Sanity considered as a legal term denotes that an individual is of sound mind and therefore can bear legal responsibility for his or her actions. It is generally defined in terms of the absence of insanity. It is not a medical term, although the opinions of medical experts are often important in making a legal decision as to whether someone is sane or insane. It is also not the same concept as mental illness. One can be acting under profound mental illnessand yet be sane, and one can also be ruled insane without an underlying mental illness.

Sanity outside of legal definitions has been little explored by science and medicine, as the concentration has been on illness. Dr. P.S. Graven suggested the term "un-sane" to describe a condition that is not exactly "insane", but not quite "sane" either.

A theory of sanity was proposed by Alfred Korzybski in his general semantics. He believed that sanity was tied to the structural fit or lack of it between our reactions to the world and what is actually going on in the world. He expressed this notion in a map-territory analogy: "A map "is not" the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a "similar structure" to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness." Given that science continually seeks to adjust its theories structurally to fit the facts, i.e., adjusts its maps to fit the territory, and thus advances more rapidly than any other field, he believed that the key to understanding sanity would be found in the study of the methods of science (and the study of structure as revealed by science). The adoption of a scientific outlook and attitude of continual adjustment by the individual toward his or her assumptions was the way, so he claimed. In other words, there were "factors of sanity to be found in the physico-mathematical methods of science."

In his classic book, The Sane Society, published in 1955, psychologist Erich Fromm proposed that, not just individuals, but entire societies "may be lacking in sanity". Fromm argued that one of the most deceptive features of social life involves "consensual validation" [ [] ] :::"It is naively assumed that the fact that the majority of people share certain ideas or feelings proves the validity of these ideas and feelings. Nothing is further from the truth... Just as there is a 'Folie à deux' there is a 'folie à millions.' The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same form of mental pathology does not make these people sane." (in: Fromm, The Sane Society, Routledge, 1955, pp.14-15)

ee also

* Insanity defense


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  • sanity — san·i·ty n: the quality or state of being sane compare insanity Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996. sanity …   Law dictionary

  • sanity — early 15c., healthy condition, from M.Fr. sanité health, from L. sanitas health, sanity, from sanus healthy, sane. Meaning soundness of mind first attested c.1600 …   Etymology dictionary

  • Sanity — San i*ty, n. [L. sanitas, from sanus sound, healthy. See {Sane}.] The condition or quality of being sane; soundness of health of body or mind, especially of the mind; saneness. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • sanity — [n] mental health; soundness of judgment acumen, balance, clear mind, common sense, comprehension, good judgment, healthy mind, intelligence, judiciousness, levelheadedness, lucidity, lucidness, marbles*, normality, prudence, rationality, reason …   New thesaurus

  • sanity — ► NOUN 1) the condition of being sane. 2) reasonable and rational behaviour …   English terms dictionary

  • sanity — [san′ə tē] n. [ME sanite < OFr < L sanitas, health] 1. the condition of being sane; soundness of mind; mental health 2. soundness of judgment …   English World dictionary

  • sanity — noun VERB + SANITY ▪ doubt, question ▪ There were moments when he doubted his own sanity. ▪ fear for ▪ I fear for her sanity if this continues much longer. ▪ …   Collocations dictionary

  • Sanity — (Roget s Thesaurus) < N PARAG:Sanity >N GRP: N 1 Sgm: N 1 sanity sanity Sgm: N 1 soundness soundness &c. >Adj. Sgm: N 1 rationality rationality sobriety lucidity lucid interval Sgm: N 1 senses senses …   English dictionary for students

  • sanity — san|i|ty [ˈsænıti] n [U] [Date: 1600 1700; : Latin; Origin: sanitas health, sanity , from sanus; SANE] 1.) the condition of being mentally healthy ≠ ↑insanity →↑sane ▪ I began to doubt his sanity. ▪ She wondered if she was losing her sanity …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • sanity — san|i|ty [ sænəti ] noun uncount 1. ) the ability to think and speak in a reasonable way and to behave normally: doubt your sanity (=think you may be mentally ill): I was beginning to doubt my own sanity. keep/lose your sanity (=remain/not remain …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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