Thomas Szasz, fully Thomas Stephen Szasz

Szasz, fully Thomas Stephen Szasz

Hungarian-born American Psychiatrist, Social Critic of the Moral and Scientific Foundations of Psychiatry and Professor at the University of New York Health Center

Author Quotes

Clear thinking requires courage rather than intelligence.

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.?

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.

No further evidence is needed to show that 'mental illness' is not the name of a biological condition whose nature awaits to be elucidated, but is the name of a concept whose purpose is to obscure the obvious.

Punishment is now unfashionable ... because it creates moral distinctions among men, which, to the democratic mind, are odious. We prefer a meaningless collective guilt to a meaningful individual responsibility.

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.

The proverb warns; Don't bite the hand that feeds you. But maybe you should, if it prevents you from feeding yourself.

When a person can no longer laugh at himself, it is time for others to laugh at him.

Addiction, obesity, starvation (anorexia nervosa) are political problems, not psychiatric: each condenses and expresses a contest between the individual and some other person or persons in his environment over the control of the individual's body.

Courage is the willingness to play even when you know the odds are against you.

In the animal kingdom, the rule is, eat or be eaten; in the human kingdom, define or be defined.

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.

Not surprisingly, the more aggressively I reminded psychiatrists that individuals incarcerated in mental hospitals are deprived of liberty, the more zealously they insisted that ?mental illnesses are like other illnesses? and that psychiatric institutions are bona fide medical hospitals. The psychiatric establishment?s defense of coercions and excuses thus reinforced my argument about the metaphorical nature of mental illness and importance of the distinction between coerced and consensual psychiatry.

Religious and medical propaganda to the contrary notwithstanding, I hold some simple truths to be self-evident. One of these truths is that just as the dead do not rise from the grave, so drugs do not commit crimes. The dead remain dead. Drugs are inert chemicals that have no effect on human beings who choose not to use them. No one has to smoke cigarettes, and no one has to shoot heroin. People smoke cigarettes because they want to, and they shoot heroin because they want to.

The first fact is that there is no mental illness?. Although mental illness might have been a useful concept in the 19th century, today it is scientifically worthless and socially harmful.

The self is not something that one finds, it is something that one creates

Whenever masses of people, especially educated people, know something- and when what they know is something they greatly fear because they believe it affects virtually everything they do or want to do?.

Adulthood is the ever-shrinking period between childhood and old age. It is the apparent aim of modern industrial societies to reduce this period to a minimum.

Doubt is to certainty as neurosis is to psychosis. The neurotic is in doubt and has fears about persons and things; the psychotic has convictions and makes claims about them. In short, the neurotic has problems, the psychotic has solutions.

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.

Knowledge is gained by learning; trust by doubt; skill by practice; and love by love.

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.

Self-respect is to the soul as oxygen is to the body. Deprive a person of oxygen, and you kill his body; deprive him of self-respect and you kill his spirit.

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.

The struggle for definition is veritably the struggle for life itself. In the typical Western two men fight desperately for the possession of a gun that has been thrown to the ground: whoever reaches the weapon first shoots and lives; his adversary is shot and dies. In ordinary life, the struggle is not for guns but for words; whoever first defines the situation is the victor; his adversary, the victim.

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Szasz, fully Thomas Stephen Szasz
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Hungarian-born American Psychiatrist, Social Critic of the Moral and Scientific Foundations of Psychiatry and Professor at the University of New York Health Center