Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Heidegger’s ‘Worlds’. Inner Circle Seminar 265 (21 February 2021)


Heidegger‘Worlds
Early Freiburg Lectures (1919-25)
A 100th-anniversary revaluation
The self-world and other worlds
Why did Heidegger propose and then give up his three-worlds theory?

Anthony Stadlen
conducts
Inner Circle Seminar No. 265
Sunday 21 February 2021
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Martin Heidegger

Martin Heidegger at home in Freiburg


















In the 1940s, the psychiatrist Ludwig Binswanger described many idiosyncratic ‘worlds’ of his patients, such as Ellen West’s swamp world’, tomb world and aetherial world’; these undoubtedly were phenomenological descriptions of the patients actual experience. He also, though only for a short time, tentatively proposed a relatively constant triad of ‘worlds’ supposedly of more general application: Umwelt’ (‘around-world’), Mitwelt’ (‘with-world’), Eigenwelt’ (‘own world’). Half a century on, the existential therapist Emmy van Deurzen added a fourth: the ‘Überwelt’ (‘over-world’). These four ‘worlds’ have been taught in training institutes and regarded as an important part of existential therapy, at least in London, for more than thirty years. But do they really make sense as a way of understanding our being-in-the-world-with-others? How is it that, for example, personal relationships are assigned in one book to the Eigenwelt’ and in another book by the same author to the Mitwelt’? How could such relationships be restricted to one or other such partial world’ or dimensionrather than by their very nature embodying a shared search for wholeness that always already precedes and transcends such fragmentation into worlds?

As it happens, unmentioned by Binswanger and van Deurzen, presumably because the relevant lectures had not yet been published, Martin Heidegger had already, in his Freiburg lectures a hundred years ago, proposed a triad like Binswanger’s, though with ‘Selbstwelt’ (‘self-world’) rather than ‘Eigenwelt’  only to denounce it a few years later, even before he published Being and Time (1927), as misconceived. Today we shall explore Heidegger’s reasons for this early turn in his thinking. An ‘Überwelt’ would have been even more alien to him, implying a quasi-schizoid split-off world of ‘meaning’ and spirituality’, rather than meaning and spirit illuminating the one world in which we all live, move and have our being. In any case, we may ask, if there were to be an Überwelt, why not also an Unterwelt’ (underworld), as so powerfully documented throughout the millennia from ancient mythology to Freud and Jung? Of course, Heidegger, like Freud, acknowledged and alluded to such ordinary and familiar worlds as the work-world, the world of mathematics, the ‘classical world’, the dream-world’, the wish-world; but by 1927 he had firmly dismissed his own earlier schematic threefold of worlds’; and he wrote, definitively, in Being and Time: ‘The world of Dasein is Mitwelt.’

That is to say, our Mit-sein, our being-in-the-world-with-others, is not one ‘world’ or ‘dimension’ among others of being human. Rather, it is what being human is.

It is hoped that todays seminar will involve creative dialogue between those who have found it helpful and constructive to conceive experience in terms of a three- or four-‘world’ scheme and those who have found this an artificial and misleading conceptualisation.

It is hoped that this seminar will be at the venue specified below, but if necessary this will be an online seminar, using Zoom.

Venue: Durrants Hotel, 26–32 George Street, Marylebone, London W1H 5BJ
Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £140, others £175, some bursaries; coffee, tea, Durrants rock, mineral water included; payable in advance; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 208 888 6857 or: +44 (0) 7809 433250
E-mail: stadlen@aol.com or: stadlenanthony@gmail.com

For further information on seminars, visit: http://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as ‘Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness’. But they are independent of all institutes, schools and universities.

