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Sir Karl Popper (1902-1994) was Professor of Logic and Scientific Method at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Among his works are The Spell of Plato and The High Tide of Prophecy: Hegel, Marx, and the Aftermath, the two volumes of The Open Society and Its Enemies (Princeton Paperbacks), The Logic of Scientific Discovery, The Poverty of Historicism, and Conjectures and Refutations. The Popper books -- not all of them -- have been translated into 37 languages by now.

I enclose some correspondence here that may be of interest. These letters are reproduced here by the kind permission of Melitta Mew, The Estate of Sir Karl Popper, Surrey, United Kingdom. The copyright for all materials is held by the Estate of Sir Karl Popper. Permission to reproduce these letters must be secured by the Estate of Sir Karl Popper. The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University, California is the repository of the Popper Archive.


Manor Road,
PENN, Buckinghamshire.

July 20th 1961.

My dear Doctor Szasz,

     Thank you very much for sending me your truly
admirable book, The Myth of Mental Illness.
Although my eyesight makes reading difficult, I found
it so fascinating that I read it at one go.

     It is a most important book, and it marks a real
revolution.  Besides, it is written in that only too
rare spirit of a man who wants to be understood rather
than to impress.

     I feel certain that you will take it as a re-
affirmation of my admiration of your great work if I
indicate here, though only very sketchily, some

     (1)  Although you have been very successful in
resisting modern fashions of doubtful value, and
especially the terrible ephemerally-modern jargon of
modern books in this field, I do think that you have
[not] entirely escaped from the seductions and
temptations of a school of thought which I have dubbed
'instrumentalism' and described in my article on
Berkeley in the BJPS IV, 1953, pp. 26 ff.  (I have
criticized it more fully in my contribution to volume
iii of Contemporary British Philosophy - not the
volume which you quote in your Bibliography entitled
'Three Views concerning Human Knowledge').

     (2)  Role Playing and Game playing.  I shall make
only quite dogmatic remarks.  Role playing is for
those who do not dare to be what they are.  It is
itself already a shoddy and dangerous substitute for
genuine learning, that is, for genuinely changing
oneself to become more nearly what one wants to be.
This learning new roles is not the kind of learning
which is really desirable, and an end in itself.

     Learning a new role has only an instrumental
value - for survival.  But none of us survives long;
and instrumental values are not enough.  Learning - as
opposed to learning a new role - and growing up, until
we die, is, or can be, a value in itself.  To perform
constantly the miracle of lifting oneself out of the
swamp by one's own shoelaces is, indeed, a purpose.
(For the methodology of this miracle, see my Logic of
Scientific Discovery, Basic Books).

     (3)  You say, quite rightly on p. 310, lines 2-3,
'The limiting factor is man!' and you add, line 2-1
from bottom, that bad teachers may be a limiting
factor too.  To this one must add:  bad philosophies
of life and of learning.  Now role playing is a bad
philosophy of life, and so is the theory of learning
by repetition (which is inapplicable in a changing
environment anyway).  I said a few things on the
premature refusal to learn, and its relation to
neurosis, in the paper quoted by you 'Philosophy of
Science:  a Personal Report', p. 175, bottom to p. 176
middle.  (I also discussed there the prevalent
theories of learning, pp 166 ff.)  What is needed is
to interest people early in realizing that we learn
from our mistakes:  that it is not shameful to err,
and a great thing to discover one's own errors.

     But I must not go on rambling.

