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Insanity is relative. It depends on who has who locked in what cage. ~ Ray Bradbury

Insanity, craziness, or madness, is a spectrum of behaviors characterized by certain abnormal mental or behavioral patterns. Insanity may manifest in people as violations of societal norms, including becoming a danger to themselves and others, though not all such acts are considered insanity. In modern usage insanity is most commonly encountered as an informal unscientific term denoting mental instability, or in the narrow legal context of the insanity defense.


  • Have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the mad man in my presence?
    • Achish king of Gath, Bible, Samuel I, 21:15.
  • All schizophrenia patients are mad, and none are sane. Their behaviour is incomprehensible. It tells us nothing about what they do in the rest of their lives, gives no insight into the human condition and has no lesson for sane people except how sane they are. There's nothing profound about it. Schizophrenics aren't clever or wise or witty — they may make some very odd remarks but that's because they're mad, and there's nothing to be got out of what they say. When they laugh at things the rest of us don't think are funny, like the death of a parent, they're not being penetrating, and on other occasions they're not wryly amused at at the simplicity and stupidity of the psychiatrist, however well justified that might be in many cases. They're laughing because they're mad, too mad to be able to tell what's funny any more. The rewards for being sane may not be very many but knowing what's funny is one of them. And that's an end of the matter.
  • Love: A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder. This disease is prevalent only among civilized races living under artificial conditions; barbarous nations breathing pure air and eating simple food enjoy immunity from its ravages. It is sometimes fatal, but more frequently to the physician than to the patient.
  • Mad, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence; not conforming to standards of thought, speech, and action derived by the conformants from study of themselves; at odds with the majority; in short, unusual. It is noteworthy that persons are pronounced mad by officials destitute of evidence that they themselves are sane.
  • I'm seventeen and I'm crazy. My uncle says the two always go together. When people ask your age, he said, always say seventeen and insane.
  • Detective Bullock: Your Honor, any nutcase that dresses up like a bat sooner or later is gonna snap.
Commissioner Gordon: Listen, it's just not Batman's M.O.
Bullock: Oh yeah?! Tell that to the guy he just tossed through the window!
  • Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.
    • Attributed to Kenneth Boulding in United States Congress, House (1973), Energy reorganization act of 1973: Hearings, Ninety-third Congress, first session, on H.R. 11510. p. 248
  • Get it understood how dangerous these damaged, sick personalities are to ourselves - and above all, to our children, whose traits are taking form and we shall find ways to put an end to them.
  • The Buggers have finally, finally learned that we humans value each and every individual human life... But they've learned this lesson just in time for it to be hopelessly wrong—for we humans do, when the cause is sufficient, spend our own lives. We throw ourselves onto the grenade to save our buddies in the foxhole. We rise out of the trenches and charge the entrenched enemy and die like maggots under a blowtorch. We strap bombs on our bodies and blow ourselves up in the midst of our enemies. We are, when the cause is sufficient, insane.
  • Rose: I can see everything. All that is, all that was, all that ever could be.
Doctor: That's what I see. All the time. And doesn't it drive you mad?
  • I don't withdraw a word of my initial statement. But I do now think it may have been incomplete. There is perhaps a fifth category, which may belong under "insane" but which can be more sympathetically characterized by a word like tormented, bullied, or brainwashed. Sincere people who are not ignorant, not stupid, and not wicked can be cruelly torn, almost in two, between the massive evidence of science on the one hand, and their understanding of what their holy book tells them on the other. I think this is one of the truly bad things religion can do to a human mind. There is wickedness here, but it is the wickedness of the institution and what it does to a believing victim, not wickedness on the part of the victim himself.
    • Richard Dawkins "Ignorance Is No Crime", Free Inquiry 21 (3), Summer 2001, ISSN 0272-0701
    • Regarding his 1989 statement "It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)."
  • I should really like to think there’s something wrong with me —
Because, if there isn’t then there’s something wrong,
Or at least, very different from what it seemed to be,
With the world itself—and that’s much more frightening!
  • You are right, Mr. Bond.
    That is just what I am, a maniac.
    All the greatest men are maniacs.
    They are possessed by a mania that drives them towards their goal.
    The great scientists, the philosophers, the religious leaders — all maniacs.
  • Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind over tasked. Good mental machinery ought to break its own wheels and levers, if anything is thrust among them suddenly which tends to stop them or reverse their motion. A weak mind does not accumulate force enough to hurt itself; stupidity often saves a man from going mad.