A Most Worthwhile Thing. 2. Rogers: ‘A Silent Young Man’. Inner Circle Seminar 264 (24 January 2021)

A Most Worthwhile Thing
   
‘Psychotherapy is one of the most worthwhile things in the world.
       Thomas Szasz, 2007                                   
   
2. Carl Rogers: ‘A Silent Young Man (1967)

Anthony Stadlen  Naomi Stadlen
conduct
Inner Circle Seminar No. 264
Sunday 24 January 2021
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Carl Rogers
Carl Rogers published, in his 1967 book The Therapeutic Relationship and its Impact: A Study of Psychotherapy with Schizophrenics, a transcript of two interviews, with lengthy silences, from his 166-session psychotherapy of a hospitalised silent young man, James Brown’, whose diagnosis was ‘schizophrenic reaction, simple type’. Rogers wrote: I hope and believe that the interaction of the two hours speaks for itself.He included a letter from James Brown reporting his independent life two years after leaving therapy. Rogers added fifteen randomly selected four-minute transcripts from the therapy with detailed evaluations and criticisms from six leading therapists, including existential analyst Rollo May and family therapist Carl Whitaker. In todays seminar you are invited to examine the two interviews; the letter; the fifteen extracts; and the comments of Rogers and the other therapists. Does this case of ‘a silent young man’ confirm that psychotherapy can be, as Thomas Szasz said, one of the most worthwhile things in the world’?

It is hoped that this seminar will be at the venue specified below, but if necessary this will be an online seminar, using Zoom.


Venue: Durrants Hotel, 26–32 George Street, Marylebone, London W1H 5BJ
Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £140, others £175, some bursaries; coffee, tea, Durrants rock, mineral water included; payable in advance; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 208 888 6857 or: +44 (0) 7809 433250
E-mail: stadlen@aol.com or: stadlenanthony@gmail.com

For further information on seminars, visit: http://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as ‘Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness’. But they are independent of all institutes, schools and universities.

Seeing Ourselves. 2. Reclaiming Humanity from God and Science. Raymond Tallis conducts Inner Circle Seminar 263 (6 December 2020)


Seeing Ourselves
2. Reclaiming Humanity from God and Science

Raymond Tallis
conducts Inner Circle Seminar No. 263
introduced by Anthony Stadlen
Sunday 6 December 2020
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Raymond Tallis 
Raymond Tallis is one of our best-loved invited speakers. Today he conducts his seventh Inner Circle Seminar (his first was on 2 December 2012). It is the second seminar of a pair with the joint title Seeing Ourselves. The first, on 2 June 2019, had the subtitle Rescuing the Self from Science, and the second of the pair, today, has the subtitle Rescuing the Self from God and Science. He explicitly regards it as a summation of the symphony of seven seminars which culminates today. (He reassures us, though, that there are still more seminars to come.)

Tallis has shown in six profound Inner Circle Seminars that he is one of the world’s leading demystifiers of what he calls the ‘neuroscience delusion’ (‘neuromania’) and the ‘intellectual plague of biologism’ (‘animalism’). His ruthless, good-humoured exposure of reductive natural-scientism continues the tradition of Heidegger and Szasz, for example, but is utterly his own. Psychotherapists are free to choose to go on pretending to be ‘validated’ by ‘neuroscience’; but their work, such as it is, sometimes radically transforming and helpful, sometimes best passed over in silence, speaks for or against itself as the case may be, and no pseudo-scientific ‘validation’ (or ‘invalidation’) can disguise this.

Raymond Tallis is one of the select few who affirms and advocates the devoted use of devotedly human language to depict and describe the human world and human relationships.

In his book Logos Professor Tallis exposes the absurdity of the argument that evolutionary biology or neuroscience show that our thinking is merely a function of our bodies-as-objects-for-science and therefore can have no truth-value of its own unless it is in some way itself derived from evolutionary biology or neuroscience, which are taken to be ‘objectively true. But those sciences are themselves human creations, and therefore, by this argument, not ‘objectively true. Professor Tallis remarks that those who use this argument are worthy successors of the Cretan of old who said all Cretans were liars.

In todays seminar he continues to focus on the so-called problem of the self . 