     With kind regards,

     Yours sincerely,

     Karl R. Popper

(Originally a hand-written letter reproduced here by

Professor Thomas Szasz.                      From Karl Popper

Dear Professor Szasz,
     It must be twenty years since we exchanged some letters.  I
have been reading your books with the greatest admiration.  The
Therapeutic State is a monument to you, to your rationality,
mental independence and courage.  I admire it.  But the reason
why I have not written is that only a very long letter would
be adequate.  I leave written many such letters in my mind.  But
I cannot put them on paper.  I passionately agree with
everything you write except two points, one practical and one
theoretical.  The practical point is Free trade in drugs.
At the risk of hurting you:  This is just silly.  (Principles
cannot be taken to their limit.)  Do you wish free trade in
hydrogen bombs and cobalt bombs?  I am definitely against free
trade in shotguns, even in pistols.  Even if I could be
persuaded (I might be) by your argument that it is "none of the
governments business what drug a man puts into his body", it is
precisely the main business of government what he puts into
another person's body (a dangerous drug, a bullet, an electric
shock).  That is the practical point.
     The theoretical point is the Non-existence of mental
disease.  Here my difficulty is that I know very little about
the subject and you know a lot.  The subject never attracted me
as a theorist (but I read quite a bit about it).  Also, I think
that you are 95% right!  A third point is the danger of this
problem degenerating into a quarrel about words (or
"definitions").  But I believe that if a man is heavily drunk,
he does lose, as commonsense puts it, "control of himself".  No
doubt there are many other drugs that have similar effects,
including drugs produced by our own body when it is ill.  I read
your "Myth of Mental Illness" many years ago and I cannot
remember whether you agree or disagree with this:  I am in my
83rd year, and my memory is getting bad (a mental illness, in my
opinion -- but let us not quarrel about words).  My mind shows
symptoms likely due to aging -- the aging of the body,
presumably analogous to the pains in my joints.  (I am happy and
grateful that my mind is still capable of producing new ideas
and even new mathematical results.)  This is the kind of thing
that I and most people would call "a mental illness on a
physical basis";  and I am not prepared to quarrel about words
or definitions.  I am very ready to believe you when you say
that most alleged "mental illnesses" are _not_ real, that most
or all neurotics are not really ill (but undisciplined).  But my
(fortunately not yet catastrophic) loss of memory is not merely
a loss of mental discipline;  and it seems to me that it has a
physical basis (as, perhaps Parkinson's disease seems to have).
Now I can write this to you;  but I am not prepared to write and
publish this kind of thing -- I mean the _theoretical point --
as a criticism of your views:  I know so little, and you have a
lot of experience in these matters.
     Result:  I cannot, in my writings, refer to you, even
where I should like, in order to support you.  Which is very
sad.  For where I think of you and your views, I am all
admiration, and these two points appear to me far less important
than all those many, many ideas of yours with which I can agree
(especially since there seems to me only a small likelyhood that
these two points will be widely accepted).  I am entirely on
your side in your fight against the psychiatrists and their
intolerable power;  and I am glad that you have written against
Freud and against Jewish nationalism and racialism as you did
(but this is a very minor point compared to your splendid and
urgent fight against the power of the new medical priests -- the
medicine men -- a fight in which you surely need supporters).
However, this letter is getting too long.
     All the best     yours sincerely
                                          Karl Popper

State University of New York
Upstate Medical Center
750 East Adams Street
Syracuse, New York  13210
College of Medicine
Department of Psychiatry

February 9, 1977

Prof. Karl Popper
London School of Economics & Political Science
Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE

Dear Professor Popper:

     I greatly appreciate the inscribed copy of your
autobiography, which arrived a few days ago.  I read it
immediately--with the same pleasure and profit with which I have
read your other books.  I have for long counted you (and Hayek
and Mill) as among my foremost teachers, and am grateful to you
for your instruction, albeit in absentia.  (Perhaps that is the
best way, as you yourself hint in THE UNENDED QUEST.)  As you
will see from the enclosed review*, which just appeared, I am
sometimes criticized--indeed, my moral-political views are
dismissed out of hand--specifically because my work leans so
heavily on yours and Professor Hayek's.  Who could ask for a
more satisfying reason for being disliked?
     Again, many thanks.
     With kind regard.

Thomas S. Szasz, M.D.
Professor of Psychiatry

(*Ed. note:  The review, entitled "Schizophrenia:  A Split
Verdict," was written by Russell Jacoby and appeared in THE
NATION on February 5, 1977, pp. 149-151.  It was a review of
SCHIZOPHRENIA:  The Sacred Symbol of Psychiatry.  By Thomas
Szasz.  Basic Books. 237 pages.  $10.00)

State University of New York
Upstate Medical Center
750 East Adams Street
Syracuse, New York  13210
College of Medicine
Department of Psychiatry

June 17, 1981

Prof. Karl Popper
London School of Economics & Political Science
Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE

Dear Professor Popper:

I have been asked to serve as Guest Editor for a special issue
of the journal Metamedicine, devoted to the theme of
"Psychiatry and Freedom."  I am inviting you to contribute to
this issue and hope you will be able to accept.  Please let me
have your decision by return mail.  The deadline is March 1,

With best wishes,


Thomas S. Szasz, M.D.
Professor of Psychiatry

Manor Close,
Manor Road,
Buckinghamshire, England.

7th July, 1981.

Professor Thomas S. Szasz, M.D.,
Department of Psychiatry,
State University of New York,
Upstate Medical Center,
780 East Adams Street,
New York  13210

Dear Professor Szasz,
     Thank you for your letter and enclosures of June 17, 1981.
     Many thanks for your invitation to contribute to the
special issue of Metamedicine.  I am sorry I cannot accept.  I
simply do not know enough about Psychiatry:  for me it is all
hearsay.  Freedom: - yes.  Psychiatry:- no!
     All the best.  I am happy to hear that you edit this

Yours, as ever,

Karl Popper

Thomas S. Szasz Cybercenter for Liberty and Responsibility:
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