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Thomas Szasz

Thomas Szasz died on Sept 8, 2012. He was a great and wise man, and a friend who I miss.

The article does not say how he died. I hope he controlled and chose his own death (edit: he did commit autohomicide), because that is the best way. Here is one of Szasz's many wise comments on suicide, in his last book, Suicide Prohibition: The Shame of Medicine:
We do not and must not hold a person responsible, nor must he hold himself responsible, for a natural event or human action over which he has no control. However, we must hold a person responsible, and he should hold himself responsible, for acts that he can, or ought to be able to, control. Prohibiting death control-like prohibiting birth control and other self-regarding behaviors-reduces the individual's opportunities to assume responsibility for these behaviors and makes the person dependent on external controls instead of self-control. Therein lies the most insidious danger of using prohibitions to regulate behaviors that can, in the final analysis, be effectively regulated only by internal controls. If young people believe that they cannot, need not, or must not control how they procreate-because assuming such control is sinful or because others will assume responsibility for the consequences of their behavior-then they are likely to create new life irresponsibly. Similarly, if old people believe that they cannot, need not, or must not control how they die-because assuming such control signifies that they are insane or because others will assume responsibility for the consequences of their behavior-then they are likely to die irresponsibly.
Szasz wrote extensively about psychiatric coercion, the myth of mental illness, and related topics. He covered the history of psychiatry, drugs, suicide, ethics, the medicalization of everyday life, and more.

What fewer people know is that he was a broader thinker who went beyond psychiatry. He discussed, at a world class level, philosophical and political topics such as autonomy, self-control, responsibility and freedom. He was well read and had extensive knowledge of political philosophers and economists like Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, Rand and Burke. He also understood Karl Popper's writings. He applied his expertise in these matters to psychiatric issues, in addition to having insight in psychiatry itself. His breadth was crucial to the high quality and consistency of his thinking. The norm is to stray outside one's expertise and consequently make frequent mistakes, but Szasz avoided this by having incredible breadth of understanding. And because Szasz understood so much of life, his writing was much more interesting, filled with insights applicable to more than psychiatry, and compatible with the best ideas outside of psychiatry. Further, because many parts of life and fields of thought are connected, his inter-disciplinary approach allowed for insight that narrower thinkers could not achieve.

Szasz was a truly critical thinker. It's a very rare quality, but Szasz genuinely appreciated criticism. This is one of the most important metrics for judging any intellectual and Szasz deserves immense credit for it. Szasz was also a responsible man who could take responsibility for his mistakes that were criticized, even while correcting them. He was not the type of person to make excuses and rationalizations, or to lie to himself. Nor was he the type of person to admit a mistake to himself while hiding it from others to protect a public image.

Szasz was one of the best philosophers of all time, competitive with the greats like Popper, Rand, Burke and Deutsch.

To learn more, I strongly recommend Szasz's books. I think everyone interested in ideas should read a bare minimum of ten of them. I also created an informative iOS app about psychiatry.

Update: The iOS app is out of date. You can nows get the content here for any platform.

Elliot Temple on September 12, 2012

Comments (22)

Would you recommend a specific order for reading his books (in order to understand his ideas better)?

Anonymous at 11:37 AM on September 15, 2012 | #2158

Thank you

Thomas Szasz was a great humanitarian. He saved many peoples lives by helping them help themselves.

To Anonymous, I would recommend, reading everything at the szasz.com website, all his articles at The Freeman magazine's website, just use the search function at that website.

For his books, start with The Meaning of Mind, then read Insanity The Idea and its Consequences. Then read all the rest, starting with the ones from the 2000s, Coercion as Cure, etc.

Good luck.

Basil at 2:17 PM on September 15, 2012 | #2159
In his website it says he did chose and control his own death:
http://www.szasz.com/szaszdeath.htm

Anonymous at 1:05 PM on September 17, 2012 | #2160
Oh that's good to know, thanks. I read that page before that info was posted.

Judging from the description, he did not do cryonics.

Elliot at 1:27 PM on September 17, 2012 | #2161

Szasz among others.

