On New Jersey

In your January issue, you published an article (“Our Platonic Guardians“) on “Justice” Wilentz of the New Jersey Supreme Court by a Hamilton Township attorney named Gregory J. Sullivan. As a lifelong resident of the Garden State, I can only reaffirm what he has written. And add: what this state needs is a constitutional convention. The 1947 document, penned at the high noon of optimism with respect to centralized government, is a blunt, heavy instrument in the hands of such a man as Wilentz.

        —Will Morrisey
Rumson, NJ

On Thomas Szasz

Salud to Chronicles for publishing Irving Louis Horowitz’s January essay on “Thomas Szasz Against the Theorists.” His critique of Szasz is one of the best I have ever read.

Professor Horowitz should be assured that there are a few psychiatrists who fully embrace Szasz’ concepts. Some of us have been his converts and admirers for many years. In my case it has been for more than 30 years, when as a psychiatric resident at Northwestern University Medical School, I first heard him speak. Others, like Dr. Karl Menninger, the world-renowned psychiatrist, became a convert only later in life, but later is better than never.

Professor Horowitz mentions Szasz’ “suffering of professional obliquity” and “loneliness.” I am sure that Dr. Szasz does not need me and perhaps others to decrease such “suffering” and “loneliness,” for I am sure he neither suffers nor is he lonely. Like any genius, he is just busy with his work, and he presents its results regardless of what the masses, professional or otherwise, may think. He is in very good company with himself; in social situations, he is a very affable, civilized person.

Professor Horowitz covers the fundamental tenets of Szasz well. There are a few observations, however, that could use clarification. Among them is the suggestion that Szasz is in favor of the “humanization of treatment” of the so-called mentally ill. In fact. Dr. Szasz is neither in favor of nor against such treatment. What he is against is the treatment of adults against their will, regardless of how humane the treatment is said to be. Further, since mental illnesses or devil possession of witches are myth, metaphors for biological entities, they cannot exist as medical illnesses. Therefore, one cannot treat, humanely or otherwise, a nonexistent illness.

It is possible that I have misinterpreted Dr. Horowitz on this point. On the other hand, he is exactly on target when he talks about the “Politics of Psychiatry and Ethics of Psychiatry.” “The Therapeutic State” is precisely what Szasz is all about.

        —Nelson Borelli, M.D.
Department of Psychiatry
Northwestern University
Chicago, IL