David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences 4 (2):34-36 (2011)
In “The myth of mental illness” Thomas Szasz challenges the idea that mental illnesses are diseases in the biomedical sense. In his view they are more similar to a foreign language and for this reason they cannot be treated by means of biomedical therapies. The present article explores the semiotic implications of Szasz’s view of the hysterical symptoms as an iconic language. Following Reichenbach, Szasz distinguishes three classes of signs: indexical, iconic and symbolic. The somatic language of the hysteric person would be an iconic protolanguage which is more primordial than the objective language. Nevertheless, it retains all the basic functions of the language: to transmit information, to induce mood, and to promote action. Five different but intertwined reasons for the use of such an iconic form of communication are discussed. In conclusion, the hysterical symptom speaks its proper language and our ethical commitment is primarily to empathically listen to it.
|Keywords||protolanguage myth of mental illness hysteria semiotics iconic sign|
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