I saw that you favourite philosophers were:

Szasz, Burke, Popper, Godwin, Rand.

Other than Popper, which single work of each of these people would you recommend as an introduction.

Could you possibly send the recommendations to my e-mail:

[email protected]

A. Crawshaw at 3:20 AM on February 26, 2014 | #2264

On Szasz's views on "Mental Illness"

I (Derek) ended up in a conversation with Elliot Temple on Twitter (https://twitter.com/DM_Berger/status/962086472516956161), which we both thought might be worthwhile to take elsewhere.

One of Elliot's (I hope that informality is not inappropriate) last comments re: the current and potential future state of the evidence re: biological and causal factors in mental illness was (https://twitter.com/curi42/status/962508937848238080):

> Szasz and I have evaluated that evidence differently than you have. We have a different framework, a different way of thinking. That's the thing which is really at issue.

If this is correct, and the basic issue is essentially epistemological, I'd like to nip that in the bud first. I'd like to ask for Elliot to say, roughly what his epistomology is re: scientific evidence, its quality, and its relevance to understanding and conceptualizing mental illness.

But to go first, I'll also point out mine. I'm not a single framework guy, I think there's utility in most of the big frameworks that humans put out there, be they logical, religious, scientific, mystic, w/e. For me, all models are wrong, but all usually tend to be somewhat useful too.

My basic point is that I *do* think there is tremendous utility and insight in Szasz's basic points. There is a large degree of social construction in the concept of mental illness, and much medicalization and biological reduction really does seem to be covert moralizing.

However, I also think it *extremely unlikely* that all the things that get termed "mental illness" are purely labelled as such because of social constructionism / conventions about what is "good". I.e. consider a person that constantly engages in self-harm and suicide attempts, has no will to move from his bed or eat, and is completely unable to experience joy or meaning despite repeated efforts. I do not think it valuable to attempt to understand this person without some recourse to biology and genetics, and I do not think it is crazy to say that *no culture anywhere* could or should find this kind of condition valuable (if it persists) and that this kind of condition deserves the same kind of inquiry, research, and modeling that we have in the past applied to typical medical conditions. I think this kind of condition shows that assuming a wide gap and huge difference between physical/biological and mental illness is not particularly sound.

I also think the medical / biological model has been fruitful. That there does not seem to be a mental illness with *zero* heritability suggests that genetics almost certainly plays a non-trivial role in mental illness, or at the very least that it is deeply important to keep this potentiality open. That there is *some* response (however pitiful) of things like depression and anxiety to medications suggests also that there is some basic validity and utility in employing biological models of mental illness.

None of these points completely negate the basic validity of Szasz's points: it is entirely possible to be overzealous in our pursuit of biological and genetic explanations, at the neglect of the complicated social realities. It would be a dire mistake to neglect the extent to which our concept of "mental illness" is socially and morally constructed. However, it would also, I think, be a dire mistake to think that "mental illnesses" are purely socially constructed. Some may well turn out to be entirely this, and some aspects of them (esp. depression) may turn out to be mostly social construction, but it would be quite shocking if all aspects of all mental illnesses turned out to be entirely socially constructed.

Openness and a concern for truth (and the avoidance of self-deception) demands that we not prematurely close the door on the biological and genetic models, and recognition of our hubris and moral motivations demands that we not fail to recognize our less honest motivations for engaging in diagnosis.

If there is any real deep agreement between these general epistemological and moral claims, let me know.

DMB at 6:46 PM on February 10, 2018 | #9499
No problem with informality.

> If this is correct, and the basic issue is essentially epistemological, I'd like to nip that in the bud first. I'd like to ask for Elliot to say, roughly what his epistomology is re: scientific evidence, its quality, and its relevance to understanding and conceptualizing mental illness.

My epistemology is Critical Rationalism.

About sticking to one framework: I have no problem with learning from many frameworks as long as one doesn't accept contradictions. I've found epistemology-related value in lots of other places when they don't contradict CR (or when I see a way to take inspiration from them and modify something so it no longer contradicts CR and is still good).

