Dear Friends and Colleagues:
We welcome you to this historic celebration of Thomas S. Szasz’s life and work, especially on the occasion of his 80th birthday! Dr. Thomas Szasz has done more throughout his life to help us comprehend the relationship between liberty and responsibility than many people have done over the past two hundred years. His writing, teaching, speeches, and mentoring continue to influence and change the way we think about psychiatry, medicine, disease, mind, behavior, law, liberty, justice, responsibility, psychotherapy, philosophy, suicide, drug policy, addiction, economics, and the seemingly endless manifestations of the “Therapeutic State.” By exposing the difference between literal and metaphorical disease when he wrote The Myth of Mental Illness in 1961, Professor Szasz threw psychiatrists and psychotherapists into an ethical identity crisis: Since mental illness is a myth, it cannot be treated!
Law, Liberty, and Psychiatry, published in 1963, changed the relationship between psychiatry and the state forever. As Thomas Szasz accurately predicted: “Although we may not know it, we have, in our day, witnessed the birth of the Therapeutic State. This is perhaps the major implication of psychiatry as an institution of social control.” Despite his extensive writings since then on how the union of medicine and state came to replace the union of church and state, many people today use the term the “therapeutic state” with little comprehension of its origin and meaning. The idea of mental illness persists as legal fiction. It is used to justify declaring guilty persons innocent of crimes they committed and innocent persons guilty of crimes they didn’t commit. The insanity defense and the involuntary commitment of persons to prisons called mental hospitals continues to be justified in the name of compassion and science. Dr. Szasz is still blamed for the “problem” of the “homeless mentally ill” because he dared to point out how those labeled “mentally ill” are first and foremost persons, not a separate species from “mentally healthy” persons. Thomas Szasz exposed the myth of addiction as a disease a long time ago. He argued for the repeal of drug prohibition long before it was fashionable to do so.
Has Thomas Szasz’s work made a difference in the world since he wrote The Myth of Mental Illness forty years ago, or are we to live the rest of our lives‑as may our children and grandchildren‑ as pawns and chattel of the Therapeutic State? Our distinguished panel of speakers will address the significance of this question. They represent only a few of the people throughout the world committed to the truthfulness of Thomas Szasz’s ideas.
This is a meeting of minds to remember. It is a time to listen and to speak, to make new friends and reconnect with old ones, and it is a time to renew your confidence in what you know is right. It is a time of heroism, courage, and rebellion.
Twenty years ago, the late Professor M.E Grenander, Director of the Institute for Humanistic Studies at SUNY Albany, organized a special symposium entitled “Asclepius at Syracuse,” Thomas Szasz, Libertarian Humanist.” At the very heading of the symposium’s compiled proceedings Dr. Grenander quoted Dr. Szasz as follows: “Respect for the individual and its choices forms the backbone of my moral and political position.” Twenty years after “Asclepius at Syracuse,” we are gathered to pay tribute to Thomas Szasz for his magnificent intellect, moral integrity, physical and spiritual strength, and love for his fellow homo sapiens.
It is most gratifying to see the tremendous response from those of you in the academic community and general public to our invitation to celebrate the life and work of Thomas Szasz on his 80th birthday. May the presentations, conversations, and our presence here at this Symposium constitute further proof that Thomas Szasz’s contributions to society are alive and well as is Dr. Szasz himself!
HAPPY 80th BIRTHDAY DR. THOMAS S. SZASZ!
