Minds and Madness

Subject HPSC30019 (2013)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2013.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 3 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2013.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 3 (2x 1 Hour Lectures each week and 1x 1 hour tutorial for 11 weeks)
Total Time Commitment:

An average of 8.5 hours each week.





Recommended Background Knowledge:

Knowledge gained in the completion of at least 75 points of first year subjects.

Non Allowed Subjects:

Students who have completed 'Minds and Madness' under the codes 136-260, 136-360, 672-329 or HPSC30002 are not permitted to enrol in this subject.

Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website: http://www.services.unimelb.edu.au/disability/

Subject Overview:

What is the mind? What does it mean for the mind to malfunction? And how should it be treated when this occurs? "Minds and Madness" provides an historical over-view of responses to these questions by patients, medical practitioners and society as a whole. Once considered the seat of the soul, the human mind has been captured by science, reduced to a brain "a hard-wired" neural network. Metaphysical explanations of madness (theological and magical) have been superseded by scientific theories (neurological and material), thus reshaping our understanding and experience of madness. Therapies have been transformed accordingly. In exploring these important issues, the lectures will visit the spaces and places of "Minds and Madness", including: the ship of fools, Bedlam, the asylum, the psychiatrist"s couch and the GPs rooms, the battlefield, the dissection table, the operating theatre, and the padded cell. It will introduce students to a cast of thousands, including: the fool (from King Lear and elsewhere), Descartes ("Cogito Ergo Sum") and Spinoza, Gall and Spurzheim (the founders of phrenology), Freud, Jung and many other psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists. It will analyse and critique changing conceptions of mental health diagnosis. And finally, it will delve into the new world of the brain where the neurological sciences, artificial intelligence and philosophy have merged into the discipline of Cognitive Science.


Upon successful completion of this subject, students are expected to possess:

  • an effective grasp of the history and historiography of minds, madness and medicine
  • a sound critical ability, enabling the effective analysis and synthesis of subject materials
  • the ability to form and express a clear and sophisticated opinion about minds, madness and medicine both to experts and interested outsiders
  • the ability to extend learning beyond subject materials, enhancing independent research skills, and thus gaining valuable tools for life-learning, and
  • knowledge and experience that address significant aspects of the University‚Äôs graduate attributes, especially academic excellence, knowledge across disciplines, leadership in communities, and being attuned to cultural diversity


Written work totalling 4000 words, comprising a tutorial assignment of 1500 words, or equivalent (35%), and an essay of 2500 words 65% (due during the examination period).

Hurdle requirement: students must attend a minimum of 75% of tutorials in order to pass this subject. Regular participation in tutorials is required. Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day; after five working days late assessment will not be marked. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts:
  • Madness: A Brief History (R Porter) Oxford University Press 2003
Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

Students who successfully complete this subject will

  • have a comprehension of the subtle interplays between science and medicine, and culture and society
  • have an understanding of the social and historical context for contemporary attitudes to mind, body and mental health
  • develop analytical skills and communication skills.
  • have an ability to conduct independent research, using primary and secondary source to mount an effective argument.
Links to further information: http://hps.unimelb.edu.au/

pre 2008 3rd year science Students (only) should enrol in HPSC30002 for 3rd year science credit. HPSC30002 is identical to this subject but is not availablie as Breadth or to New Gen students. for further information on HPSC30002 see https://handbook.unimelb.edu.au/view/2013/755-BB

Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science (pre-2008 Bachelor of Science)
History and Philosophy of Science Major
Science credit subjects* for pre-2008 BSc, BASc and combined degree science courses

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