Raymond Tallis writes about todays seminar:
The seminar will bring together and build on themes from my previous seminars. Their central thesis was that humans are neither supernatural beings hand-made by God nor mere pieces of nature. The human subject is transcendent in ways that will be discussed. I will argue that the most important task for humanism is to reclaim this transcendence from religious discourse.
I will challenge the notion that a secular vision is necessarily that of a disenchanted universe. The common view that science has proved the world to be meaningless is undermined by the fact that the human subject and science itself cannot be accommodated in the scientific world picture.
The question then arises as what we shall do with a positive vision of humanity? I will address the fear that,  in the absence of belief in God, humans will lack a moral compass. The response will examine the empirical evidence regarding godless societies; will discuss whether religion will make us better or worse behaved; and will look at secular sources of morality.
The seminar will then examine ways in which we might flourish in the face of the knowledge that we die and that our aims and ambitions are necessarily transient, even if they are fulfilled. A life without religion lacks sacred spaces, a certain profound sense of belonging,  the convergence of meaning and purpose in one’s life comparable to that enjoyed by believers whose life is devoted to  praising, serving, and worshipping God, and the consolation of a hereafter and the restoration of the losses and injustices  of earthly life.
I will touch on the perils, pitfalls and disappointments of life devoted to the good of others. I will look at other secular sources of salvation: gratitude; love; art; and philosophy. An overarching theme will be that of an enduring project that binds our days each to each and exorcises the banality of mere ‘and’. I will then discuss the idea of humanism as a religion. Finally, I will discuss the potential for a dialogue between believers and non-believers at the very least discussing what each may learn from the other about the dangers of a descent from beneficent visions to collective thuggery.
The seminar will raise more questions than it provides answers.
For an account of how Raymond Tallis writes his extraordinary books, see his article ‘My writing day: In my favourite pub, the staff turn down the speaker in my writing corner’, in The Guardian Review of 29 April 2017:
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/apr/29/my-writing-day-raymond-tallis

Raymond Tallis was a Professor of Geriatric Medicine and consultant physician in Health Care of the Elderly. He has published two hundred research articles in the neurology of old age and neurological rehabilitation, as well as a novel, short stories, three volumes of poetry, and thirty books on philosophy of mind, philosophical anthropology, literary theory, the nature of art, and cultural criticism. He has received many awards and honorary degrees. In 2009, the Economist listed him as one of the world’s twenty leading polymaths.

Nicholas Fearn wrote in The Independent:

When Kirsty Young was asked to name her favourite guest on Desert Island Discs, the rock star Paul Weller was beaten into second place, for her own luxury item would be the writer Raymond Tallis.

Raymond Tallis, whose seventh Inner Circle Seminar this will be, kindly confirms that our seminar structure, in which dialogue is of the essence, enables him to communicate and reflect on his ideas. He wrote, after his first Inner Circle Seminar, The Intellectual Plague of Biologism, on 2 December 2012:

The seminar was for me an incredible experience. I have never previously had the opportunity to discuss the topics we covered in such depth with a group of people who came at it from such different angles but in a way that I found illuminating. I learned a lot. It was a tremendous privilege.


It is hoped that this seminar will be at the venue specified below, but if necessary this will be an online seminar, using Zoom.

Venue: Durrants Hotel, 26–32 George Street, Marylebone, London W1H 5BJ
Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £132, others £165, some bursaries; coffee, tea, Durrants rock, mineral water included; payable in advance; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857     E-mail: stadlen@aol.com
For further information on seminars, visit: http://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/


The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as ‘Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness’. But they are independent of all institutes, schools, and universities.

Doing ‘Nothing’: The Work of Mothers and Psychotherapists. Naomi Stadlen conducts Inner Circle Seminar 261 (13 September 2020)


Doing Nothing
The Work of Mothers and Psychotherapists

Naomi Stadlen
conducts
Inner Circle Seminar No. 261
Sunday 13 September 2020
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Naomi Stadlen
Naomi Stadlen writes:
It’s impossible to do nothing. Mothers often say: ‘I’ve got nothing done all day.’ This can’t be a literal statement. It’s a statement of value. While I was writing What Mothers Learn, I noticed many similarities between the work of mothers and that of psychotherapists. Both can feel as if they are ‘doing nothing’ exactly when they are working well. So ‘nothing’ must be ‘something’ that we seem to undervalue. We will use this seminar to identify and explore some of the actions that so easily get dismissed as ‘doing nothing’. Psychotherapists, mothers, and interested others are warmly invited to take part.

