Leibniz's Monad: A Study in Melancholy and Harmony [chapter]

Ilit Ferber
2011 Contributions To Phenomenology  
In describing his attempts to delineate the diverse faces of melancholy, Robert Burton famously compares this task to that of "capturing a many-headed beast" (Radden 2000: 8). Melancholy indeed has an extremely variegated history; however, among the extraordinary persistence of its described traits, such as an inhibition from activity, paralysis and deep sadness without cause, 1 two polar attributes dominate: detachment and self-absorption. Moreover, its dialectical nature, which has kept
more » ... hich has kept interest in melancholy alive for so many centuries, has veered its examination less toward its pathologies than toward those features that endowed the afflicted, usually considered to be great men with exceptional genius, with special access to truth, manifested in bursts of creativity, abstract and philosophical thought, to mention only a few. It seems therefore that one of the consistencies running through melancholy's history has been its association with philosophy. That connection has not, however, been stable in its characteristics, going from the Aristotelian link between great men (philosophers among them) and melancholy; the Renaissance association of melancholic genius with medical imbalance attributed to the intense presence of black bile, assumed to generate detachment from the active life; the Baroque understanding of I. Ferber (*)
doi:10.1007/978-94-007-1503-5_5 fatcat:fdatfaq2wndznis2n2q7zcb2rq