writers and artists, suggesting that the same genes, the same temperaments, and the same imaginative capacities are at work in insanity and in creativeability. Thus the reason madness continues to exist is that the traits behind it have psychological benefits as well as psychological costs. In Strong Imagination, Daniel Nettle explores the nature of mental illness, the biological mechanisms that underlie it, and its link to creative genius. He goes onto consider the place of both madness and creative imagination in the evolution of our species.
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