Mother, grandmother, existential psychotherapist, supervisor and teacher Naomi Stadlen has conducted weekly discussion groups, Mothers Talking, for nearly thirty years. Her books What Mothers Do – especially when it looks like nothing (2004) and How Mothers Love – and how relationships are born (2011) are translated into many languages and enjoyed by mothers round the world who say that their experiences are described and valued in them. Her third book, just published, is What Mothers Learn – without being taught (April 2020).

Naomi Stadlen conducted Inner Circle Seminar No. 77, Listening to Mothers, on 25 April 2004; and (with Anthony Stadlen) Inner Circle Seminar No. 125, Merleau-Ponty: The Childs Relations with Others, on 16 March 2008. 

This will be an online seminar, using ZOOM.

Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £132, others £165, some bursaries; payment must be made in advance by bank transfer; a ZOOM invitation and instructions will then be sent; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857  iPhone: 07809 433 250
E-mail: stadlen@aol.com  or: stadlenanthony@gmail.com
For further information on seminars, visit: http://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as ‘Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness’. But they are independent of all institutes, schools and universities.

Locked Up: ‘Patients’ and their Gaolers. 15. Claude Eatherly. Hiroshima Bomb Pilot. Anthony Stadlen conducts Inner Circle Seminar 260 (9 August 2020)


Locked Up: ‘Patients’ and their Gaolers
15. Claude Eatherly
2 October 1918 – 1 July 1978
Repentant Hiroshima Bomb Pilot
An investigation into his alleged insanity
75 years after Nagasaki (9 August 1945)
and into Bertrand Russell’s and Martin Heidegger’s
responses to the threat of thermonuclear war

Anthony Stadlen
conducts
Inner Circle Seminar No. 260
Sunday 9 August 2020
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Günther Anders
Claude Eatherly
Bertrand Russell
Today is the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Major Claude Eatherly, Commander of the bomber group responsible for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks on 6 and 9 August 1945 respectively, personally guided and led the aircraft carrying the Hiroshima bomb.

Robert Jungk wrote:

It is said that after the shattering experience of Hiroshima Major Eatherly spoke to no one for days on end.’ 

In striking contrast to the other servicemen involved, who were feted as heroes, he could not reconcile his conscience with what he had done. He was, as a result, certified and incarcerated as ‘mentally ill’.

In his own words, in a letter of 22 April 1960, Eatherly wrote:

I was the pilot that led the Hiroshima A-Bomb Mission in World war II, and since that time I have been conscience stricken about it. I have done antisocial acts while in a confused state seeking punishment for myself. After each act I have been placed in a mental hospital.

The philosopher Günther Anders, former student of Martin Heidegger and former husband of Hannah Arendt, initiated a correspondence with Eatherly in his asylum, published in 1961 as a book, Burning Conscience, with a Preface by the philosopher Bertrand Russell, who wrote:

No unbiased person, after reading Eatherly’s letters, can honestly doubt his sanity. [...] The world was prepared to honour him for his part in the massacre, but, when he repented, it turned against him, seeing in his act of repentance its own condemnation.

Lord Russell also wrote that, if the man who wrote these letters is considered mad, then:

I shall not be surprised if my last years are spent in a lunatic asylum – where I shall enjoy the company of all who are capable of feelings of humanity.

Russell did, in fact, commit carefully considered civil disobedience later that year, 1961, at the age of 89, by sitting down in Trafalgar Square; he was not arrested on that occasion, but not long afterwards spent seven days in Brixton Gaol (where he had already spent six months for pacifist activity during the First World War) for refusing to be of good behaviour by refraining from inciting further civil disobedience.

Heidegger, who had a position as preeminent philosopher in West Germany comparable to Russells in the United Kingdom, did not become involved in his former student Anderss collaboration with Eatherly. Heidegger signed a petition against a nuclear power station, but otherwise limited himself to observing that the atomic bomb was merely the last emission of the atomisation effected centuries earler by Descartes. In other words, insisted Heidegger,

 The Dreadful has already happened.