Nelson Borelli, MD Jeffrey A. Schaler, PhD
GREETINGS FROM THE
DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHIATRY,
SUNY HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER/SYRACUSE
Mantosh Dewan, MD, Chair,
Eugene Kaplan, MD, Past Chair,
Chaitanya Haldipur, MD, Professor
FORTY YEARS OF CONSEQUENCES
THE STATE OF THE THERAPEUTIC STATE
AFTER THE MYTH IS DISPELLED:
PSYCHIATRY ON TRIAL
RHETORIC AND SZASZIAN THEORY
EPITOMIZING THE MYTH:
MAX FINK AND ELECTROSHOCK
10:45 AM TO 11:00 AM BREAK
THOMAS SZASZ AND POST-MODERNISM
THE EXISTENTIAL PHILOSOPHY
OF THOMAS SZASZ
THOMAS SZASZ’S IMPACT
ON POLITICAL ISSUES
12:15 TO 1:30 PM LUNCH
PSYCHIATRY’S MORAL ANCHOR
THOMAS SZASZ’S PERSONALIST
AND ETHICAL CONCEPTION OF THE
CAUSE AND CURE OF CHARACTER,
CONDUCT, AND CONFLICT
THE MYTH CONSTRUCTION SINCE
THE MYTH OF MENTAL ILLNESS
James C. Mancuso
ASKING SIMPLE QUESTIONS
GNOSIS VS. DIAGNOSIS:
SYBIL’S LAST STAND
Peter J. Swales
3:35 PM TO 3:50 PM BREAK
THOMAS SZASZ AND
THE LIBERTARIAN TRANSFORMATION
Abraham L. Halpern
Nelson Borelli and Jeffrey A. Schaler
Many of us have struggled with coercive psychiatry, with Dr. Szasz's writings as our guide. It is evident that we have made progress. Equally clear is the fact that society will not let people who frighten it walk the streets. Sexual predator laws illustrate the post-medical response. I will discuss why, in my judgment, the struggle with the myth is worth waging despite that fact.
By ideologizing Szasz’s 1960 plain scientific observation pertaining to absence of disease, the mental illness establishment caused consequences worth twenty-four magnificent books and many papers, which are facing us now and forever.
How a retreading Obstetrician/Gynecologist was stunned to find out that the residency program in psychiatry was an indoctrination, rather than an education, and rapidly found himself unable to comply with its requirements. Discovering and reading the works of Thomas S. Szasz, which by his own description are nothing more than common sense, plus the good fortune of meeting this wonderful man, enabled him to persevere through some difficult times to establish himself as the psychiatrist of choice for people who didn’t want a real psychiatrist.
Thomas Szasz’s depiction of persons as human agents capable of authoring action for which they are morally accountable, is a hallmark of his work. He has employed this idea to generate a host of philosophical, political, legal, and clinical questions pertaining to the intelligibility and moral integrity of psychiatry and psychiatrists. Does psychiatry, in principle, have a moral foundation‑even if morally relevant features of the practices in which psychiatrists engage often fail to reflect this principle? In offering an account of psychiatry’s “moral anchor,” I turn to themes which Dr. Szasz has consistently drawn attention‑agency and action, intentionality, sanity, madness, and the community of human agents as apprehended from a moral point-of-view.
EPITOMIZING THE MYTH: MAX FINK AND ELECTROSHOCK
From the perspective of a practicing neurologist, I analyze the arguments, examine the facts and rebut the claims of Max Fink, one of the leading figures in the field of electroshock therapy.
THOMAS SZASZ AND THE LIBERTARIAN TRANSFORMATION OF PSYCHIATRISTS
The publication of Law, Liberty, and Psychiatry (1963) brought forth a defensive, concerted barrage of criticism by organized psychiatry. Indoctrinated by centuries-long teachings that involuntary hospitalization was warranted to isolate and/or treat persons who were believed to be mentally ill, psychiatrists failed to appreciate the primacy of freedom as a value to be prized in a democratic society. The influence of Thomas Szasz on psychiatrists over the past 37 years has been enormous and has led to abandonment of involuntary hospitalization of hundreds of thousands of non-dangerous persons seeking psychological help, and to a meaningful respect for fundamental human rights in many countries, especially in the U.S.
Szasz's initial exposure to philosophy was to analytic philosophy and the philosophy of language, which he used to offer an alternative to the medical model in his game-language model. In the early 1960s, Szasz became familiar with existential philosophy, and began to use its moral principles as a basis for an alternative to the medical model. I will point out similarities between the principles of existentialism and many of Szasz’s ideas.
In May of 1998, standing in for Dr. Szasz, I served as prosecutor at the “Foucault Tribunal: Psychiatry on Trial,” which was held in Berlin, Germany. I will present a summary of the charges made against psychiatry at that Tribunal.
