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

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.

The less a person knows about the workings of the social institutions of his society, the more he must trust those who wield power in it; and the more he trusts those who wield such power, the more vulnerable he makes himself to becoming their victim.

The psychiatric profession’s most distinguishing feature… the deliberate, systematic dehumanization of man, in the name of mental health.

The scapegoat is necessary as a symbol of evil which it is convenient to cast out of the social order and, which, through its very being, confirms the remaining members of the community as good.

What the psychiatrist calls a “delusion of persecution” is one of the most dramatic human defenses against the feeling of personal insignificance and worthlessness. In fact, no one cares a hoot about Jones. He is an extra on the stage of life. But he wants to be a star.

[Autonomy] is freedom to develop one’s self – to increase one’s knowledge, improve one’s skills, and achieve responsibility for one’s conduct. And it is freedom to lead one’s own life, to choose among alternative courses of action so long as no injury to others results.

[Growing up] is especially difficult to achieve for a child whose parents do not take him seriously; that is, who do not expect proper behavior from him, do not discipline him, and finally, do not respect him enough to tell him the truth.

“To believe your own thought,” observed Emerson, “to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men – that is genius.” But to impose what you believe is true for you upon all men, indeed upon a single individual – that is despotism.

Being considered or labeled mentally disordered – abnormal, crazy, mad, psychotic, sick, it matters not what variant is used – is the most profoundly discrediting classification that can be imposed on a person today. Mental illness casts the “patient” out of our social order just as surely as heresy cast the “witch” out of medieval society. That, indeed, is the very purpose of stigma terms.

Delusion: believe said to be false by someone who does not share it.

Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one’s self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily; and why older persons, especially if vain or important, cannot learn at all.

In contemporary America [mental health] has come to mean conformity to the demands of society. According to the commonsense definition, mental health is the ability to play the game of social living, and to play it well. Conversely, mental illness is the refusal to play, or the inability to play well.

Keeping another person waiting is a basic tactic for defining him as inferior and oneself as superior.

Mental hospitals are the POW camps of our undeclared and unarticulated civil wars.

Mental illness is a myth, whose function is to disguise and thus render more palatable the bitter pill of moral conflicts in human relations.

The fundamental conflicts in human life are not between competing ideas – one of which is true and the other false, but rather, between those that hold power and use it to oppress others, and those who are oppressed by power and seed to free themselves of it.

The fundamental error of psychiatry is that it regards life as a problem to be solved, instead of as a purpose to be fulfilled.

The plague of mankind is the fear and rejection of diversity: monotheism, monarchy, monogamy and, in our age, mono-medicine. The belief that there is only one right way to live only one right way to regulate religious, political, sexual, medical affairs is the root cause of the greatest threat to man: members of his own species, bent on ensuring his salvation, security, and sanity.

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