Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Psychiatry: Minds are not molecules

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published: mardi 21 novembre 2006 12:43:00

Here's a treat: A sympathetic look by Jeffrey Oliver in The New Atlantis at Thomas Szasz's lonely crusade against mechanistic and materialistic psychiatry, as it was practiced in the twentieth century:
Szasz's attack targeted the cornerstone of modern American psychiatry: the marriage of mind and molecule, the notion that behavior can safely be classified as "sickness" and that the mind can safely be "treated" just like any other organ. In calling that marriage a sham, Szasz mocked the efforts of almost every major American psychiatrist back to Benjamin Rush, the profession's founding father. "The subjects [mental diseases] have hitherto been enveloped in mystery," Rush wrote in the late eighteenth century. "I have endeavored to bring them down to the level of all other diseases of the human body, and to show that the mind and the body are moved by the same causes and subject to the same laws." This was the error Szasz aimed to correct.

While Szasz went overboard, as Oliver shows, he made vastly more sense than he was given credit for. The attempt to reduce psychiatry to neurology never worked and couldn't work:

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