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As "mind" is the key word of the title, Szasz,
typically conversant in classical languages as a European-trained scholar,
refers to the Latin "mens," "mind," in a way that may seem
logical. The problem is that the original sense of "mind," an
English word of generally Norse-German parentage, is "memory," a
concept of clearly neurophysiological import difficult enough to deal with on
that less "Geist-y" level.
Having spent his whole life as a psychiatrist
on the issue of the power some professionals claim to "label"
"the Other," without resistance (the very definition of
"power"), Szasz brings his thesis to a nub in a concise preface. The
issue, he tells us, is, in effect, the "differential ability" (the
reviewer's term) to attribute "moral agency to some persons but not to
others." Secondarily he underscores the ad-hoc use of the term "mind"
often by those with insufficient formal training to discuss the idea
intelligently, including physicists and mathematicians.
"Neuroscientists" themselves typically stretch their expertise well
beyond the physico-anatomical limits of their expertise.
"Descartes-bashing," for example, is the current craze.
Szasz ranges over the following themes: from
the Platonic Socrates, a critique of the implications of the idea that thinking
and judgment are activities of our inner conversations (his
Oxford-English-Dictionary report on "mind" still fails to point out
the base in memory); the mutual "answerability"
("responsibility") between Self and Other through the process of
internalization of "conscience" to the power of judges to define a
person as "guilty but irresponsible" a favorite Szazian theme, as in
"insanitizing" suicide; the legal, psychoanalytic, and self-negating
aspects of what constitutes "legitimate" memory; neuroscience as a reductionist
ideology "in the service of" ultimate political control.
He concludes with a historical-philosophical
survey of "mind" through the Cartesian dualism that helped mystify
the concept as "soul" and later "psyche" followed by Mead's
socially relevant "I"-"me" of which he approves. Then we
are finally on familiar ground when he critiques the "mental-health"
movement (once more) leading to its apotheosis as a "master
metaphor." The refrain of existential choice in the Epilogue reminds us
that we are as free as we choose to be against the Other who would define us
Of course, there are only two sides relative
to Szasz: for or against. Regardless of your stance, you are once again faced
with an intelligent discussion, even clearer than some of his more technical
The critical issue in the Szaszian opus that
plays little part in this work is the one fans or critics would want him to
answer: "With what will we replace the armamentarium of the Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of 'mental illness'?" His answer: "problems
in living." But, we will ask, "How is it that some have 'problems of
living' and others don't, or have different ones?" Szasz won't have an
answer for this. Whether "craziness" is a normal response in a crazy
world (Laing)--which Szasz would deny as a nonexestent response--or it's a diagnotic
style and (interested) habit ("On Being Sane in Insane Places") or
it's being a "symptom-bearer" in a family which corners you and talks
you, with committment court's help, into involuntary committment, Szasz will
certainly not buy into any of this "explanation" no matter how
"down-to- earth." I'm convinced he would say it would lead to one
more round of "symptomizing," labeling, and political demonizing.
2004 A. P. Bober
A. P. Bober
has studied a psychology spanning Skinner and the humanistic-clinical view
based on existential phenomenology. He had been a PhD candidate in a
European-based philosophically relevant sociology including the
"critical" view. In teaching he introduced courses in "issues
in biological anthropology" and the "sociology of knowledge,"
while augmenting the coursework area of group theory and "small-group
developmental dynamics" (lab), publications in the latter two areas.
Currently he is writing a book trying to make connections between “mystical
experience” expressed in concrete metaphors and the specifics of neurophysiological
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