If the atomic bombs did not go off and destroy all life on earth, he warned, a far worse danger would threaten humanity. Men and women were in danger of losing their essential nature as meditative rather than merely calculative beings.

We shall explore Claude Eatherlys case as a paradigm of a procedure of locking up ‘inconvenient people that is still prevalent in our society today. We shall also compare and contrast the very different, but complementary, responses to the nuclear arms race of the philosophers Bertrand Russell and Martin Heidegger.

This will be an online seminar, using ZOOM.

Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £132, others £165, some bursaries; payment must be made in advance by bank transfer; a ZOOM invitation and instructions will then be sent; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857  iPhone: 07809 433 250
E-mail: stadlen@aol.com  or: stadlenanthony@gmail.com
For further information on seminars, visit: http://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as ‘Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness’. But they are independent of all institutes, schools and universities.

The Myth of ‘Thomas Szasz’: A Centenary Celebration – and Demythologisation. Jeffrey Schaler & Anthony Stadlen conduct Inner Circle Seminar 258 (14 June 2020)


The Myth of Thomas Szasz
A Centenary Celebration – and Demythologisation
(Thomas S. Szasz: 15 April 1920 – 8 September 2012)

Jeffrey Schaler   Anthony Stadlen
with assistance from
Tomi Gomory  Keith Hoeller  Richard Vatz
conduct
Inner Circle Seminar No. 258
Sunday 14 June 2020
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Thomas Szasz   Anthony Stadlen   Jeffrey Schaler
Manhattan, 2003
Photograph copyright www.szasz.com
Not to be used without permission
Thomas Szasz
Szasz
s 90th-birthday seminar

Inner Circle Seminar No. 153
London, 13 June 2010
Photograph copyright jennyphotos.com
Not to be used without permission
With this seminar we celebrate the centenary of Thomas Szasz (born 15 April 1920). Today is ten years and a day after the astounding Inner Circle Seminar No. 153, the last of the three that Thomas Szasz conducted. It was in London, at the Portman Hotel, on 13 June 2010, for his 90th birthday. 90 people came, including him: the dialogue an incandescence of 90 birthday candles. We gave him a copy of Magna Carta signed by all present, to honour his love of justice and freedom.

The title of that seminar was The Myth of Mental Illness 50 Years On. But now, 60 years on, a sober assessment is that vanishingly few psychiatrists, psychotherapists, psychoanalysts or existential therapists, even among those who have heard of him, understand why, for more than half a century, Thomas Szasz tirelessly insisted that mental illness is a myth. They tend to say that he started with a valid criticism of psychiatry, but then took it much too far, in such a way as to lose any support they might have given him. They often confess that they are puzzled that this brilliant man could adopt a position that seems, to them, offensive to logic and ethics. They protest that this position implies both a distressing lack of compassion for the suffering ‘mentally ill’ and, from a philosophical perspective, a schizoid, dehumanising Cartesian dualism.

In this seminar, such views of Szasz will not be disparaged or ridiculed. On the contrary, they will be regarded as, prima facie, entirely understandable and reasonable ways of responding to his very unusual and original thesis. This is the best starting-point for beginning to understand the revolutionary thing that Szasz was saying. People have to start from where they are. However, this seminar is based on the conviction that those who are prepared carefully to examine their ways of understanding Szasz may well come to the revelation that these are in truth ways of misunderstanding: a misunderstanding so profound as to amount to a myth, of a Thomas Szasz’ who never existed. We can be grateful for this myth, because only through demythologising and demystifying it shall we begin to discover what Thomas Szasz was really saying.