THOMAS SZASZ’S PERSONALIST AND ETHICAL CONCEPTION OF THE CAUSE AND CURE OF CHARACTER, CONDUCT, AND CONFLICT
The subtitle of Szasz’s book, The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct, is my focus here. Szasz did not mean theory qua hypostasis but theory in the sense of method. He meant the foundations of a method for the understanding of and coping with personal conduct and ethical choices. The central concept in this method is: "No man is an Island, entire of it self," that it takes two to tango, or, in my preferred terms, that it takes one person to have pneumonia, the monadic model of observation and epistemology, but it takes two to develop paranoia, the dyadic model of observation and epistemology.
THE MYTH CONSTRUCTION SINCE THE MYTH OF MENTAL ILLNESS
When Thomas Szasz wrote The Myth Of Mental Illness, he produced a landmark text which promoted a focus on the construction labeled myth and the involvement of that construction in our personal and scientific endeavors. By promoting a focus on the functions of the myth construction, Szasz helped to resurrect an interest in the ways in which our story-making processes intercede in our creation of our personal and scientific realities. His deconstruction of the mental illness myth continues to inform major reconsiderations of what and how we, both as persons and as scientists, create and maintain the "realities" that guide our interactions with what we take to be our surrounding world.
At the present time we are confronted through the postmodern surge with a fundamental challenge to all of the canons that underlie western culture. Such concepts as freedom, truth and morality have been brought into question and subjected not just to re-consideration, but to deconstruction. What this means is that any theory, be it in physics, medicine or law, is subject to a radicalized relativism opposed to the idea of any fundamental verities. How does the thought of Thomas Szasz stand up to this sort of critique and what does Szasz have to tell us about this way of thinking?
The Myth of Mental Illness paved the way to Law, Liberty and Psychiatry (1963), in which Thomas Szasz first exposed the dangers of Therapeutic State. Today, institutional psychiatry still undermines personal liberty (involuntary commitment) and justice (the insanity defense). The idea of insanity still undermines the rule of law. The public health movement undermines personal responsibility and the free market economy. The literal war on people escalates daily as a metaphorical “war on drugs.” People still regard themselves as things and things as people. Most people prefer paternalism and obedience to authority over autonomy and individualism. They always have and likely always will.
Thomas Szasz's eightieth birthday, 15 April 2000, is also the first anniversary of the death of his British friend and colleague Aaron Esterson. The heart of their method is asking simple questions. Their work inspires psychotherapy where the therapist learns to ask, and learns to let his client learn to ask, simple questions. The therapist learns to refrain, and learns to let his client learn to refrain, from asking and answering seductive questions. I explain how the method informs Szasz's and Esterson's work on 'schizophrenia' and my own research on: (1) the paradigm cases of Freud, Jungians, Boss and others; (2) the techniques the Nazis developed to mystify and deceive their victims in the Holocaust.
Had Thomas Szasz only had available to him in 1958, when conceiving and composing The Myth of Mental Illness, a letter written by the famous “Sybil” to her shrink, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, then he would surely have wanted to add an Appendix to his magnus opus. Oh well, better late than never . . . .
Thomas Szasz's work broke new political ground, of which the starting point is the abolition of "mental patients" laws. This is a report on two examples of how we are incorporating his guidelines in our political struggle against psychiatric coercion in Germany‑First, by using a particular form of authorization for custody in order to exclude civil commitment, and second, by using an initiative for a (Bertrand) Russell Tribunal on Human Rights in Psychiatry. I will outline the political issues involved.
In “The Myth of the Rhetorical Situation” (Philosophy and Rhetoric, 1973), I argued that the rhetoric one employs does not merely reflect reality or truth for relevant audiences, but creates reality or truth for such audiences. This is particularly true, as Thomas Szasz has pointed out, in conventional psychiatric study and persuasion. Thus, mental health professionals define normalcy for a variety of reasons and create the false reality of “mental illness,” a “reality” for which the definer must assume moral responsibility. Thomas Szasz has consistently emphasized rhetoric as a central, but unacknowledged, concern of psychiatry. It is through such a perspective that the base rhetoric of psychiatric persuaders can best be understood.
George J. Alexander, JD, JSD, is Elizabeth H. and John A. Sutro Professor of Law and Director of the Institute of International and Comparative Law at Santa Clara University in California.