  • The days of visitation are come, the days of recompence are come; Israel shall know it: the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad
  • And home was as squalid psychically as physically. Psychically, it was a rabbit hole, a midden, hot with the frictions of tightly packed life, reeking with emotion. What suffocating intimacies, what dangerous, insane, obscene relationships between the members of the family group! Maniacally, the mother brooded over her children (her children) … brooded over them like a cat over its kittens; but a cat that could talk, a cat that could say, "My baby, my baby," over and over again. "My baby, and oh, oh, at my breast, the little hands, the hunger, and that unspeakable agonizing pleasure! Till at last my baby sleeps, my baby sleeps with a bubble of white milk at the corner of his mouth. My little baby sleeps …"
"Yes," said Mustapha Mond, nodding his head, "you may well shudder."
  • If we are all insane, then all insanity becomes a matter of degree. If your insanity leads you to carve up women like Jack the Ripper or the Cleveland Torso Murderer, we clap you away in the funny farm (except neither of those two amateur-night surgeons were ever caught, heh-heh-heh); if, on the other hand, your insanity leads you only to talk to yourself when you're under stress or to pick your nose on your morning bus, then you are left alone to go about your business...although it's doubtful that you will ever be invited to the best parties.
  • Recently, the press has been filled with reports of sightings of flying saucers. While we need not give credence to these stories, they allow our imagination to speculate on how visitors from outer space would judge us. I am afraid they would be stupefied at our conduct. They would observe that for death planning we spend billions to create engines and strategies for war. They would also observe that we spend millions to prevent death by disease and other causes. Finally they would observe that we spend paltry sums for population planning, even though its spontaneous growth is an urgent threat to life on our planet. Our visitors from outer space could be forgiven if they reported home that our planet is inhabited by a race of insane men whose future is bleak and uncertain.
  • Ignorance is a kind of insanity in the human animal. People who delight in torturing defenseless children or tiny creatures are in reality insane. The terrible thing is that people who are madmen in private may wear a totally bland and innocent expression in public.
  • A child born today in the United Kingdom stands a ten times greater chance of being admitted to a mental hospital than to a university … This can be taken as an indication that we are driving our children mad more effectively than we are genuinely educating them. Perhaps it is our way of educating them that is driving them mad.
  • Mental illness is in the eye of the beholder.
    • "Prot" in "K-PAX" (1995), screenplay by Charles Leavitt
  • There is a thin line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.
    • Oscar Levant, as quoted in Celebrity Register : An Irreverent Compendium of American Quotable Notables (1959) by Cleveland Amory ; also paraphrased as "There is a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line".
  • Bunch together a group of people deliberately chosen for strong religious feelings, and you have a practical guarantee of dark morbidities expressed in crime, perversion, and insanity.
  • It is the night-black Massachusetts legendry which packs the really macabre 'kick', Here is the material for a really profound study in group neuroticism; for certainly, no one can deny the existence of a profoundly morbid streak in the Puritan imagination....The very pre-ponderance of passionately pious men in the colony was virtually an assurance of unnatural crime; insomuch as psychology now proves the religious instinct to be a form of transmuted eroticism precisely parallel to the transmutations in other directions which respectively produce such things as sadism, hallucination, melancholia, and other mental morbidities. Bunch together a group of people deliberately chosen for strong religious feelings, and you have a practical guarantee of dark morbidities expressed in crime, perversion, and insanity. This was aggravated, of course, by the Puritan policy of rigorously suppressing all the natural outlets of excuberant feeling--music, laughter, colour, pageantry, and so on. To observe Christmas Day was once a prison offence....
  • The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
  • Madness and insanity are two terms that are so vague and relative that you can’t really apportion proper values to them. The only thing I can think of that has any use it functional and dysfunctional. Are you working as well? In which case, it doesn’t matter if you are mad.
  • "So... I see you received the free ticket I sent you. I'm glad. I did so want you to be here. You see it doesn't matter if you catch me and send me back to the asylum... Gordon's been driven mad. I've proved my point. I've demonstrated there's no difference between me and everyone else! All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That's how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day. You had a bad day once, am I right? I know I am. I can tell. You had a bad day and everything changed. Why else would you dress up as a flying rat? You had a bad day, and it drove you as crazy as everybody else... Only you won't admit it! You have to keep pretending that life makes sense, that there's some point to all this struggling! God you make me want to puke. I mean, what is it with you? What made you what you are? Girlfriend killed by the mob, maybe? Brother carved up by some mugger? Something like that, I bet. Something like that... Something like that happened to me, you know. I... I'm not exactly sure what it was. Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another... If I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice! Ha ha ha! But my point is... My point is, I went crazy. When I saw what a black, awful joke the world was, I went crazy as a coot! I admit it! Why can't you? I mean, you're not unintelligent! You must see the reality of the situation. Do you know how many times we've come close to world war three over a flock of geese on a computer screen? Do you know what triggered the last world war? An argument over how many telegraph poles Germany owed its war debt creditors! Telegraph poles! Ha ha ha ha HA! It's all a joke! Everything anybody ever valued or struggled for... it's all a monstrous, demented gag! So why can't you see the funny side? Why aren't you laughing?"
