A BOOK REVIEW
by John Friedberg, M.D.
Hippocrates located the mind in the brain; Descartes, the soul in the pineal gland; and in 1994, Nobel Laureate Francis Crick reported "Free Will...in or near the anterior cingulate sulcus." Diseases of the mind, "mental illnesses," are even better localized: obsessive compulsive disorder is spotted in the frontal lobes, homosexuality in the hypothalamus and Schizophrenia is assigned now to Dopamine, now to Serotonin and now to the neurotransmitter molecule "du jour." "What's going on here?" asks the author, rhetorically: "They can't all be right." Thomas Szasz, M.D., Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at State University of New York in Syracuse, thinks they may all be wrong. In this, his 23rd book, he quotes Hughlings Jackson, the great 19th century British neurologist: "There is no such entity as consciousness; we are from moment to moment differently conscious...(consciousness is) the directional mechanism of attention." And paying attention (minding), thinking, and even memory are not bits of neuroanatomy like hippocampal formations. Not all words denote things. This is an entertaining book, an erudite discourse into history and philosophy, linguistics and logic. Neurologists, whose authority resides in the reality of the nervous system, may find it especially pertinent. We must be as clear as possible in our thinking about the mind and the brain. If they were identical, Dr. Szasz points out, we wouldn't have two very different words. This book is a must for those of us who need to deal rationally with the tempting tales of "neuromythology" issuing daily from the media, the drug companies, and our psychiatric colleagues. The author argues that most of the popular mind/brain theorists, in their materialist-reductionist simplifications, "...are writing science fiction or justifying the medical (psychiatric) control of deviance or both." He reminds us that people deceive themselves and others by twisting words, medicalizing straightforward sins such as bearing false witness into modern non-entities such as recovered memory syndrome, false memory syndrome, even alien abduction. Such literal or "concrete thinking" is supposed to be a symptom of schizophrenia which according to Dr. Szasz, is the "paradigmatic metaphoric illness of modernity." Quoting Immanuel Kant that "to think is to talk to oneself," the author asserts that thinking is "self-conversation," the subject acknowledging his inner voices as his own; and that "hearing voices" (auditory hallucinations, one cardinal "symptom" of Schizophrenia) are self-conversations that the subject disowns, attributing his inner voices to other "speakers" such as God, the FBI, etc. Tenacious in this central criticism of schizophrenia since his Myth of Mental Illness was published in 1961, Dr. Szasz speculates that "...never before in history have so many educated people wasted so much time and money as have diverse professionals squandered on studying this nonexistent illness." The Meaning of Mind is an easy but scholarly read, alive with quotes. Dr. Szasz leads us through six chapters: Thought: Self-Conversation Responsibility: Self-blame and Self-Praise Memory: Fabricating the Past and the Future Brain: The Abuse of Neuroscience Mind: The History of an Idea Modernity's Master Metaphors: Mental Illness and Mental Treatment Here's a work of philosophy, true love of logic, with relevance for daily life. It will open your mind - metaphorically, of course.