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The ship of fools was once (spuriously) thought to have been a peculiar custom of solving the local mental health problem in medieval European towns by gathering the local lunatics and unemployables, putting them in a cart, and obliging them to "hit the road" to beg a living. It is the title of a Hieronymous Bosch painting, and was additionally immortalized in Michel Foucault's "Madness and Civilization".
This information has since been disproved. It was discovered that the Bosch painting was misinterpreted by Foucault, in his book "Madness and Civilization", as being a medieval solution to the growing incidence of psychological disorders. The painting was actually intended to be a poetic religious reference, and Foucault's claim is still unsubstantiated historically. There is some irony in the fact that concepts promulgated concerning the origins of the ""Ship of Fools"" were themselves the product of a particular form of foolishness (misinterpretation of the work of Bosch by one who went on to publish expansively on the subject).
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