Essay: Joan of Arc

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Graham goes on, however, to consider delusions from a religious viewpoint. Today's faith-based institutions, for example, are not considered objects of delusion, despite the fact that few articles of faith are based in modern-day reality, as seen in the case of Abraham. No Christian today would speculate that Abraham or Jesus were the victims of delusion. Faith itself requires taking these stories at their face value. Importantly, Graham mentions the social and cultural contexts within which religious faith occurs (Graham, 2010, p. 214). The "normal cultural equipment" and "surrounding community," for example, serve as the basis for articles of faith, rather than any basis in commonly accepted reality that rules the rest of human life today. In the light of this, Joan of Arc's conviction that the saints were speaking to her might have been entirely reasonable, considering the context and culture within which she operated.

When applied to today's situation, then, Joan of Arc might have considered her experience a strong inner drive to "make something" of her life. Today, young people, students, and indeed anyone with the will to listen, are driven to "be all they can be" and to make the most of their opportunities and potential. Are these not the "voices" we are constantly bombarded with today? Perhaps today, Joan of Arc might have considered her inner voices as no more than the inner drive experienced by most of us today. She might not have been considered delusional at all, but rather as a person who is extraordinarily driven to make the most of her potential and her life.

Some speculations, like that of Keko (2011), who ends an article examining the various speculations with the idea that Joan of Arc may simply have been an "exceptional person in exceptional circumstances." If he were to speculate about Joan of Arc, this appears to be Graham's viewpoint as well. This becomes especially clear within his speculations on Jesus and the "delusions" he suffered.

The author begins his discussion of the self-proclaimed Son of God by addressing a common faith-based delusion, which is a grandiose one, of being on a "mission," just like Joan of Arc. Christ considers himself to be on a mission not only to bring the love of God to the people by embodying humanity in the form of a man, but also to be physically destroyed in the service of God. Although this sort of behavior would be considered highly delusional in today's context, the author continues to argue for the apparent reasonableness of the same behavior in a different cultural and historical context.

Graham (2010, p. 216) mentions, for example, that Jesus operated from a conviction that was reinforced by the Messianic Story in Isaiah. This was further reinforced by the messianic culture into which he was born, during first-century Palestine. When these factors are considered, does it remain reasonable to believe that Christ was delusional in the absolutely unrealistic and unreasoning way that such a person would be today? From the author's viewpoint, the answer to this appears to be "no."

One can therefore project that his interpretation of Joan of Arc and her belief in her voices, as well as the things she accomplishes as a result, would be similar to his views on Jesus or Abraham; Joan of Arc operated under the impression that divine and saintly voices were speaking to her. She believed this so strongly that she went to her death rather than deny them. But before she was murdered for her faith, Joan of Arc accomplished more than the most trained, most experienced French general could; she led an entire army to victory.

Other modern interpretations, however, seem adamant in their claim that Joan of Arc suffered from any number of conditions form schizophrenia to a form of epilepsy (National Post, 2014). This, however, is based upon the assumption that Joan of Arc would have acted on her voices and interpreted them in the same way as she did within her own time and cultural context. After reading Graham's work, I am no longer sure that I would hold such a conviction.

Instead, I tend more towards Graham's interpretation, that Joan of Arc simply used a process of interpretation that was logical not only to her, but also within the culture and context in which these things happened to her. One might therefore consider her actions and beliefs as reasonable in the light of the facts that were available to her at the time. One important factor here is what she was able to accomplish. Few people who suffer from extreme delusions, as hers would have been today, can accomplish much beyond being committed to a mental institution. Delusions and mental illness tend to be debilitating, or at the very best to erode the ability of the artist or brilliant mathematician to accomplish any consistency within his or her work. Mental illness cannot be used, in and of itself, to accomplish much of anything. For Joan of Arc, however, the voices helped her to accomplish a military victory before she was finally convicted and burned.

In the light of this, I therefore believe that Joan of Arc was not necessarily mentally ill or even delusional as such. Instead, I believe she was driven by an inner conviction that it was her duty and within her ability to help the French army to gain the upper hand.

References

Graham, G. (2010). The disordered mind: An introduction to philosophy of mind and mental illness. New York: Routledge.

Keko, D. (2011, May 29). Joan of Arc: The Visions. Examiner.com. Retrieved from: http://www.examiner.com/article/joan-of-arc-the-visions

National Post (2014). Joan of Arc's Secret. Retrieved from: http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=18ce2b05-67d7-402a-833e-f0618da5c4e6 [END OF PREVIEW]

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