The reason for the CR core to my epistemology is I know of no refutation of it, and it offers refutations of all current rivals.

This stuff is indirectly relevant, but is not quite what I hand in mind about us evaluating evidence differently. There are more specific problems with the research in question. I was thinking of some more specific points relating to looking for causality instead of just correlation and having high standards of scientific rigor. For example, it's important to understand that "schizophrenia" is a *label*, a word. It's applied by people who are deemed to be able to apply it because an authority granted them credentials. This is not suitable for scientific measurement – there is no way to scientific measure who even has schizophrenia, let alone to identify the causes of an ill-specified label which actually is (or at least may be) applied to many different things. This argument invalidates lots of research on the matter before what the researchers actually did even matters – if you ignored these fundamental issues, it doesn't really matter what you think you discovered in the lab b/c it's built on top of faulty premises. There are other such arguments, and overall a lot of research is built on faulty premises.

> That there does not seem to be a mental illness with *zero* heritability suggests that genetics almost certainly plays a non-trivial role in mental illness

By "heritability" you mean correlation, not causation. Have you read heritability criticism? E.g. http://bactra.org/weblog/520.html

> However, I also think it *extremely unlikely*

It is not a matter of probability.

To evaluate this well requires figuring out a reasonable, intelligent perspective on the matter, and then seeing what its conclusions are. Saying things in the ballpark of "so many people can't be all wrong about so many things" is a bad approach.

> I do not think it is crazy to say that *no culture anywhere* could or should find this kind of condition valuable

Cultures often cause things they don't value. I'm not sure what your exact point was here, but I disagree that culture/memes/ideas couldn't cause these things. There is no argument that they couldn't, there's nothing that rules out such explanations.

Broadly, people tend to assume that if something is hard to change then that indicates genes over memes. Genes are seen as set in stone, while ideas are seen as something anyone can change if they feel like it. This is incorrect. Memes evolve much faster than genes and have been out-racing genes to meet most selection pressures since they existed. So, basically, *memes are more evolved than genes*. So memetic causes can be more complex, sophisticated, and have more advanced built-in defense mechanisms. And just overall, people's minds have tons of complexity – like a very large software codebase but even more so – so making successful changes about arbitrary things can be quite hard. For a brief intro about memes, see http://curi.us/1824-static-memes-and-irrationality

curi at 7:10 PM on February 10, 2018 | #9500
> This stuff is indirectly relevant, but is not quite what I hand in mind about us evaluating evidence differently.

Alright, I won’t focus on these then.

> For example, it's important to understand that "schizophrenia" is a *label*, a word. It's applied by people who are deemed to be able to apply it because an authority granted them credentials.

Yes, these are serious problems, and that, say, the DSM’s reliability is very much the artefact of the agreement of psychiatric “authorities” is a very serious problem for medical diagnoses.

> This is not suitable for scientific measurement

If my "this" you mean "mere authority consensus", then mostly I agree.

> there is no way to scientific measure who even has schizophrenia, let alone to identify the causes of an ill-specified label which actually is (or at least may be) applied to many different things.

Here I think you are being too extreme. What you are saying is roughly equivalent to claiming that expert diagnosis of schizophrenia carries *zero* information whatsoever. Surely you would not claim that experts could apply the label of schizophrenia to *anything that they felt like* and still be taken seriously?

> By "heritability" you mean correlation, not causation. Have you read heritability criticism? E.g. http://bactra.org/weblog/520.html

No, I mean “heritability”. Yes, there are some serious and profound limitations in our ability to infer causation from correlation (although partly this comes from metaphysical confusions about what “causation” really is - “causation” between A and B is just what we call temporal sequentiality between A and B once we have sufficiently rigorously specified a context such that the probability B follows A with extreme probability. That is, correlation is a necessary (though not sufficient) method for providing evidence of causality, and causation is (unless you're getting into some highly abstract do calculus *a la* Judea Pearl) just correlation with temporal restrictions.

