Thomas Szasz

Psychiatrist, Academic

1920 – 2012

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Who was Thomas Szasz?

Thomas Stephen Szasz was a psychiatrist and academic. Since 1990 he had been professor emeritus of psychiatry at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. He was a well-known social critic of the moral and scientific foundations of psychiatry, and of the social control aims of medicine in modern society, as well as of scientism. His books The Myth of Mental Illness and The Manufacture of Madness set out some of the arguments with which he is most associated.

Szasz argued that mental illnesses are not real in the sense that cancers are real. Except for a few identifiable brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, there are “neither biological or chemical tests nor biopsy or necropsy findings for verifying or falsifying DSM diagnoses", i.e. there are no objective methods for detecting the presence or absence of mental illness.

His views on special treatment followed from libertarian roots which are based on the principles that each person has the right to bodily and mental self-ownership and the right to be free from violence from others, although he criticized the "Free World" as well as the communist states for their use of psychiatry. He believed that suicide, the practice of medicine, the use and sale of drugs and sexual relations should be private, contractual, and legal.

Famous Quotes:

  • The many faces of intimacy: the Victorians could experience it through correspondence, but not through cohabitation; contemporary men and women can experience it through fornication, but not through friendship.
  • Psychoanalysis is an attempt to examine a person's self-justifications. Hence it can be undertaken only with the patient's cooperation and can succeed only when the patient has something to gain by abandoning or modifying his system of self-justification.
  • Permissiveness is the principle of treating children as if they were adults; and the tactic of making sure they never reach that stage.
  • The system isn't stupid, but the people in it are.
  • Addiction, obesity, starvation (anorexia nervosa) are political problems, not psychiatric: each condenses and expresses a contest between the individual and some other person or persons in his environment over the control of the individual's body.
  • We often speak of love when we really should be speaking of the drive to dominate or to master, so as to confirm ourselves as active agents, in control of our own destinies and worthy of respect from others.
  • If the dead talk to you, you are a spiritualist; if God talks to you, you are a schizophrenic.
  • The greatest analgesic, soporific, stimulant, tranquilizer, narcotic, and to some extent even antibiotic --in short, the closest thing to a genuine panacea --known to medical science is work.
  • Doubt is to certainty as neurosis is to psychosis. The neurotic is in doubt and has fears about persons and things; the psychotic has convictions and makes claims about them. In short, the neurotic has problems, the psychotic has solutions.
  • A child becomes an adult when he realizes that he has a right not only to be right but also to be wrong.

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Born
Apr 15, 1920
Budapest
Also known as
  • Thomas Stephen Szasz
  • Thomas S Szasz
Religion
  • Judaism
Ethnicity
  • Hungarian people
  • Jewish people
Nationality
  • United States of America
  • Hungary
Profession
Education
  • University of Cincinnati
Lived in
  • Syracuse
Died
Sep 8, 2012
Manlius

Submitted
on July 23, 2013

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"Thomas Szasz." Biographies.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 16 Apr. 2024. <https://www.biographies.net/people/en/thomas_szasz>.

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