Thomas Szasz: RIP

This is sad news.

Dr. Szasz was “an author of mine,” for Prometheus Books Inc., back in the day. I was lucky to meet him once in person, on his 74th birthday, at his house near Syracuse, as the guest of his brilliant daughter, Suzy Szasz, also “an author of mine.” Drinking Johnny Walker Black with him and his daughter and their friends, and talking about drug laws and politics in the kitchen … that was indeed a very good day and evening.

I’ve given Dr. Szasz’s The Untamed Tongue: A Dissenting Dictionary to numerous friends and former students. It is just so beautifully put together, limpid and witty. He has a piece in On the Barricades: Religion and Free Inquiry in Conflict, which I coedited (the book was a “greatest hits” collection from Free Inquiry magazine). His essay, “Tea and Sympathy on the Way to Mecca,” is adjacent to one I contributed (on “New Age Gurus”).

From The Untamed Tongue:

“Beware of the psychoanalyst who analyzes jokes rather than laughs at them.”

“In science, it’s dangerous to lie: if discovered, the liar is cast out of the group as a faker and fraud. In religion, politics, and psychiatry, it’s dangerous to tell the truth: if discovered, the truth-teller is cast out of the group as a heretic and a traitor.”

“Mental illness is a myth whose function is to disguise and thus render more palatable the bitter pill of moral conflicts in human relations. In asserting that there is no such thing as mental illness I do not deny that people have problems coping with life and each other.”

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