And yes, I am familiar with the linked criticism of heritability (in fact, very nice surprise to see that specific link), as well as sophisticated rebuttals to it (http://humanvarieties.org/2013/04/03/is-psychometric-g-a-myth/). I do not think that either positions on heritability are foolish - heritability has some real utility and should be taken seriously by anyone who considers himself to be an empiricist, but it is important not to to draw overly strong conclusions from it.

> Saying things in the ballpark of "so many people can't be all wrong about so many things" is a bad approach.

This isn’t my argument / point. My argument is: “if it is essentially impossible that every culture everywhere value X, doesn’t it seem a bit contradictory to claim that X is ‘just a social construction’”? The relevance to the point is with respect to particularly extreme manifestations of what we currently term “mental illness”. Certain “mental illnesses” result in outcomes that no culture in the world would not term “harmful dysfunction”, significantly weakening the radical (pure) social constructionist standpoint.

> memes and genes stuff

None of this seems to be of any relevance to me, since my point is not that models like memetics aren’t useful or valuable or true, but rather that things like medical, biological and genetic models *also* have non-trivial utility and validity.

Anonymous at 7:45 PM on February 10, 2018 | #9502
> If my "this" you mean "mere authority consensus", then mostly I agree.

Yeah and anything where there aren't objectively measurable criteria (which is why there's authority, credentials and partial consensus being used in the first place – b/c they don't have something better). Until you can measure it, you don't even know what it *is* enough to scientifically figure out what causes it. (You can, however, still use philosophical reasoning, models of how minds work, etc, to try to understand something about the matter. E.g. if you have epistemological reasons to think some processes can create knowledge and some logically cannot, then you can figure out that minds use one of the logically-possible knowledge creating processes.)

Anyway, to figure out what schizophrenia is (and how many different things are being lumped together, and how many things are being omitted even though they fit better than other things being included) requires, most of all, good conceptual-philosophical thinking. It can't be settled by the current research methods.

> No, I mean “heritability”.

Which is a technical term which refers to certain correlations, and – very misleadingly – does not mean the standard English thing about it being passed down from your parents via genes or other non-idea mechanisms (like fetal environment).

According to the technical term, speaking English is heritable, and living in California is heritable. But according to the standard use of words, speaking English isn't heritable, it's learned, which is different. And living in California isn't heritable (normal English meaning) either, it's just that moving to new areas is a bunch of effort and so lots of people don't do it.

I looked it over, and it appears that nothing in http://humanvarieties.org/2013/04/03/is-psychometric-g-a-myth/ attempts to refute the basic points about heritability itself that I was bringing up. Instead it's debating some other points.

> causation is [...] just correlation with temporal restrictions.

i totally disagree. dunno if you want to get into that. in short, there are infinitely many correlations (aka patterns) and people pay massive selective attention to some over others, which is why they overly associate correlation with causation. *any finite data set is compatible with infinitely many patterns*, so you need to look for something else (causation – explanations of what is actually causing what, by what mechanism. understanding the mechanism is key).

> Here I think you are being too extreme. What you are saying is roughly equivalent to claiming that expert diagnosis of schizophrenia carries *zero* information whatsoever. Surely you would not claim that experts could apply the label of schizophrenia to *anything that they felt like* and still be taken seriously?

The diagnoses of "experts" do reasonably often contradict. But, OK, I grant you they don't diagnose randomly. It has a lot to do with who wants to hear what conclusions, and also with staying in the ballpark of vague DSM criteria (and, more importantly, the unwritten rules and traditions surrounding this stuff). If a group of people partly agree on a labelling scheme, it doesn't make the labels mean what they are claimed to mean. The labels mean the person did certain behaviors (with some not very good accuracy above zero). If you study this, you're studying the cultural practices of a group of people, not a phenomenon of nature.

> My argument is: “if it is essentially impossible that every culture everywhere value X, doesn’t it seem a bit contradictory to claim that X is ‘just a social construction’”?

