Tuesday, November 21, 2017 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Thomas Szasz (1920 – 2012)


Professor Emeritus in Psychiatry at the State University of New York Health Science Center in Syracuse, New York, and a noted critic of the moral and scientific foundations of psychiatry.
Thomas Szasz
Although both the natural and moral sciences seek to understand the objects of their observation, in natural science the purpose of this is to be able to control them better, whereas in moral science it is, or ought to be, to be better able to leave them alone. The morally proper aim of psychology, then, is self-control.
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Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.
Szasz
In the past, men created witches: now they create mental patients.




Szasz Thomas quotes
The passion to interpret as madness that with which we disagree seems to have infected the best of contemporary minds.
Szasz Thomas
Judges and prosecutors, lawyers and psychiatrists, all protest their passionate desire to know why a person accused of a crime did what he did. But their actions completely belie their words: their efforts are now directed toward letting everyone speak in court but the defendant himself -- especially if he is accused of a political or psychiatric crime.
Thomas Szasz quotes
Psychiatrists look for twisted molecules and defective genes as the causes of schizophrenia, because schizophrenia is the name of a disease. If Christianity or Communism were called diseases, would they then look for the chemical and genetic “causes” of these “conditions”?
Thomas Szasz
In the natural sciences, language (mathematics) is a useful tool: like the microscope or telescope, it enables us to see what is otherwise invisible. In the social sciences, language (literalized metaphor) is an impediment: like a distorting mirror, it prevents us from seeing the obvious.
That is why in the natural sciences, knowledge can be gained only with the mastery of their special languages; whereas in human affairs, knowledge can be gained only by rejecting the pretentious jargons of the social sciences.
Szasz Thomas quotes
The Christian ethic did not raise the worth of female life much above the Jewish: nor did the clinical ethic raise it much above the clerical. This is why most of those identified as witches by male inquisitors were women; and why most of those diagnosed as hysterics by male psychiatrists were also women.
Szasz
So long as men denounce each other as mentally sick (homosexual, addicted, insane, and so forth)—so that the madman can always be considered the Other, never the Self—mental illness will remain an easily exploitable concept, and Coercive Psychiatry a flourishing institution.
Szasz Thomas
Over the past thirty years, we have replaced the medical-political persecution of illegal sex users ("perverts" and "psychopaths") with the even more ferocious medical-political persecution of illegal drug users.
Thomas Szasz
The concept of disease is fast replacing the concept of responsibility. With increasing zeal Americans use and interpret the assertion "I am sick" as equivalent to the assertion "I am not responsible": Smokers say they are not responsible for smoking, drinkers that they are not responsible for drinking, gamblers that they are not responsible for gambling, and mothers who murder their infants that they are not responsible for killing. To prove their point — and to capitalize on their self-destructive and destructive behavior — smokers, drinkers, gamblers, and insanity acquitees are suing tobacco companies, liquor companies, gambling casinos, and physicians.
Can American society survive this legal-psychiatric assault on its moral and political foundations?




Thomas Szasz quotes
It becomes logical to ask where the idea originates that the rules of the game of life ought to be such that those who are weak, disabled or ill should be helped?
One answer is obvious: this is the game typically played in childhood. Every one of us was, at one time, a weak and helpless child, cared for by adults: without such help we would not have survived and become adults.
Another, almost equally obvious answer is that the prescription of a help-giving attitude toward the weak is embodied in the dominant religions of Western man.
Judaism, and especially Christianity, teach these rules by means of parable and prohibition, example and exhortation, and by every other means available to their representatives.
Thomas Szasz
I started to work on this book in 1954, when, having been called to active duty in the Navy, I was relieved of the burdens of a full-time psychoanalytic practice... Within a year of its publication, the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene demanded, in a letter citing specifically 'The Myth Of Mental Illness', that I be dismissed from my university position because I did not "believe" in mental illness.
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The episode in Sodom is undoubtedly the earliest account in human history of the entrapment of homosexuals, a strategy widely practiced by the law enforcement agencies of modern Western countries, especially those of the United States. In effect, the men of Sodom were entrapped by two strangers, who in truth were not travelers but angels, that is to say, God’s plain-clothesmen. These agents of the Biblical vice-squad wasted no time punishing the offenders.
Szasz Thomas
Like Karl Kraus, [Wittgenstein] was seldom pleased by what he saw of the institutions of men, and the idiom of the passerby mostly offended his ear—particularly when they happened to speak philosophically; and like Karl Kraus, he suspected that the institutions could not but be corrupt if the idiom of the race was confused, presumptuous, and vacuous, a fabric of nonsense, untruth, deception, and self-deception.
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The gist of my argument is that men like Kraepelin, Bleuler and Freud were not what they claimed or seem to be — namely, physicians or medical investigators; they were, in fact, religious-political leaders and conquerors. Instead of discovering new diseases, they extended, through psychiatry, the imagery, vocabulary, jurisdiction, and hence the territory of medicine to what they were not, and are not, diseases in the original Virchowian sense.
Thomas Szasz
The wise treat self-respect as non-negotiable, and will not trade it for health or wealth or anything else.
Thomas Szasz quotes
In English-speaking countries, the connection between heresy and homosexuality is expressed through the use of a single word to denote both concepts: buggery. ... Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary (Third Edition) defines “buggery” as “heresy, sodomy.”
Thomas Szasz
As Justice Olive Wendell Holmes, Jr. put it, censorship rests on the idea that “every idea is an incitement.” Perhaps he should have specified “every interesting idea,” for a dull idea is not. By the same token, every interesting drug is an incitement. And so is everything else that people find interesting.
Szasz Thomas
I became interested in writing this book approximately ten years ago when, having become established as a psychiatrist, I became increasingly impressed by the vague, capricious and generally unsatisfactory character of the widely used concept of mental illness and its corollaries, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment.
Although (mental illness) might have been a useful concept in the nineteenth century, today it is scientifically worthless and socially harmful.
In non-psychiatric circles mental illness all too often is considered to be whatever psychiatrists say it is. The answer to the question, Who is mentally ill? thus becomes: Those who are confined in mental hospitals or who consult psychiatrists in their private offices.


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