Diderot shows in Rameau’s Nephew a conversation between an enlightened philosopher and a quite extravagant musician, Rameau. While the former argues for virtue and education, the latter enjoys vices and art. Several topics are discussed across the dialogue such as ethics and aesthetics, education, or moral, all them upon the light of the Enlightenment. However, one important idea, which goes across from the beginning till the end, is the acceptance of the different by the society as an expression of the genius.
Rameau explains to the philosopher his dissolute life and his unacceptable thoughts. The philosopher thinks of Rameau to be a complete madman, and Rameau says of the society to be completely hypocrite. In fact, as the philosopher realizes at the end, Rameau says what everybody think and do without saying it. Rameau has a gift, an excellence sensibility for music and, at the same time, he is terribly honest. He is different. He is different because he is not playing the social rules, he is unconventional. Instead of accepting the norms, he unmasks them and the game people play.
Therefore, madness is, until certain point, an institutional tag, and doctors are the new high caste of the Western modernity, especially psychiatrists. Medicine has become a new control of society, especially when it is ruled by doctors who serve the Pharmaceutical industry. Rameau is a genius, therefore, superior, therefore dangerous for those who attempt to avoid difference. As Tony Tanner interprets in The Novel of the Adultery: Contract and Transgression, the real occupation of the pharmacist, Monsieur Homais, in Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, is to label people, among them, the adulteress. Labelling here is linked to the lack of freedom and to the adulteress’ suicide.
The different has been avoided until today. Medicine becomes stronger and stronger and there is no acceptance of the being. The popular TDAH (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), for example, affects to a great number of children and teenagers. The secondary effects of the drugs which are employed to avoid some of the TDAH symptoms are terrible. One of them is schizophrenia. But the Pharmaceutical industry makes great amounts of money with such treatments.
I propose a reflection about the difference and the individual freedom to consider if we should permit to be labelled.