His very first paper, a straightforward medical account of how a man who had been given the last rites because of his extreme congestive heart failure was apparently saved by simply increasing his water intake from 1.5 to 6 litres a day, and his second, a psychosomatic study of the role of hostility in peptic ulcer, were published in 1947, 73 years ago. Ten years later, in 1957, his first book Pain and Pleasure: A Study of Bodily Feelings duels with dualism and points forward to The Myth of Mental Illness (1961), while his key paper ‘Commitment of the mentally ill’ announces his lifelong struggle against compulsory psychiatry. His last publication known to me is the paper Varieties of psychiatric criticism which he sent me unformatted in an email on 16 August 2012 twenty-three days before his death. Kierkegaard said purity of heart is to will one thing. Szasz’s ‘one thing’ was justice, whether for pope, prince, slave, or ‘mental patient’. Here at the end of his life the 92-year-old Szasz contemplates with passionate dispassionate lack of illusion: psychiatry, ‘antipsychiatry’, ‘Laingian’ psychiatry, ‘Critical Psychiatry’. He condemns them all.

But we shall see how this shaking of the foundations and clearing of the rubble is only the prelude to something profoundly positive. Szasz loved the insufficiently explored potential of true psychotherapy (care for the soul); of decent democracy; and of the accusatorial, adversarial, non-inquisitorial method in law and in a possible new discipline which would replace psychiatry.

Already, as a teenager in Hungary before the second world war, Thomas Szasz had no illusions about either ‘mental illness’ or ‘mental hospitals’. He had concluded that these terms were euphemisms, motivated category mistakes, mystifications intended to invalidate inconvenient or embarrassing people and to justify their incarceration and compulsory ‘treatment’ in psychiatric prisons. As an immigrant to the United States, he developed this position in hundreds of papers and in thirty-five books, including The Myth of Mental Illness (1961) and Law, Liberty and Psychiatry (1963), many of which we have studied in Inner Circle Seminars. We have been privileged to have Szasz himself conduct three of these seminars, including the one already mentioned, for his ninetieth birthday in 2010.

People have denounced Szasz ever since they began vaguely to register that he was serious when he said he did not believe in ‘mental illness’ or in the so-called ‘commitment’ of the so-called ‘mentally ill’. Psychiatrists say he ‘walked away from’ suffering; psychoanalysts say he was unconscious of the ‘unconscious’; existential therapists say he was a ‘Cartesian dualist’; and all say he discounted the psychological problems of ‘schizophrenics’ and the real threat to society of dangerous ‘mental patients’.

However, these criticisms are not, to put it mildly, soundly based in study of Szasz’s writings. The critics usually have little idea of what Szasz was actually saying or of where he was ‘coming from’. (It must be said that this is true not only of virtually all his adversaries but of virtually all his self-styled admirers and advocates as well.)

Where he was ‘coming from’ is what we shall further explore and expound in today’s seminar.

This seminar complements our Inner Circle Seminars on Laing and Esterson’s Sanity, Madness and the Family (1964) and on Heidegger’s and Boss’s Zollikon Seminars (1959-1969). Szasz’s 1961 book The Myth of Mental Illness was the first work referenced in the Laing and Esterson book. All five workers were, during the crucial decade of the 1960s, radically questioning the pseudo-medical concepts of ‘mental health’ and ‘mental illness’, and in particular the concept of ‘schizophrenia’though Heidegger and Boss clung to the view that psychotherapy was part of medicine.

This is what ‘professionals’, at least as much as ‘lay’ people, find hard to understand. They often seem to think this is all merely a matter of using politically correct language. They argue, for example, that they themselves do not use the ‘stigmatising’ term ‘mental illness’; or, even if they do, they do not believe in ‘pathologising’ patients or clients. They have, they say, a ‘biopsychosocial’ model of ‘mental health’. They do not see that Szasz’s is a fundamental critique of the concepts of ‘mental illness’ and ‘mental health’ as inseparable components of a mystifying and invalidating metaphor. The attempt to cling to the clinical-psychiatric approach while signalling that one has in some unspecified way progressed beyond it was exemplified when President Obama spoke of ‘mental health illnesses’.