From what I know, there are major cultural-memetic themes/commonalities across all existing cultures. These things – such as certain authoritarian themes of how parenting is approached – are very old and could underly all sorts of other commonalities across cultures. (E.g., in this case: being mean to children and trying to make them conform by irrational methods leads to some cases of severe disobedience/rebellion – sometimes many years later – which is one of the things that is sometimes, inconsistently, labelled "schizophrenia". It also leads to plenty of failure, plenty of problems, sadness, etc, which in severe cases gets called "depression".).

These commonalities are not just due to communication btwn cultures. There are reasons they would be created in multiple cultures independently. Certain truths about what works in situations with commonalities get independently developed. The commonalities include there are mortal people who need to pass on their culture to their children or else they won't exist as a culture today. Call it survivor bias. Logically you should expect all surviving cultures to have some way of effectively passing on knowledge to the next generation. At a broad philosophical level, there are only limited ways to do that like persuasion or seeking obedience. There are limited overall categories the options fall into. This gets into things like the logic of static memes.

curi at 8:18 PM on February 10, 2018 | #9503
> Until you can measure it, you don't even know what it *is* enough to scientifically figure out what causes it.

It’s a mot more complex than this. A good example is Hasok Chang’s “Inventing Temperature”, which documents how the concept of temperature, which we take today to be as simple and absolutely clearly scientific, in fact evolved through an iterative process whereby measurement had to be updated to match (consensus) theory, and theory had to be updated to match measurement, all the while with multiple debates about the absurdity and validity of the concept. That we are in a similar proto-scientific state now with respect to what we currently term “mental illness” is not a very strong reason to conclude there is no scientific validity at all to the concept.


> Anyway, to figure out what schizophrenia is […] requires, most of all, good conceptual-philosophical thinking.

No disagreement here.

> It can't be settled by the current research methods.

This is a bit absolutist again, which I think I’m going to make the key theme here. Yes, it can’t be *completely and totally settled* by the current research methods. But then, nothing of any complexity can be settled like this. However, the current methods can *non-trivially* and usefully *inform* our thinking about and reactions to what we currently call “schizophrenia” (and other mental illnesses). Our understanding must undergo an iterative process much like the concept of “temperature” did. I believe Szaszian theories and models must play a role in this process, and so must biological and genetic models.

> [Heritability] is a technical term which refers to certain correlations […]

I am well aware of the technicality, and I was deliberately using using it in the technical sense. I am not making negative assumptions here about your intellectual competence, and I’d appreciate you do the same for me. I completely disagree that the source I linked provides no refutations of the source you linked. I think there are a great deal of conflicts between the two sources, and that the only thing that is clearly foolish is total dismissal or total acceptance of the utility of the heritability construct. Perhaps this may be a key area of (I hope respectful) disagreement between us.

> i totally disagree [re: causality]. dunno if you want to get into that.

I don’t think this will be fruitful. However, it is indeed useful to see that a potential source of our disagreement is in our models of causality.

> But, OK, I grant you they don't diagnose randomly

Cool, appreciate it.

> If a group of people partly agree on a labelling scheme, it doesn't make the labels mean what they are claimed to mean. The labels mean the person did certain behaviors (with some not very good accuracy above zero).

Absolutely, strongly agree.

> If you study this, you're studying the cultural practices of a group of people, not a phenomenon of nature.

This is the oversimplification / logical fallacy. People do not form theories and create labels *randomly* (otherwise, of what use would they be, from an evolutionary standpoint). We *are* nature, and nature *evolved*. *Labeling* evolved because it is generally a useful process. E.g. labeling is attaching a sound (word) to some observed pattern or regularity in the world. Labels, like stereotypes, persist because they are generally more accurate and useful than false (see e.g. Lee Jussim’s work on stereotype accuracy). Radical social constructionism with respect to concepts is untenable not only because it conflicts with evolutionary theory, but also because social constructionism provides no real theory for *why* certain concepts are so regularly selected for and accepted across cultures. You can’t be simultaneously intellectually honest and open and claim complete and total escape from nature.

> These commonalities are not just due to communication btwn cultures. There are reasons they would be created in multiple cultures independently.

Yes, in particular, *biological and genetic reasons* are highly worth considering here.