  • “Remembering’s dangerous. I find the past such a worrying, anxious place. “The Past Tense,” I suppose you’d call it. Memory’s so treacherous. One moment you’re lost in a carnival of delights, with poignant childhood aromas, the flashing neon of puberty, all that sentimental candy-floss… the next, it leads you somewhere you don’t want to go. Somewhere dark and cold, filled with the damp ambiguous shapes of things you’d hoped were forgotten. Memories can be vile, repulsive little brutes. Like children I suppose. But can we live without them? Memories are what our reason is based upon. If we can’t face them, we deny reason itself! Although, why not? We aren’t contractually tied down to rationality! There is no sanity clause! So when you find yourself locked onto an unpleasant train of thought, heading for the places in your past where the screaming is unbearable, remember there’s always madness. Madness is the emergency exit… you can just step outside, and close the door on all those dreadful things that happened. You can lock them away… forever.”
  • Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.
    • From Narcotics Anonymous circa 1980; in print in an 1981 "approval version" of the Narcotics Anonymous "Basic Text" – see that page for details.
    • This and variations on it have also been variously attributed to Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Rita Mae Brown, and an old Chinese proverb, but this is the earliest known appearance and probable origin.
    • An earlier reference is an Osho Talk given in 1975:
    • “The mind is always asking you to do something over again, something you have already done so many times before. And every time you see that by doing it nothing is achieved. What else can madness be?”
    • And later in the same talk:
    • “To be mad is to keep repeating something that has already been seen as useless, as worthless.”
    • Osho, The Great Secret, Chapter #10
  • James Colmes: Oh, wouldn't it be great if I was crazy? Then the world would be okay.
  • Jeffrey Goines: Telephone call? Telephone call? That's communication with the outside world. Doctor's discretion. Nuh-uh. Look, hey — if all of these nuts could just make phone calls, they could spread insanity, oozing through telephone cables, oozing into the ears of all these poor sane people, infecting them. Wackos everywhere, a plague of madness. In fact, very few, very few of us here are actually mentally ill. I'm not saying you're not mentally ill, for all I know, you're crazy as a loon. But that's not why you're here. That's not why you're here. That's not why you're here! You're here because of the system.
  • Jeffrey Goines: You know what crazy is? Crazy is majority rules. Take germs, for example.
James Cole: Germs?
Jeffrey Goines: Uh-huh. Eighteenth century: no such thing, nada, nothing. No one ever imagined such a thing. No sane person. Along comes this doctor, uh, Semmelweis, Semmelweis. Semmelweis comes along. He's trying to convince people, other doctors mainly, that's there's these teeny tiny invisible bad things called germs that get into your body and make you sick. He's trying to get doctors to wash their hands. What is this guy? Crazy? Teeny, tiny, invisible? What do they call it? Uh-uh, germs? Huh? What? Now, up to the 20th century — last week, as a matter of fact, before I got dragged into this hellhole — I go in to order a burger at this fast-food joint, and the guy drops it on the floor. James, he picks it up, he wipes it off, he hands it to me like it's all OK. "What about the germs?" I say. He says "I don't believe in germs. Germs is a plot made up so they could sell disinfectants and soaps." Now he's crazy, right? See? Ah! Ah! There's no right, there's no wrong, there's only popular opinion. You... you... you believe in germs, right?
  • Kathryn Raily: What we say is the truth is what everybody accepts. ... I mean, psychiatry: it's the latest religion. We decide what's right and wrong. We decide who's crazy or not. I'm in trouble here. I'm losing my faith.
    • 12 Monkeys screenplay by David Peoples and Janet Peoples
  • Demona: Don't be afraid. I just want to talk.
Brooklyn: Yeah. Last time we met you just wanted to blow me away with a bazooka.
Demona: That was then.
Brooklyn: This is goodbye. [Prepares to glide off]
Demona: Wait, please! I'm sorry Brooklyn. I know I shouldn't have shot at you. I was crazy with grief and rage. If you only knew what I've gone through for hundreds of years dealing with the humans.
  • I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff— I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy.
  • We might liken the 'two selves' to Laurel and Hardy. Ollie is the objective mind, 'you'. Stan is the subjective mind, the 'hidden you'. But Stan happens to be in control of your energy supply. So if you wake up feeling low and discouraged, you (Ollie) tend to transmit your depression to Stan, who fails to send you energy, which makes you feel lower than ever. This vicious circle is the real cause of most mental illness.
