Saturday, February 16, 2013
Some Thomas Szasz Quotes
The Second Sin (1973)
The wise treat self-respect as non-negotiable, and will not trade it for health or wealth or anything else.
Marx said that religion was the opiate of the people. In the United States today, opiates are the religion of the people.
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.
Since this is the age of science, not religion, psychiatrists are our rabbis, heroin is our pork, and the addict is the unclean person.
We speak of a person being “under the influence” of alcohol, or heroin, or amphetamine, and believe that these substances affect him so profoundly as to render him utterly helpless in their grip. We thus consider it scientifically justified to take the most stringent precautions against these things and often prohibit their nonmedical, or even their medical, use. But a person may be under the influence not only of material substances but also of spiritual ideas and sentiments, such as patriotism, Catholicism, or Communism. But we are not afraid of these influences, and believe that each person is, or ought to be, capable of fending for himself.
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.
Formerly, when religion was strong and science weak, men mistook magic for medicine; now, when science is strong and religion weak, men mistake medicine for magic.
The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct (1974)
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.
-Preface to the First Edition
Ceremonial Chemistry (1974)
If, nevertheless, textbooks of pharmacology legitimately contain a chapter on drug abuse and drug addiction, then, by the same token, textbooks of gynecology and urology should contain a chapter on prostitution; textbooks of physiology, a chapter on perversion; textbooks of genetics, a chapter on the racial inferiority of Jews and Negroes.
Why is self-control, autonomy, such a threat to authority? Because the person who controls himself, who is his own master, has no need for an authority to be his master. This, then, renders authority unemployed. What is he to do if he cannot control others? To be sure, he could mind his own business. But this is a fatuous answer, for those who are satisfied to mind their own business do not aspire to become authorities.
Revised edition, 1985. p. 175.
Our Right to Drugs (1992)
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.
The Manufacture of Madness: A Comparative Study of the Inquisition and the Mental Health Movement (1997)
The disease concept of homosexuality—as with the disease concept of all so-called mental illnesses, such as alcoholism, drug addiction, or suicide—conceals the fact that homosexuals are a group of medically stigmatized and socially persecuted individuals. ... Their anguished cries of protest are drowned out by the rhetoric of therapy—just as the rhetoric of salvation drowned out the [cries] of heretics.
The homosexual is a scapegoat who evokes no sympathy. Hence, he can only be a victim, never a martyr.
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.
There is a fundamental similarity between the persecution of individuals who engage in consenting homosexual activity in private, or who ingest, inject, or smoke various substances that alter their feelings and thoughts—and the traditional persecution of men for their religion. ... What all of these persecutions have in common is that the victims are harassed by the majority not because they engage in overtly aggressive or destructive acts, ... but because their conduct or appearance offends a group intolerant to and threatened by human differences.
Thomas Szasz died on September 8, 2012
Read an obituary by Jeffrey Schaler here.