And that’s the real general point here. A *purely* Szaszian framework is as reductive, close-minded, and absolutist as is a purely biological, medical, or genetic framework. That’s why I pointed out the multi-framework epistemology early on. There are plenty of good reasons for incorporating and heeding Szaszian considerations when attempting to understand mental illness. But *stopping* there there is intellectually vacuous, close minded, and, likely, destructive and immoral, since it is likely to prevent advances in whatever cases really *don’t* reduce to constructionism and memetics.

DMB at 9:19 PM on February 10, 2018 | #9504
I don't know what you feel like I insulted your intelligence about heritability. I just spoke directly about the issues. I actually don't know where you stand – you both seem to have argued with me (saying the rebuttal link has relevant criticism regarding heritability without giving any quotes of specifics) and also said it's so simple it's insulting to talk about. You also didn't relate any of this back to reaching any conclusions about the things at issue about heritability. Is there some claim about heritability you think I should accept? You brought it up but haven't so far gotten anywhere with it.

Temperature had a touchstone point people agreed on – I touch this and it feels hot, I touch that and it feels cold. There was something there to explore further. Schizophrenia has no clear identification of what it is to begin an investigation. It covers a wide variety of things which are not clearly related as a single thing, and uses a highly ambiguous criteria. It's a mess. There is no reason to expect that mess to ever be cleaned up rather than abandoned as a dead end error. It would have to be cleaned up before it would be good enough for scientific research to do anything with it.

> > If you study this, you're studying the cultural practices of a group of people, not a phenomenon of nature.

> This is the oversimplification / logical fallacy. People do not form theories and create labels *randomly*

Where did randomness come from? Cultural practices are not random!

> *Labeling* evolved because it is generally a useful process.

Sure, but, key questions about psychiatric labels: useful to whom, for what purposes?

> Radical social constructionism with respect to concepts is untenable not only because it conflicts with evolutionary theory, but also because social constructionism provides no real theory for *why* certain concepts are so regularly selected for and accepted across cultures.

It sounds like you're used to dealing with people, who you call radical social constructionists, who are *dissimilar to me*.

You say it contradicts evolutionary theory? What? Memes are *based on* evolutionary theory. They are all about applying evolution to the issue.

There are certainly other people, who I guess I'm getting lumped in with, who contradict evolution. But what did I say to contradict evolution? I said memes evolve faster than genes and, since they existed, memes have been meeting a lot of selection pressures before genes could. So human evolution has, in a significant part, shifted from genes to memes. This is a basic source of my doubts about attributing lots of things to genes. (Another major source of doubts, which is more where Szasz was coming from than any meme stuff, is there are lots of independent ways to see the big role of ideas in human life.)

> You can’t be simultaneously intellectually honest and open and claim complete and total escape from nature.

I don't claim a complete escape. E.g. eye color is genetic, not memetic. Something more mixed is cancer: there are relevant genetic factors as well as relevant environmental factors.

> Yes, in particular, *biological and genetic reasons* are highly worth considering here.

I have considered them. Certain things are fully accounted for with memetic explanations which get at the causal mechanisms, while there are no viable biological-genetic explanations that include causal mechanisms (actual or speculative ones that stand up to logical scrutiny). You seem to disagree but haven't given a counter-example yet. You even said that scientific evidence already contradicts what I'm saying some, but you have yet to show me any research which both contradicts me and stands up to scrutiny of the types I've been talking about.

curi at 9:40 PM on February 10, 2018 | #9505
i think you're unhappy and this conversation is going to die soon, but i don't know how to fix it. i would like to fix it.

curi at 9:50 PM on February 10, 2018 | #9506
Spinal injury is horrible. I don't have anything to kill myself if something like that happens to me. This is worrying me. Horrible govt doesn't let me buy anything to help my suicide when I am old.