  • Fisk: Poor people are crazy, Jack. (Hoists bag of money) I'm eccentric.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 396-97.
  • Like men condemned to thunderbolts,
    Who, ere the blow, become mere dolts.
  • Much madness is divinest sense
    To a discerning eye;
    Much sense the starkest madness.
    'Tis the majority
    In this, as all, prevails
    Assent, and you are sane;
    Demur,—you're straightway dangerous,
    And handled with a chain.
  • For those whom God to ruin has designed
    He fits for fate, and first destroys their mind.
    • John Dryden, Fables, The Hind and the Panther (1687), Part III, line 2,387.
  • There is a pleasure, sure,
    In being mad, which none but madmen know!
  • The alleged power to charm down insanity, or ferocity in beasts, is a power behind the eye.
  • At dæmon, homini quum struit aliquid malum,
    Pervertit illi primitus mentem suam.
    • But the devil when he purports any evil against man, first perverts his mind.
    • Euripides, fragment 25. Barnes Ed. Attributed to Athenagorus. Also ed. pub. at Padua, 1743–53, Volume X, p. 268. The Translator. P. Carmeli, gives the Italian as: Quondo vogliono gli Dei far perire alcuno, gli tiglie la mente.
  • But when Fate destines one to ruin it begins by blinding the eyes of his understanding.
    • James Fraser, Short History of the Hindostan Emperors of the Moghol Race (1742), p. 57. See also story of the Christian Broker. Arabian Nights. Lane's translation. Ed. 1859, Volume I, p. 307.
  • Mad as a March hare.
    • James Halliwell-Phillipps, Archaic Diet, Volume II. Art. "March Hare." Heywood—Proverbs, Part II, Chapter V. Skelton—Replycacion Agaynst Certayne Yong Scolers, etc, line 35.
  • Doceo insanire omnes.
    • I teach that all men are mad.
    • Horace, Satires, II. 3. 81.
  • Nimirum insanus paucis videatur, eo quod
    Maxima pars hominum morbo jactatur eodem.
    • He appears mad indeed but to a few, because the majority is infected with the same disease.
    • Horace, Satires, II. �. 120.
  • Quisnam igitur sanus? Qui non stultus.
    • Who then is sane? He who is not a fool.
    • Horace, Satires, II. 3. 158.
  • O major tandem parcas, insane, minori.
    • Oh! thou who art greatly mad, deign to spare me who am less mad.
    • Horace, Satires, II. 3. 326.
  • I demens! et sævas curre per Alpes,
    Ut pueris placeas et declamatio fias.
    • Go, madman! rush over the wildest Alps, that you may please children and be made the subject of declamation.
    • Juvenal, Satires, X, 166.
  • O, hark! what mean those yells and cries?
    His chain some furious madman breaks;
    He comes—I see his glaring eyes;
    Now, now, my dungeon grate he shakes.
    Help! Help! He's gone!—O fearful woe,
    Such screams to hear, such sights to see!
    My brain, my brain,—I know, I know
    I am not mad but soon shall be.
  • Id commune malum; semel insanivimus omnes.
    • It is a common calamity; at some one time we have all been mad.
    • Baptista Mantuanus, Eclogue I.
  • It’s a jungle out there
    Poison in the very air we breathe
    Do you know what’s in the water that you drink?
    Well I do, and it’s amazing
    People think I’m crazy, ’cause I worry all the time
    If you paid attention, you’d be worried too
    You better pay attention
    Or this world we love so much might just kill you
    I could be wrong now, but I don’t think so!
  • My dear Sir, take any road, you can't go amiss. The whole state is one vast insane asylum.
    • James L. Petigru, on being asked the way to the Charleston, South Carolina Insane Asylum (1860).
  • Hei mihi, insanire me ajunt, ultro cum ipsi insaniunt.
    • They call me mad, while they are all mad themselves.
    • Plautus, Menæchmi, V, 2, 90.
  • Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiæ fuit.
    • There has never been any great genius without a spice of madness.
    • Seneca, De Animi Tranquillitate, XV. 10.
  • Quid est dementius quam bilem in homines collectam in res effundere.
    • What is more insane than to vent on senseless things the anger that is felt towards men?
    • Seneca, De Ira, II. 26.
  • Madam, I swear I use no art at all.
    That he is mad, 'tis true, 'tis true 'tis pity;
    And pity 'tis 'tis true.
  • It shall be so:
    Madness in great ones must not unwatch'd go.
