Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Whittingham, Matthew. Review of Thomas Szasz's PSYCHIATRY: THE SCIENCE OF LIES. MOR (July 2009).

Szasz, Thomas. Psychiatry: the Science of Lies. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 2008. Szasz' central thesis is that the notion of mental illness can be understood at best as a metaphor, at worst an oxymoron. He outlines the currently accepted definition of illness as based on the normal or abnormal functioning of the body -- specifically lesions at the cellular level. Given the nature of mental phenomena, we cannot properly ascribe to them lesions at the cellular level. As soon as we start pointing to lesions in the brain, we are dealing with brain diseases, not mental diseases. He concludes it makes no sense to talk of the mental, or our behavior, as a disease. Szasz accepts that behavior may be a symptom of a disease -- this much is obvious -- but the disease itself is always going to be of the body. If behavior is to be a symptom of disease, we need to locate the pathological cause before we can talk of it as such. However, Szasz contends that many of the so called mental illnesses, such as those listed in the APA (American Psychiatric Association), have no scientifically proven pathological cause locatable in the body. By way of example he offers the fact that homosexuality used to be included on this very list, and that it was no scientific study which urged its removal, but rather that homosexuality became socially acceptable. Szasz contends that most mental illnesses are simply social stigmatization. Given the aforementioned strong links between the institutions of psychiatry and our economic and legal institutions, the existence or non-existence of mental illness could have serious ethical ramifications. The majority of this book focuses on an unraveling of the history of psychiatry through an analysis of some of the key figures in its development, as well as some lesser known commentators. His aim here seems to be to show the foundations of psychiatry as built on and sustained by mutually beneficial lying. . . . Read the whole review here: http://metapsychology.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=book&id=5039&cn=139.

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