FF at 10:18 PM on February 10, 2018 | #9507
> I don't know what you feel like I insulted your intelligence about heritability

I didn’t say this, I said you made “negative assumptions about my intellectual competence”. My stance here has been to assume that you are not a fool, and that the limitations of the heritability concepts are things that are well known to people that are not fools. Since that is my assumption, linking to criticisms of heritability implies, for me, an assumption of ignorance or foolishness on my part. Criticizing heritability is intellectual child’s play - anyone with any serious intellectual interests is aware of the criticisms, and no one that can claim to be a serious intellectual can completely dismiss the utility of the construct. That’s why I find links to the criticisms insulting.

> Is there some claim about heritability you think I should accept?

That the heritability of X generally has some validity and utility in understanding what causes X. Claiming that heritability is always irrelevant in ever understanding the causality of X is closed-minded and imprudent.

> Temperature had a touchstone point people agreed on – I touch this and it feels hot,

No, it didn’t, and if you knew anything about Chang’s book, you’d it wasn’t at all this simple. Abstract concepts are not just intuitively clear the first time society lays hand on them. This is not how science and knowledge progresses.

> Where did randomness come from? Cultural practices are not random!

Indeed! One of the most compelling theories for explaining this non-randomness today is biology and evolution!

> Sure, but, key questions about psychiatric labels: useful to whom, for what purposes?

For all human beings everywhere who wish to live lives which enable them to pursue universal and evolved human drives. There is no culture anywhere that thinks crippling and immobilizing depression, or that insane and spasmodically uncontrollable hallucinations accompanied by constant terror is generally “useful”.

> It sounds like you're used to dealing with people, who you call radical social constructionists, who are *dissimilar to me*.

You have provided no evidence whatsoever that the model of radical social constructionist is *not* a useful and mostly accurate model for describing your positions.

> There are certainly other people, who I guess I'm getting lumped in with, who contradict evolution. But what did I say to contradict evolution? I said memes evolve faster than genes and, since they existed, memes have been meeting a lot of selection pressures before genes could. So human evolution has, in a significant part, shifted from genes to memes.


Except that there is very little reason to believe memetics can contradict or trump all simple genetic and biological theories of depression, or that evolution has shifted completely (or even mostly) from genes to memes. In particular, a meme can only function as such if it speaks to a fundamental, evolved drives - theories about underwater basket-weaving can't have memetic force because evolution has constructed us not to care about anything related to underwater basket-weaving.

> I don't claim a complete escape.

Except you seem to claim such an escape for conceptualizing mental illness.

You keep asking for specific citations, but it is clear to me that this would be a pointless exercise. Your epistemology is different than mine, in that you prematurely disallow certain causal models. You are in fact an absolutist with respect what counts as a valid cause, and what we should take as scientific evidence in support of causality.

As these disagreements are fundamental and philosophical / epistemological, I see little value in pursuing them here. I hope that we can part ways here, and respectfully.

Anonymous at 10:24 PM on February 10, 2018 | #9508
> As these disagreements are fundamental and philosophical / epistemological, I see little value in pursuing them here.

Why? Do you think there is no truth in those fields, or you don't care about them, or what?

> Your epistemology is different than mine, in that you prematurely disallow certain causal models.

If you gave any specifics, you could explain why it works or where I'm going wrong. We could walk through an example and you could explain what you think is allowable and why.

What is valid that I think is invalid? And why? Specifically.

> Except that there is very little reason to believe memetics can contradict or trump all simple genetic and biological theories of depression,

you seem to be unfamiliar with the matter and not addressing it. i linked you an intro and you are treating what i said as vague hand-waving instead of engaging with the details.

curi at 10:29 PM on February 10, 2018 | #9509
> Do you think there is no truth in those fields, or you don't care about them, or what?

>> Your epistemology is different than mine, in that you prematurely disallow certain causal models.

I have repeatedly said that that there is truth and value in Szaszian thought, memetics, non-genetic and non-biological thinking as regards "mental illness". I have seen no acknowledgement whatsoever of the current utility of genetic and biological models for understanding "mental illness".

> i linked you an intro and you are treating what i said as vague hand-waving instead of engaging with the details.

You seem incapable of realizing that your absolutist position "biological and genetic models have no utility whatsoever in understanding mental illness" is narrow and absolutist. You'd only have to give an inch, and we'd be done. But since you can't, I have no choice but to conclude there must be fairly radical epistemological and philosophical differences between us.

