Thomas Szasz: Primary Values and Major Contentions

The above video is an interview with the author and editors of the book, Thomas Szasz: Primary Values and Major Contentions.

The book, Thomas Szasz: Primary Values and Major Contentions is a collection of Thomas Szasz’s best writing during the first three decades of his career as a psychiatrist. It is edited by two admirers of Szasz, Richard Vatz and Lee Weinberg. There is also a section of the book that includes questions from the editors and answers from Szasz. Even though I have read many of Szasz’s books, I found new insights from this one.

Download the first few pages of the book here as PDF.

Pain and Pleasure: A Study of Bodily Feelings

Where are pain and pleasure experienced: in the mind, the brain, or both? What communicative value do pain and pleasure have? These are the questions that Thomas Szasz attempts to answer in his book, Pain and Pleasure: A Study of Bodily Feelings.

Continue reading “Pain and Pleasure: A Study of Bodily Feelings”

Thomas Szasz: The Man and His Ideas

May God defend me from my friends: I can defend myself from my enemies. – Voltaire

The book, Thomas Szasz: The Man and His Ideas, is a collection of essays ostensibly put together in remembrance of the psychiatrist-philosopher, Thomas Szasz. Szasz was a fascinating man who wrote and lectured about personal responsibility, freedom, and the myth of mental illness.

Instead of illuminating ideas, the book attempts to point out ways in which Szasz’s ideas were flawed. It is not a book worthy of celebrating the critical thinking, social criticism, and categorical analysis of Thomas Szasz.

Continue reading “Thomas Szasz: The Man and His Ideas”

The Last Interview of Thomas Szasz

The Last Interview of Thomas Szasz, is a simple, hourlong interview by Philip Singer, which he calls a “documentary”. In reality, it is a podcast-style interview interrupted by a few quotes overlaid on the screen. There isn’t much value here because Singer appears to not understand much of Szasz’s main arguments.

Continue reading “The Last Interview of Thomas Szasz”

Pharmacracy: Medicine and Politics in America

In his book, Pharmacracy: Medicine and Politics in America, Thomas Szasz argues that medicine has unwittingly become the new de facto religion in America. According to Szasz, health and medicine have superseded religion as a source of values. Medicine has bootlegged values into everyday life through the backdoor of politics.

Continue reading “Pharmacracy: Medicine and Politics in America”

My Madness Saved Me: The Madness and Marriage of Virginia Woolf

My Madness Saved Me: The Madness and Marriage of Virginia Woolf, is a retrospective psychoanalysis of the life and death of Virginia Woolf by the iconoclastic psychiatrist Thomas Szasz. Szasz presents his views on Virginia Woolf’s life and suicide as a counterbalance to the prevailing view that she was a genius writer tormented by mental illness. In contrast, Szasz maintains that: “Persons have reasons for their actions, regardless of whether they are said to have or not have mental diseases.”1 It is from this vantage point that Szasz analyses the life and death of Woolf.

Continue reading “My Madness Saved Me: The Madness and Marriage of Virginia Woolf”

Recollections of a Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy: The Case of “Prisoner K”

In a rare psychoanalytic case history, Thomas Szasz presents Recollections of a Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy: The Case of “Prisoner ‘K'”. In it, Szasz gives us an opportunity to see how he actually practiced psychotherapy.

Continue reading “Recollections of a Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy: The Case of “Prisoner K””

Neurotic Symptoms: A Refusal to Accept Trade-Offs

Psychoanalysis teaches, correctly enough, that neurotic symptoms are due to unresolved, unconscious conflict. However, it would be more accurate to say that neurotic symptoms are due to the fact that the subject (the so­ called “neurotic”) chooses indecisiveness in the face of conflict: confronted with the necessity of having to choose between two things both of which he wants but only one of which he can have, he refuses to choose, as if hoping that by waiting only a little longer he would be able to have both. In this sense, the neurotic is simply greedy, preferring the pain of his “symptoms” to that of consciously relinquishing something he wants.

-Thomas Szasz, Heresies



Psychiatric Dehumanization

Animalism is the opposite of humanism. It is treating man as though he were an animal. Science, medicine, and especially psychiatry are often guilty of animalizing man. The theory and practice of conventional psychiatry are, at bottom, the expressions of this tendency. Mental illness is a distinctly human affair. But the more we in­sist that it is an “illness”-and the more we prove this by producing “experimental neuroses” in animals and by curing human neuroses by means of drugs and shocks and surgery-the more we bestialize, animalize man. Having reduced him to the level of animal, we expect him to act like one-unconcerned about past failures, misdeeds, and wasted opportunities and heedless of the future; in short, unreflective and “happy” – a veritable anti-Socrates.

– Thomas Szasz, Heresies

The Economics of Szasz: Preferences, Constraints, and Mental Illness

In the paper, The Economics of Szasz: Preferences, Constraints, and Mental Illness, Bryan Caplan summarizes Thomas Szasz’s views on mental illness and translates them into the language of economics. Caplan is an economist with a wide variety of interests. He is an interesting writer, thinker, and regularly provokes conversation on Twitter and his blog. Caplan won the Thomas Szasz Award in 2005 for the above-mentioned article. Caplan mentions on his blog that having a conversation with Szasz was a “highlight of my intellectual life“.

Continue reading “The Economics of Szasz: Preferences, Constraints, and Mental Illness”