Philosophy 2006 Lecture Notes - Compulsory Sterilization

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Unit V Lecture V April 6, 2012
Szasz
Challenging The Dominant Ideology
Szasz is aiming to argue from similarities in the way the Inquisition and Institutional
Psychiatry work to an identity in their social function
That social function is to defend the “dominant ethic” of a particular society
Szasz is therefore questioning the familiar distinction between “faith and reason” or
“science and religion” by looking to how, regardless of whether the dominant ideology is
based in religion or in science, society will produce institutions whose aim is to use that
ideology to repress what is sees as deviant behaviour
1940’s-1950’s:
o Lobotomies
o Compulsory sterilization
Society’s Games
Each group is organized by a few ideas, values, and practices which cannot be questioned or
challenged without causing its disruption
These ideas, values, and practices constitute the “dominant ethic”; They determine what
kinds of activities one can and cannot engage in; They are seen as pre-requisites for a stable
society
Szasz’s Thesis
Social function of the Inquisition and Institutional Psychiatry are the same
Both provide organized system for ritualized affirmation of society’s dominant ethic
From without, they may appear harsh and oppressive; from within, they are beautiful and
merciful.
These systems achieve their aim through “social therapy”
o To preserve the dominant ethic, society needs a symbolic offender to whom
impending disintegration of social order is attributed
o So, suppress some individual and moral interests in order to maintain stability
Inquisition
Define as heretics or witches those who rejected or allegedly rejected the dominant ethic
those who make an alliance with Satan, not God
This could be useful for both Catholics and Protestants
Institutional Psychiatry
“Mental illness” serves the same purpose as “witch”
Paradigm of mental disease
Health being seen as “what is good and should be aimed,” and disease being seen as “what
is bad and should be avoided” = our society’s dominant ethic
o Those who reject this dominant ethic are considered not simply dangerous, but
disturbed or diseased
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