Ep 33: Philosophy and Mental Health; Foucault’s Nightmare?

Welcome one and all to Professor Metal’s Irate Debate and Calamitous Commentary with The Philosophical Chain Gang

Today’s episode is Madness and Philosophy: Foucault’s Nightmare?

Warning: We are discussing the concept of Mental Health in this episode, which we understand is a topic about which many people hold strong opinions. These are our own opinions and experiences, and should not be perceived as professional opinions or advice

The Philosophers discuss what we mean when we talk about madness

Sean explains Pathologies and what that term means

The Philosophers talk about mental illness as something that negatively impacts your life

Sean explains how this could be viewed through Value Theory

Ryver and Sean clarify this point by discussing some of the push-back against these ideas of mental health

Bruce talks about the ability the internet grants to form communities and allow people to come together over things that differ from the perceived societal norm

Ryver and Sean explain the benefits of this in terms of things people cannot or do not feel comfortable talking about in their local community

Sean discusses the evolution of the idea of community as a result of the expansion of the internet

Bruce proposes that perhaps the medical model of mental health will need to change with the evolution of expanding cultures

Sean counters that this may not be a problem with the medical model of mental illness as much as the public health model, that perhaps there needs to be an individual idea

The Philosophers talk about the dangers of self-selected communities creating a form of intellectual homogeneity that reinforces behaviours that do not integrate with the society as a whole

Sean clarifies that these same groups can provide the support people with a particular world-view need to better integrate into said society

Ryver discusses some of the benefits of these groups from his own experiences

Sean and Bruce go over the benefits of introspection and the tools Philosophy can give us to analyse our own world

Ryver discusses the evolution of societal ideas of normalcy, including changes to the tool many use to diagnose mental illness: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)

Sean and Ryver talk about the history of treating mental illness

Sean discusses the history of how people with what we now refer to as mental illness were treated, as well as what Foucault had to say about this history

Ryver briefly talks about the history of asylums

Bruce compares and contrasts the historical and modern problems with how mental illness is considered as a whole

Sean discusses Foucault and the transitions of epochs of knowledge and how this impacts our ideas of illness in general and mental illness specifically

Bruce proposes Aristotelian virtue ethics as a precursor to modern psychology

Ryver posits that some of the behaviours we consider to be pathologies are actually useful character traits in certain professions and fields

Sean expands on this point by discussing the importance of efficiency in our society

The Philosophers discuss different ways this can apply to people with mental illness

Sean and Ryver talk about how perception of these traits are tied quite closely to socio-economic status

Ryver explains how this view seems to have evolved in the modern Zeitgeist

Sean and Bruce raise questions about this view

Ryver responds by clarifying the points he has raised

The Philosophers discuss how the views on and the stigma towards mental illness disproportionately impact the poor

Sean and Bruce flesh out this idea as it pertains to modern American culture

The Philosophers talk about discussions on mental health and mental illness, and encourage you to have these discussions

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“God’s Not Dead 2″

GND2-Final-Key-Art-002-copy-1000x520 An analysis Not an april fools joke: By S.A.Kehr


I have become aware that a sequel to the awful movie “God’s not dead” is being released today. I want to briefly talk about this as it touches on some things I consider deeply important. As most of you who know me personally know I am an atheist but that’s not what I want to talk about. Many of you will also realise that april fools day is a terrible day to release any movie, also not what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is firstly the portrayal of philosophy in popular culture.


We as a society have lost touch with the value that philosophy brings to our lives. We engage it every day through value theory about what we should or should not do, want, make and be. we engage it through our appreciation of beauty be it in art, literature, music, or even the world around us. We engage it in the attempt to understand ourselves and each other and live meaningful lives whatever you may believe that looks like. You might ask “So if we are already fully integrating philosophy into our lives what’s the problem?” Answer: We’re doing it badly! the goal of philosophy at large is not to change your beliefs but to help you have the clearest picture of them you can. For each of us we must at some point decide how our lives are to be lived and it is only by having the best tools at our disposal when evaluating those choices that we can have the most effective solutions. If we fail to take seriously our understanding of these matters then how can we hope to make better decisions in the future or even know what it is we truly want. This misunderstanding is embedded in the title of this movie and for that reason I would like to share the unpacking of it with you.


