Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Excerpts from "The Myth of Mental Illness"

"Mental illness, of course, is not literally a 'thing' -- or physical object -- and hence it can 'exist' only in the same sort of way in which other theoretical concepts exist. Yet, familiar theories are in the habit of posing, sooner or later -- at least to those who come to believe in them -- as "objective truths" (or 'facts'). 
During certain historical periods, explanatory conceptions such as deities, witches, and microorganisms appeared not only as theories but as self-evident causes of a vast number of events.  I submit that today mental illness is widely regarded in a somewhat similar fashion, that is, as the cause of innumerable diverse happenings."
-- "The Myth of Mental Illness."

"[Someone accused of mental illness] might state... that he is being persecuted by the Communists. These would be considered mental symptoms only if the observer believed that the patient was not... being persecuted. This makes it apparent that the statement that 'X is a mental symptom' involves rendering a judgment. The judgment entails, moreover, a covert comparison or matching of the patient's ideas, concepts, or beliefs with those of the observer and the society in which they live.  [Thus] the notion of mental symptom is therefore inextricably tied to the social (including ethical) context"
 -- "The Myth of Mental Illness."
"Psychiatry... is more intimately tied to problems of ethics than is medicine. I use the word "psychiatry" here to refer to that contemporary discipline which is concerned with problems in living (and not with diseases of the brain, which are problems for neurology).  Problems in human relations can be analyzed, interpreted, and given meaning only within given social and ethical contexts."
-- "The Myth of Mental Illness."
"The assumption is made that some neurological defect... will ultimately be found for all the disorders of thinking and behavior... This position implies that people cannot have troubles -- expressed in what are now called "mental illnesses" -- because of differences in personal needs, opinions, social aspirations, values, and so on.  All problems in living are attributed to physicochemical processes which in due time will be discovered by medical research."
-- "The Myth of Mental Illness."

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