Nelson Borelli, MD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, Illinois. He has been practicing psychiatry for forty-five years. He has treated people with all kinds of psychiatric syndromes. He has used all therapeutic modalities, from electric shock, Metrazol, insulin coma and ACTH in the 1950’s to the contemporary psychotropic drugs. He has read and studied all of Dr. Szasz’s books and most of his papers and in the last thirty years he has utilized Dr. Szasz’s principles and techniques, successfully and gratifyingly, in assisting people who consulted with him professionally. Doctor Borelli recognizes Thomas S. Szasz as one of the most, if not the most, lucid, honest, articulate and courageous writers of the second millennium.
Donal T. Conley, MD, is a psychiatrist at the V.A. Outpatient Clinic Daytona Beach in Florida.
Robert W. Daly, MD is Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Humanities and Director of the Program in Medical Humanities at the SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. He is the founding chair of the Ethics Committee of University Hospital and teaches graduate courses in bioethics and the philosophy of medicine. In the practice of psychiatry and a consultant to institutions for thirty years, Dr. Daly is President of the Institute for Ethics in Health Care and past Chair of the National Association of the Directors of Humanities Programs in the Health Profession.
John Mark Friedberg, MD, is a board certified neurologist in private practice in Berkeley, Ca., since 1979. He is a member of the American Academy of Neurology, the American Academy of Electrodiagnostic Medicine, and the California Medical Association. Dr. Friedberg has given expert neurologic testimony in courts and legislatures leading to the restriction of shock treatment in California, Texas, and Oregon, and to the abolition of cyanide execution as unconstitutionally cruel and unusual.
Abraham L. Halpern, MD is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, New York Medical College; Past President of The American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law; Past President of The International Academy of Law and Mental Health; and former Commissioner of Mental Health, Syracuse (1962-1967). Dr. Halpern is the recipient of the American Psychiatric Association’s 2000 Human Rights Award.
Keith Hoeller, PhD, is editor of the Review of Existential Psychology & Psychiatry, and the book series Studies in Existential Psychology and Thomas Szasz: Moral Philosopher of Psychiatry. He lives in Seattle, WA, where he teaches philosophy and psychology in the community colleges.
Ron Leifer, MD, trained under Dr. Szasz at Syracuse from 1958-1961. He has been a critic of psychiatry for forty years. He is now in private practice in Ithaca, New York. His first book, In the Name of Mental Health: The Social Functions of Psychiatry, was published in 1969. His most recent book, The Happiness Project, appeared in 1999.
Zvi Lothane, MD, is Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, a psychoanalyst, and a member of the American and the International Psychoanalytic Associations. He is the author of In Defense of Schreber: Soul Murder and Psychiatry (1992).
James C. Mancuso, PhD, is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University at Albany SUNY in New York.
Andrea Millen Rich is President of Laissez Faire Books and the Center for Independent Thought in New York. She is also the creator of The Thomas S. Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties, established in 1991.
Irwin Savodnik, MD, PhD, is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and professional philosopher. He is a clinical faculty member at the UCLA School of Medicine and a member of the faculty of the Southern California Psychoanalytic Institute. His areas of interest are in the philosophy of mind, philosophy and medicine and political thought.
Jeffrey A. Schaler, PhD., is a psychologist and adjunct professor of justice, law, and society at American University’s School of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C. He teaches psychology at Johns Hopkins University, is the author, most recently, of Addiction Is a Choice (Open Court, 2000), and is a recipient of the 1999 Thomas S. Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties. His edited books include Drugs: Should We Legalize, Decriminalize or Deregulate? and, Smoking: Who Has the Right?, co-edited with Magda E. Schaler, MPH, both published by Prometheus Books in 1998.
Anthony Stadlen, MLCP, BCP Reg, UKCP Reg, has been in private practice for thirty years as an existential-phenomenological psychotherapist. He teaches and supervises psychotherapists at Regent's College School of Psychotherapy and Counselling; the London Centre for Psychotherapy; and elsewhere. He is a former Research Fellow of the Freud Museum, London. For twenty years he has investigated‑historically, philosophically, logically, scientifically, ethically‑the paradigmatic case-studies, and analyses of dreams and parapraxes, of Freud, some Jungians, Boss, and others. He has researched the collaboration of Boss and Heidegger on Daseinsanalysis; and the psychological techniques used by the Nazis to deceive and mystify their victims.