The most advanced psychiatric conferences perpetuate this confusion. Well-meaning, hardworking professionals show charts of the waiting times from ‘time of referral’ for ‘service users’ who are said to be ‘experiencing psychosis’ or a ‘mental health crisis’. They report the provision of ‘secure service’ for certain of those so-called ‘service users’: i.e., locking them up and forcibly ‘treating’ them. It is striking that even Open Dialogue advocates often use the same passive jargon of ‘referral’ by others and the attribution that the ‘referred’ person is ‘experiencing psychosis’ rather than having ‘psychosis’ attributed by others.

You may not agree with this assessment, but the heart of these seminars is dialogue, and you will be listened to (and no doubt argued with!) with respect and courtesy if you maintain, to adapt the words of one professor of psychiatry, that Szasz was popular as a sixties kind of guy, an anti-establishment rebel where the facts he distorted were not a problem for the political force of his claims; any smidgin of value he could have had is long eclipsed, and, except as a trip down memory lane, I can see no reason whatsoever why he deserves a [seminar] like this, even a mixed one with opposing views. Dr. Szasz is simply no longer worth it.’

Five close friends and colleagues of Thomas Szasz will participate in today’s seminar: Anthony Stadlen (conductor), Jeffrey Schaler (co-conductor), Tomi Gomory, Keith Hoeller, Richard Vatz.

Jeffrey A. Schaler is an existential psychoanalyst in private practice since 1975; former Professor of Justice, Law, and Society at American University; author of Addiction is a Choice (2000); editor of Szasz under Fire: The Psychiatric Abolitionist Faces his Critics (2004), and co-editor of Thomas S. Szasz: The Man and His Ideas (2017). He produced and owns www.szasz.comHis website is www.schaler.net. He received the Thomas S. Szasz Award in 1999 and the Thomas Szasz Award of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights in 2002. Professor Schaler conducted Inner Circle Seminar No. 132, Addiction is a Choice, on 12 October 2008, one of the best attended of all the seminars so far. He co-conducted Inner Circle Seminar No. 188, Thomas Szasz: In Memoriam, on 3 March 2013 and Inner Circle Seminar No. 234, Thomas Szasz: 65 Years of Writing: 1947-2012 on 12 March 2017.

Tomi Gomory is Associate Professor at Florida State University College of Social Work. He is co-author of Mad Science: Psychiatric Coercion, Diagnosis, and Drugs (2013). He is also a researcher, and author and co-author of many papers, in a number of fields, including evidence-based medicine and its limitations when applied to mental health’; madness and mental illness’; social work and its relevance to mental health’ provision in Hungary; and coercion in the social services.  

Keith Hoeller will join us from Seattle, USA, where he was Professor of Philosophy for many years. He founded and edited the Review of Existential Psychology and Psychotherapy from 1993. He received the Thomas S. Szasz Award in 2002. He is one of the very few authorities on both Szasz and Heidegger. He edited Thomas Szasz: Moral Philosopher of Psychiatry (1997), translated Heidegger’s  Elucidation of Hölderlins Poetry (2001), and contributed a chapter on Szasz to Existential Therapy (ed. Barnett, L. and Madison, G., 2012).

Richard Vatz is tenured full Professor of Rhetoric and Communication at Towson University wherein he has served for 45 years. He received the Thomas S. Szasz Award in 1993. He received many awards from Towson University. He is co-author of Thomas Szasz: Primary Values and Major Contentions (1983), co-editor of Thomas S. Szasz: The Man and His Ideas (2017), and author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion: the Agenda-Spin Model (new edition, 2019)He has published hundreds of articles, reviews and blogs.

Your contribution to the dialogue will be warmly welcomed.


To mark Thomas Szaszs centenary a list of some of the better known psychiatric prisoners can be seen here:

Locked Up: ‘Patients’ and their Gaolers. For the centenary of Thomas Szasz (15 April 2020)

This will be an online seminar, using ZOOM.

Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £132, others £165, some bursaries; payment must be made in advance by bank transfer; a ZOOM invitation and instructions will then be sent; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857  iPhone: 07809 433 250
E-mail: stadlen@aol.com  or: stadlenanthony@gmail.com
For further information on seminars, visit: http://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as ‘Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness’. But they are independent of all institutes, schools and universities.