Talk:Thomas Szasz

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As a psychologist who has had some education in the kind of philosophy that attends to linguistic analysis, I find many of Szasz's assertions to be very interesting. I would like to know considerably more about how he acquired his abilities to discuss the semantics of social control, especially the similarities between the ways social control has been described in religious terms, as contrasted to the ways he asserts that it was, or is, described in psychological, or psychiatric, or (pseudo-)medical terms.

I am paying attention to the developmental state of psychiatry when he began to publish his main arguments, which was in the early 1960s. At that time, his arguments might have seemed much more powerful than they seem now, given that science has detected the physical substrates of a great many more 'mental' syndromes than were understood in 1960. Many such substrates were unknowable in the 1950s, when Szasz was formulating his views. (Still, in the vein of Kendall's thinking, by 1950, the medical causes of some 'mental' disorders were well known: as exemplified by the connection between syphilis and syphilitic dementia, by the connection between Beriberi and vitamin B1 deficiency, and the connection between thyroid dysfunction and what was then called 'cretinism'. There are many more such examples from before 1960.)

However, Szasz's capacity to analyse the similar functions of the explanatory systems of religion, and of psychoanalysis, is very acute. I would like to know how many languages he knew, and whether he studied linguistically oriented philosophy, which was a very busy field in the 1940s, and 1950s. I would like to know how his philosophical views developed, how he acquired his religious views, and whether he changed those views as he was maturing.

I would like to know more about his great attentiveness to mechanisms of social control. He seems to have focussed mostly on the negative effects of society imposing control on its non-conforming members, and this is probably not difficult to understand. Obviously he was of Hungarian origin, and the dates given in the article indicate that he came to the United States when he was 18 years old, in 1938, and that he received his medical degree only 6 years later. He must have had financial resources for this to have been possible. It also seems obvious that the multiple repressions that overtook his homeland must have taught him unpleasant things about the mechanisms of social control. However, was he really committed to the idea that only the courts and the law should be used to cope with social dangers? What would he do if one of his patients became suddenly irresponsible, after suffering, for example, a head injury?

It is interesting that Szasz did not start his career as critic of psychiatry: he was a practicing psychiatrist for most of his life, and he practiced psychiatry for years before he criticized it. He must have had skills and competence. I would like to know how he practiced, what techniques and resources he preferred, which theoretical views he favored, and what he valued about his role as a psychiatrist. I would like to know what he thought about some of the pharmacological advances that occurred during his career, as there were some notable early successes. I am thinking of drugs like lithium for the management of mania, which became well known during the 1950s, and the effects of bromides and phenobarbital, which were used to control agitation as well as epilepsy. These early anti-convulsant drugs were in common use from early in the 20th century, and Szasz must have been familiar with their effects.

I hope that some of the contributors to this article will know how to source material which will give a much more complete picture of Szasz, as a psychiatrist who was obviously committed to positive aspects of his profession, even though he developed very firm views about its boundaries. Janice Vian, Ph.D. (talk) 03:32, 4 August 2018 (UTC)

You will not find a single place for all the questions you have. In the book, Szasz Under Fire, you will find Szasz’s 30 page autobiography. Beyond that you will have to read many of Szasz’s books to find you answers. There is also a vast collection of Szasz lectures from the Milton Erickson Foundation. I have listened to most of them and psychologist like yourself ask the sort of questions you are asking. I would start with the conversation hour downloads from the Erickson foundation. Unfortunately, the downloads are very expensive. Also read Szasz’s latest book of aphorisms, Words to the Wise. ExistentialStoic (talk) 06:14, 27 December 2018 (UTC)

"It is interesting that Szasz did not start his career as critic of psychiatry: he was a practicing psychiatrist for most of his life, and he practiced psychiatry for years before he criticized it." You are mistaken. Szasz was a psychiatric skeptic before he attended college and was never a "practicing psychiatrist." He refused residency at a psychiatric institution. Szasz was a practicing psychotherapist of long-standing.