Peter J. Swales is a well-known and controversial Freud historian who characterizes himself as a social archaeologistalso as a performance artist. He writes prolifically and lectures widely on Freud, Fliess, Marilyn Monroe, William S. Burroughs, and ‘Sybil.’ He lives and works in New York City.
René Talbot is a Board Member of Irren-Offensive (Lunatic Offensive), a lecturer at the "Chair for Madness" at the Freie University Berlin, and Secretary of the planned Russell Tribunal.
Richard E. Vatz, PhD, is a tenured full Professor of Rhetoric and Communication at Towson University. He won four outstanding teaching awards at Towson. He was the 1994 winner of the Thomas Szasz Award. He has written over 250 articles and reviews, including: Thomas Szasz: Primary Values and Major Contentions (Prometheus Books, 1983) and a chapter, “Thomas Szasz and the Rhetorical Paradigm of Psychiatry” in Discovering the History of Psychiatry (Oxford University Press, 1994).
George J. Alexander, JD, JSD
Santa Clara University
School of Law
Santa Clara, CA 95053
Nelson Borelli, MD
680 N. Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL 60611-4402
Donal T. Conley, MD
5442 AIA So.
St. Augustine, FL 32084
Robert W. Daly, MD
Department of Psychiatry
SUNY Health Science Ctr.
750 E. Adams Street
Syracuse, New York 13210
John M. Friedberg, MD
3000 Colby Street
Berkeley, CA 94705
Abraham L. Halpern, MD
720 The Parkway
Mamaroneck, NY 10543-4299
Keith Hoeller, PhD
4739 University Way NE / #1238
Seattle, WA 98105
Ron Leifer, MD
215 North Cayuga St.
Ithaca, New York 14850
Zvi Lothane, MD
1435 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10128
James C. Mancuso, PhD
Department of Psychology
Univ. at Albany SUNY
Albany, NY 12222
Andrea Millen Rich
73 Spring Street, Suite 507
New York, NY 10012
Irwin Savodnik, MD, PhD
7009 Calle Del Pajarito
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275
Jeffrey A. Schaler, PhD
1001 Spring Street, Suite 104
Silver Spring, MD 20910 USA
Anthony Stadlen, MLCP, BCP Reg, UKCP Reg
64 Dartmouth Park Road
GB - London NW5 1SN
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7485 3896
Peter J. Swales
285 Mott Street
New York, N.Y. 10012
212.966.4754 (also fax)
10823 Berlin, Germany
Richard E. Vatz, PhD
Department of Communication Studies and Mass Communication
Van Bokkelen Hall
Towson, MD 21252
The Thomas S. Szasz Cybercenter for Liberty and Responsibility
Mental illness is a myth whose function is to disguise and thus render more palatable the bitter pill of moral conflicts in human relations. In asserting that there is no such thing as mental illness I do not deny that people have problems coping with life and each other.
What people nowadays call mental illness, especially in a legal context, is not a fact,
but a strategy; not a condition, but a policy; in short it is not a disease that the alleged patient has, but a decision which those who call him mentally ill make about how to act toward him, whether he likes it or not.
Bodily illness is to mental illness as literal meaning is to metaphorical meaning.
Bodily illness is something the patient has, mental illness is something he does.
Formerly, quacks had fake cures for real diseases;
now, they claim to have real cures for fake diseases.
When culturally undeveloped, men treat objects as agents; when culturally developed, they treat agents as objects. The primitive explains nature in terms of human nature, the psychiatrist explains human nature in terms of nature. The modern scientist has refuted the savage's mistake, but has ratified the psychiatrist's.
Who, then, will correct the psychiatrist's mistake?
If you don't value your family, you will not have a family that values you. If you don't value money or health or liberty, you will have no money or health or liberty.
If you don't value knowledge and competence and self-reliance, no one, including yourself, will value you‑and no amount of psychiatric treatment will remedy your failure to value what is worthy.
Thomas S. Szasz, MD