The titular phrase “God’s not dead” is a paraphrasing rebuttal of one of my favorite philosophers, Nietzsche, who famously said “god is dead” but what is meant by this is not well understood. Nietzsche was indeed an atheist and from this we can know that he did not mean “There was something like a person that was called god and it has ceased to live”. Nietzsche also was well aware that plenty of people were still devout believers and so we can surmise that he did not mean “no one believes in god anymore”. Instead what he is saying is that for an ever growing population of middle to upper class europeans specifically those involved in the burgeoning sciences and their rejection of supernaturalism, at this time in history the notion of god was essentially meaningless and that even if some still payed lip service to the idea of a supreme being it was less a force in their daily lives as it was a black box to hold the mysteries we didn’t yet have better answers for. The god Nietzsche is referring too is the all too real presence to which humans chalked up events they could not understand like why the sun rises or the winters were cold and as we begin to understand more fully the interconnectedness of the natural world and the processes that lie beneath it we no longer needed that mysterious supernatural force to make sense of the chaos. Nietzsche is commenting on the state of mankind’s understanding not declaring a purge of the religious. While it would be disingenuous for me to say Nietzsche didn’t care whether or not you believe it’s also incorrect to think that this declaration is his argument against it. Nietzsche cared most that we each be honest about what we wanted to see in this world and work toward that goal unfettered by the manipulations and machinations of those who would mislead us for their own gain. This was his main charge against religion, A charge he leveled as well at the emerging science of his day! Nietzsche wasn’t a propagandist for atheism but instead a radical believer in self determination. For him the worst outcome would be to let someone else tell you what to think or believe and to that end pronouncing the death of god was pronouncing the birth of ourselves as masters of our fate.

To bring us back around let’s consider the fundamental problem that brought us here in the first place. The role of philosophy is to help us understand the world we live in and are a part of. Those who study philosophy are well equipped to tackle the questions that provide us with a path to a fulfilling life because they have learned to parse information and understand its meaning. It is not an attempt to change your opinions or beliefs unless they are built on shaky foundations. Philosophy does not care WHAT you believe but that you believe it for the right reasons. Philosophy cares that you aren’t mislead or convinced by bad arguments and it contains no inherent bias against any given position. As such treating Philosophy as your enemy is telling of the practices you are engaged in because what philosophy IS the enemy of is Propaganda. While I have not seen this only now released sequel It’s forbearer is just that and tips its hand from the very start by misleading the viewer about the content its title is a supposed rebuttal to.


As I said at the start I am an atheist and as such wasn’t likely to be a fan of this movie but I am always open to the possibility of being wrong. I would love to be confronted by an argument that challenged my views on the existence of the divine or supernatural. What I will not suffer quietly is the abuse of the practice I have dedicated my life to or the subversion of its principals to hide the odious hand of propaganda. Philosophy, the love of wisdom, is above all things honest. Sometimes that honesty is painful, at others it is a relief, but to pervert it for the sake of “winning” is to weave the rope that will hang us all. We live in a time where our divisions are made painfully clear and the vitreal between us has consumed much of our potential. Let us not squander what remains but instead learn to face painful truth with the optimism and hope of a better life to come from the hardship we now endure.


I won’t presume to tell you you should or shouldn’t see this movie but if you decide you will at least view it with the critical eye philosophy has instilled in us and share that with those who haven’t had the chance to develop it themselves, not as an enemy but as a friend, because it is up to each of us to be the ambassadors of reason. If we can not follow that old adage to “disagree without being disagreeable”  then what hope is there to pass on this valant practice to those who need it most. I would leave you with one more slightly vague Nietzsche quote to ponder in that spirit of generous debate:


“What I know by the term Philosopher is a powerful explosive in the presence of which all things are in danger” 

A Year in Villainy: An Introspective



A few quick words: This month’s essay will be our last monthly installment. While we all enjoy producing content for you, getting these essays out the door has become something of a chore so we’re scaling back from monthly to occasional in the hopes of prioritizing quality over quantity. We would rather use the stage this podcast gives us to bring you content that feels fully fleshed out rather than just meet the deadline. Give it a chance and if we hear enough requests to bring back monthly essays we will probably oblige. There are a few other changes coming as we try to grow and tweak this little experiment. Thanks for your support and loyalty


By Vincent Lee Metal

I’m going to take a moment to break from character and explain the why and how behind the creation of the Professor Metal character and how he came to be involved in a Philosophy podcast. I hope you’ll forgive the break in the performance, but even I, great though I am, cannot be Professor Metal at all time.