Anonymous at 10:40 PM on February 10, 2018 | #9510
i don't think hedging things is the right approach. i don't think compromise is good intellectually. there are cases where it's 6 of this, 5 of that, but not all cases work that way. there are other cases where an inch of something is a mistake.

the idea of "giving an inch" presumes i have a particular side, and i don't want to give an inch (sacrificing one inch from my side, and giving it to the other side). i endeavor not to be biased in this way. i'm just trying to judge what's actually going on. you've said i'm wrong but haven't been very forthcoming about details.

more broadly, here are my views on discussion – i think issues can be productively resolved if ppl approach discussion in the right way: http://fallibleideas.com/paths-forward

curi at 11:24 PM on February 10, 2018 | #9511

Epistemological differences

> You seem incapable of realizing that your absolutist position "biological and genetic models have no utility whatsoever in understanding mental illness" is narrow and absolutist. You'd only have to give an inch, and we'd be done. But since you can't, I have no choice but to conclude there must be fairly radical epistemological and philosophical differences between us.


The world obeys laws of physics, biology, epistemology etc. For any particular event there is some explanation for why it happened that way and not some other way. Accounts that don't match the correct explanation are wrong. That's not narrow absolutism, that's just a consequence of the existence of laws that govern reality.

Your ideas are vague. You leave lots of issues unspecified. For example, if there is a mixture of biological and cultural causes, are they mixed in specific proportions? If they are mixed in specific proportions what causes them to be mixed in that exact proportion? Since your ideas are so vague you have immunised them from critical argument and from experimental testing. But this vagueness also makes your stated ideas useless for understanding the world or taking practical action. Perhaps you have some statement of your ideas that is more precise that you could link.

oh my god it's turpentine at 1:05 AM on February 11, 2018 | #9512
> For any particular event there is some explanation for why it happened that way and not some other way. Accounts that don't match the correct explanation are wrong.

Do you mean given accounts (testimony/anecdotes) or explanations of the phenomena?

Also, there are _many_ good explanations for particular events, just that we don't know most of them. There is _some_ objectively true explanation but we're exceedingly unlikely to know it. Provided that we have one or more unrefuted explanations for said phenomena we're okay to take their (the explanations') claims on reality seriously.

What you've said sounds ambiguous because 'accounts' doesn't have a clear meaning.

I'd say "explanations that don't match evidence are wrong" (excluding cases where there's a mistake in the theory used to interpret evidence), since "it doesn't match the evidence" is a very accessible way to refute an explanation.

Anonymous at 5:17 PM on February 11, 2018 | #9513
@accounts he means *explanations of the phenomena*

there are many good explanations if you consider, say, different levels of detail. but they don't contradict each other! so there's no problem here. there is one underlying reality, and are multiple *compatible* ways to talk about it.

> I'd say "explanations that don't match evidence are wrong"

but most explanations are refuted with non-evidential criticism. see _The Fabric of Reality_ by David Deutsch. or e.g. http://curi.us/1504-the-most-important-improvement-to-popperian-philosophy-of-science

Anonymous at 5:23 PM on February 11, 2018 | #9514

heritability critcism

> By "heritability" you mean correlation, not causation. Have you read heritability criticism? E.g. http://bactra.org/weblog/520.html

I read this article a few times and I sort of understand it but not enough. Do you have other sources to recommend that explain what heritability is? Maybe a different explanation will help me get it.

anon at 5:31 PM on February 11, 2018 | #9515
it's pretty simple. heritability (English) is hard to measure, so they made up something easy to measure, named it "heritability", and research that. it's looking where the light is good instead of where you lost your keys.

you already know what heritability (English) means. an example of something heritable is eye color – that's determined by genes you get from your parents.

"heritability" (technical) means: correlated with genes. this is ridiculous. it includes things such as where you live and what language you speak, which are blatantly *not* biologically inherited from your parents.

curi at 5:36 PM on February 11, 2018 | #9516

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)