The body language: a semiotic reading of Szasz’ Anti-psychiatry

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
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive Valeria Lelli, The body language: a semiotic reading of Szasz’ Anti-psychiatry
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Hanna Pickard (2009). Mental Illness is Indeed a Myth. In Matthew Broome & Lisa Bortolotti (eds.), Psychiatry as Cognitive Neuroscience. Oxford University Press.
Matthew Ratcliffe (2010). Binary Oppositions in Psychiatry: For or Against? Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 17 (3):233-239.
Timothy Murphy (1982). Differential Diagnosis and Mental Illness. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 7 (4):327-336.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

58 ( #84,288 of 1,925,792 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

9 ( #95,997 of 1,925,792 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.