Okay, so the breaking from character is off to a bad start. Still, there is a story to be told, as I have found to be the case behind so many things we see in our day to day lives.

I have worked to understand people for as long as I can remember. I started traveling just to be able to see what “over there” was like and whether or not the people were any different. I’ve seen things from a wide variety of places and perspectives within modern society, and most of the perspectives I have sought solely so that I might know what the view looks like from there. I’m not some kind of anthropologist or sociologist. I just really like to understand where other people are coming from. And from this I have figured out one important thing: Everyone likes to think that they are ultimately a good person.

Now, despite what you may think from the phrasing of that observation, I do not disagree; people are, by and large, decent enough. But even people who do more harm than good can often justify their actions well enough to fool at least themselves. And that has always made me wonder if it is possible to have the capacity for empathy AND lack the need to justify one’s actions as ultimately good.

It is worth noting that at the point in my life I started wondering about these things, I did not know what I wanted to do with my life. I’m still only relatively certain. But I had neither entertained the idea of college nor even bothered completing high school. I was not unintelligent. I was just not as familiar with the ideas that had come before me. I did not even know that the thing I had been kicking around in my head had a name already: it was my first Thought Experiment. After quite a few years of wandering, I eventually settled down and decided to try my hand at school for the first time in a long time.

It turned out that my strengths were in the things I had never really had much interaction with in K-12: Political Science, Sociology, Philosophy, things what are largely mental pursuits. STEM fields always interested me, but my limited capacity for memorizing formulae and equations did me a disservice in this regard. And yet, I did relatively well in other courses of study. I met the people what would become the members of the Philosophical Chain Gang back in those days and we became fast friends, having several common interests and a tolerance for one another’s company. Then, as almost every good story about a rather radical shift in a person starts, I met Someone.

It started by learning about the things she was in to, and amongst those, the Steampunk aesthetic spoke to me quite strongly. It started with the way I dressed when going to conventions. People started asking me if I was a Steampunk character they were simply unfamiliar with or if I was an “Original Character”. Then I started dressing like that every day. It was comfortable, like the way I should have been dressing all along.

One day, at a convention, a small child walked up to me and asked me if I was a super-villain. The ideas and concepts I had once pondered as something of a leisure activity came back to me. I smiled, and told them that indeed I was. One of my friends at the convention with me told the child I was called Professor Metal. Sitting around telling stories about the Con at the end of events spawned several stories about this character that we just sort of made up on the spot. It wasn’t until several months later that this would come to be something more than jokes told in passing between people what knew each other from the various conventions, many of which I performed security duties for.

When sitting around doing concept work for what a podcast from myself and the people what would later come to be the Philosophical Chain Gang would look like, these gentlemen who had become like family to me raised the possibility of having a bit of fun with the idea of Professor Metal. I feel that for sake of giving credit where credit is due, this was not originally my idea. But the group of us picked it up and ran with it, as the idea of using me as the mediator/commentator had already been raised. I have a decent enough voice for that sort of thing and I do not have the ability to come up with well-formulated arguments as quickly as the rest of the Gang.

As we have built the podcast, we have sort of created the lore around this character, Professor Metal. He is a super villain that feels no need to defend his actions as “good”. And yet, I feel, he is ultimately not a bad person as he makes himself out to be. He doesn’t lack empathy, but neither does he feel that he is morally responsible to anyone but himself. He is a constantly evolving character, developing in ways that neither myself nor Sean, who easily does more work to make this podcast what it is than the rest of us, can foresee. It has been a great year of creating content we can be proud of; content we hope you have been enjoying if you have been with us for a while now or that you will enjoy if you are only finding us for the first time.