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

There is no such thing as mental illness, hence also no such thing as psychotherapy.

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

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.

Institutional psychiatry is a continuation of the Inquisition. All that has really changed is the vocabulary and the social style. The vocabulary conforms to the intellectual expectations of our age: it is a pseudo-medical jargon that parodies the concepts of science. The social style conforms to the political expectations of our age: it is a pseudo-liberal social movement that parodies the ideals of freedom and rationality.

Men are rewarded or punished not for what they do but for how their acts are defined. That is why men are more interested in better justifying themselves than in better behaving themselves.

Permissiveness is the principle of treating children as if they were adults; and the tactic of making sure they never reach that stage.

Suicide is a fundamental human right. This does not mean that it is desirable. It only means that society does not have the moral right to interfere, by force, with a person?s decision to commit this act. The result is a far-reaching infantilization and dehumanization of the suicidal person.

The maliciousness of psychiatry is that it promotes itself as a medical discipline, although it is actually only part of the state authority.24 Therein

This connection, at once semantic and conceptual, between unorthodoxy and sodomy, was firmly established during the late Middle Ages, and has never been severed. It is as strong today as it was six hundred years ago. To be stigmatized as a heretic or bugger in the fourteenth century was to cast out of society. Since the dominant ideology was theological, religious deviance was considered so grave an offense as to render the individual a nonperson. Whatever redeeming qualities he might have had counted for naught. The sin of heresy eclipsed all contradictory, personal characteristics, just as the teachings of God and the Church eclipsed all contradictory empirical observations. The disease called ?mental illness??and its subspecies ?homosexuality??plays the same role today.

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.

I have argued that, today, the notion of a person "having a mental illness" is scientifically crippling. It provides professional assent to a popular rationalization ? namely that problems in living experienced and expressed in terms of so-called psychiatric symptoms are basically similar to bodily diseases. Moreover, the concept of mental illness also undermines the principle of personal responsibility, the ground on which all free political institutions rest.

Involuntary mental hospitalization is like slavery. Refining the standards for commitment is like prettifying the slave plantations. The problem is not how to improve commitment, but how to abolish it.

Men love liberty because it protects them from control and humiliation from others, and thus affords them the possibility of dignity. They loathe liberty because it throws them back on their own abilities and resources, and thus confronts them with the possibility of insignificance.

Prostitution is said to be the world?s oldest profession. It is, indeed, a model of all professional work: the worker relinquishes control over himself ? in exchange for money. Because of the passivity it entails, this is a difficult and, for many, a distasteful role.

Suicide is a fundamental human right. This does not mean that it is morally desirable. It only means that society does not have the moral right to interfere.

The many faces of intimacy: the Victorians could experience it through correspondence, but not through cohabitation; contemporary men and women can experience it through fornication, but not through friendship.

Traditionally, sex has been a very private, secretive activity. Herein perhaps lies its powerful force for uniting people in a strong bond. As we make sex less secretive, we may rob it of its power to hold men and women together.

As the base rhetorician uses language to increase his own power, to produce converts to his own cause, and to create loyal followers of his own person?so the noble rhetorician uses language to wean men away from their inclination to depend on authority, to encourage them to think and speak clearly, and to teach them to be their own masters.

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.

Is psychiatry a medical enterprise concerned with treating diseases, or a humanistic enterprise concerned with helping persons with their personal problems? Psychiatry could be one or the other, but it cannot--despite the pretensions and protestations of psichiatrists--be both.

Men often treat others worse than they treat themselves, but they rarely treat anyone better. It is the height of folly to expect consideration and decency from a person who mistreats himself.

Psychiatric expert testimony: mendacity masquerading as medicine.

The ?treatment? can have only one goal: to convert the heretic to the true faith, to transform the homosexual into a heterosexual.

The Nazis spoke of having a Jewish problem. We now speak of having a drug-abuse problem. Actually, ?Jewish problem? was the name the Germans gave to their persecution of the Jews; ?drug-abuse problem? is the name we give to the persecution of people who use certain drugs.

Two wrongs don't make a right, but they make a good excuse.

Author Picture
First Name
Last Name
Szasz, fully Thomas Stephen Szasz
Birth Date
Death Date

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