The answer is not easy ...
Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, by Michel Foucault, is an examination of the ideas, practices, institutions, art and literature relating to madness in Western history. It is the abridged English edition of Histoire de la folie à l'âge classique, originally published in 1961 under the title Folie et déraison. Histoire de la folie à l'âge classique. A full translation titled The History of Madness was published by Routledge in June 2006. This was Foucault's first major book, written while he was the Director of the Maison de France in Sweden.
Foucault begins his history in the Middle Ages, noting the social and physical exclusion of lepers. He argues that with the gradual disappearance of leprosy, madness came to occupy this excluded position. The ship of fools in the 15th century is a literary version of one such exclusionary practice, the practice of sending mad people away in ships. However, during the Renaissance, madness was regarded as an all-abundant phenomenon because humans could not come close to the Reason of God. As Cervantes' Don Quixote, all humans are weak to desires and dissimulation. Therefore, the insane, understood as those who had come too close to God's Reason, were accepted in the middle of society. It is not before the 17th century, in a movement which Foucault famously describes as the Great Confinement, that "unreasonable" members of the population systematically were locked away and institutionalized. In the 18th century, madness came to be seen as the obverse of Reason, that is, as having lost what made them human and become animal-like and therefore treated as such. It is not before 19th century that madness was regarded as a mental illness that should be cured, e.g. Philippe Pinel, Freud. A few professional historians have argued that the large increase in confinement did not happen in 17th but in the 19th century. Critics argue that this undermines the central argument of Foucault, notably the link between the Age of Enlightenment and the suppression of the insane.
However, Foucault scholars have shown that Foucault was not talking about medical institutions designed specifically for the insane but about the creation of houses of confinement for social outsiders, including not only the insane but also vagrants, unemployed, impoverished, and orphaned, and what effect those general houses of confinement had on the insane and perceptions of Madness in western society. Furthermore, Foucault goes to great lengths to demonstrate that while this "confinement" of social outcasts was a generally European phenomenon, it had a unique development in France and distinct developments in the other countries that the confinement took place in, such as Germany and England, disproving complaints that Foucault takes French events to generalize the history of madness in the West. A few of the historians critical of its historiography, such as Roy Porter, also began to concur with these refutations and discarded their own past criticisms to acknowledge the revolutionary nature of Foucault's book.
Foucault also argues that madness during the Renaissance had the power to signify the limits of social order and to point to a deeper truth. This was silenced by the Reason of the Enlightenment. He also examines the rise of modern scientific and "humanitarian" treatments of the insane, notably at the hands of Philippe Pinel and Samuel Tuke. He claims that these modern treatments were in fact no less controlling than previous methods. Tuke's country retreat for the mad consisted of punishing them until they gave up their commitment to madness. Similarly, Pinel's treatment of the mad amounted to an extended aversion therapy, including such treatments as freezing showers and the use of straitjackets. In Foucault's view, this treatment amounted to repeated brutality until the pattern of judgment and punishment was internalized by the patient.
I read the book in my youth, when I weren't able to evaluate the information and interpretation in a critical manner. At least I remember, that the book presented material to this question. It's a rather brutal interpretation.
http://www.helau.de/wissenswertes_artik ... 59216.html
Im antiken Rom huldigten die Priester beim Festzug durch die Stadt ihrem Gott Bacchus in schiffartigen Wagen. Der erste für Köln nachgewiesene Umzug fand 1341 zu Ehren einer spätrömischen Göttin der Fruchtbarkeit und Schifffahrt ebenfalls in zu Schiffen umgebauten Wagen statt. Davon stammt die heute noch gängige Bezeichnung Narrenschiff.
This explanation might be well a carnival joke.
According this: The Romans honored Bacchus in chariots which looked like a ship. The first procession which used a chariot-ship is proven for Cologne in the year 1341 in honor of a late Roman goddess of fertility and ship-travelling. From this comes the still used name Narrenschiff.
My personal remark: This sounds, as if somebody meditated too long about St. Ursula and her 11.000 virgin, which all arrived with a ship or many ships from England. Why just 1341 ? ... Petrarca wrote about Cologne and became later (just 1341) poetus laureatus.
The visit is reported here ...
http://books.google.com/books?id=SWoGAA ... 33&f=false
... naturally that's a famous Petrarca-letter in Cologne. Petrarca detects many beautiful women, and it's a wonderful day, just the festivity of John the Baptist (24th of June) and there's a lucky ritual at the river Rhine, which makes all the bad things swim down the Rhine to some other places ...
Indeed I found ship-chariots in Italian Trionfi descriptions (as triumphal procession) of 15th century (in the bride-journey from Rome to Ferrara of Lucrezia Borgia 1502) and Venice had Trionfi with ships in 1493 or short before for Beatrice d'Este. And in Cologne we have an annual many-ships-Trionfi called "Kölner Lichter", but that's not during carnival (too cold), but in summer, and it ends with a lot of fire-crackers in front of the dome (on the Rhine-side).