  • I am not mad; I would to heaven I were!
    For then, 'tis like I should forget myself.
  • We are not ourselves
    When nature, being oppress'd, commands the mind
    To suffer with the body.
  • Were such things here as we do speak about?
    Or have we eaten on the insane root
    That takes the reason prisoner?
  • Quem Jupiter vult perdere, dementat primus.
    • Whom Jupiter would destroy he first drives mad.
    • Sophocles, Antigone, Johnson's ed. (1758), line 632. Sophocles quotes it as a saying. The passage in Antigone is explained by Tricinius as "The gods lead to error him whom they intend to make miserable." Quoted by Athenagoras in Legat, p. 106. Oxon Ed. Found in a fragment of Æschylus preserved by Plutarch—De Audiend. Poet, p. 63. Oxon ed. See also Constantinus Manasses. Fragments, Book VIII, line 40. Ed. by Boissonade. (1819). Duport's Gnomologia Homerica, p. 282. (1660). Oracula Sibylliana, Book VIII, line 14. Leutsch and Schneidewin—Corpus Paræmiographorum Græcorum, Volume I, p. 444. Sextus Empiricus is given as the first writer to present the whole of the adage as cited by Plutarch. ("Concerning such whom God is slow to punish.") Hesiod—Scutum Herculis. V. 89. Note by Robinson gives it to Plato. See also Stobæus—Germ, II. de Malitia.
  • Insanus omnis furere credit ceteros.
    • Every madman thinks all other men mad.
    • Syrus, Maxims.

Legal insanity[edit]

  • A human creature deprived of reason, and disordered in his senses, is still an animal, or instrument possessing strength and ability to commit violence; but he is no more so than a mere mechanical machine, which, when put in motion, performs its powerful operations on all that comes in its way, without consciousness of its own effects, or responsibility for them. In like manner, the man under the influence of real madness, has properly no will, but does what he is not conscious or; sensible he is doing, and therefore cannot be made answerable for any consequences.
    • Lord Eskgrove, Kinloch's Case (1795), 55 How. St. Tr. 1000; reported in The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 105.
  • Hamlet, being charged with " coinage of the brain" answers:
    "It is not madness
    That I have uttered; bring me to the test,
    And I the matter will re-word; which madness
    Would gambol from."
    Madness, then, varies and fluctuates: it cannot "re-word"—if the poet's observation be well founded; and though the Court would not at all rely upon it as an authority, yet it knows from the information of a most eminent physician that this test of madness, suggested by this passage, was found, by experiment in a recent case, to be strictly applicable, and discovered the lurking disease.
    • Sir John Nicholl, Groom v. Thomas (1829), 2 Hagg. Ecc. Rep. 452, 453; reported in The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 104-05. The reference goes on to say:
      The Court was understood to allude to the case referred to in a note to p. 242, of the 10th number of the new series of the Quarterly Journal of Sciences and the Arts, London, 1829. "If the tests of insanity are matters of law, the practice of allowing experts to testify what they are should be discontinued; if they are matters of fact, the Judge should no longer testify without being sworn as a witness and showing himself qualified to testify as an expert."—Doe, J., State v. Pike, 49 New Hamp. Eep. 399 ; 6 Amer. Eep. 584.
  • The Royal College has taken a very dubious function of intervening into the inner affairs of national psychiatric associations and using mentally-ill patients for political purposes. I sincerely hope that none of the members… seriously believes that in the Soviet Union mentally-healthy people could be forcibly put into mental hospitals.
    • Andrei Snezhnevsky as quoted by Bloch, Sidney; Reddaway, Peter (1977). Russia's political hospitals: The abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union.
  • Is not this insanity plea becoming rather common? Is it not so common that the reader confidently expects to see it offered in every criminal case that comes before the courts? [...] Really, what we want now, is not laws against crime, but a law against insanity.
    • Mark Twain, "A New Crime" (1870), as reprinted in Essays and Sketches of Mark Twain (1995), ed. Stuart Miller, ISBN 1566198798
  • When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. To seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!
  • Because the insanity defense is a key part of our criminal-justice system, which is founded on the belief that people normally choose whether or not to obey the law. Certain people, we have said historically, cannot make that choice, however, either because they are too young or because of severe mental retardation or mental illness. The insanity defense exists in practically every civilized country. It is not some kind of aberration, as some seem to be suggesting in the wake of the Hinckley verdict.
    • Elyce Zenoff Ferster, answering an interview question in U.S. News & World Report, Volume 93 (1982), p. 15; reported in Alan F. Pater, Jason R. Pater, What They Said in 1982: The Yearbook of World Opinion (1983).

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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