Sensibility, meaning emotion or sensitivity, is an important eighteenth century idea. Foucault relates it to explanations of hysteria and nervous sensitivity; the "sensible" person essentially stimulated their nervous system too much. A key development according to Foucault is the creation of a link between inner, nervous sensitivity and external influences. Reading, watching too many plays and generally behaving in an inappropriate manner could lead to nervous collapse or madness. A new kind of moral disapproval was now possible; the madman's behavior could be blamed for his condition.

Foucault sees the development of new "causes" of madness as making a change in its status possible. Madness is now related to the world around the madman. Foucault's argument, developed in later sections, is that madness changed itself before the system of confinement altered.

Popular pages: Madness and Civilization