The Mind and Mental Illness

My aim in this paper is to ask if there is such a thing as a mind, and to argue that there is not. If there is no such thing as a mind, then there can be no illnesses of the mind, and so no mental illness. If there is no mental illness, there is no mental health either.

There are no facts about mental illness except that it is a myth, based on the myth of the mind, or ‘the ghost in the machine’.
The view that the mind and mental illness are myths is neither new nor rare. The case against the mind and mental illness has been argued by behaviourists, nominalists, positivists and existentialists. Despite these critiques, the ideas of the mind and mental illness continue to have a strong hold on the public imagination. Mental health professionals and government publications even criticise sectors of the community for their confusion about the ‘facts’ of mental illness. My argument is that there are no facts about mental illness except that it is a myth, based on the myth of the mind, or ‘the ghost in the machine’.


The Mind and Mental Illness
By ADMIN | Published: MAY 16, 2010
[Robert Spillane, “The Mind and Mental Illness: a Tale of Two Myths,” The Skeptic, 2006, 26, 4, 46-50. PDF. This paper forms the basis of a talk given by Prof Spillane to a NSW Skeptics Dinner Meeting during 2006.]

21 thoughts on “The Mind and Mental Illness

  1. ‘TThere are no facts about mental illness except that it is a myth, based on the myth of the mind, or ‘the ghost in the machine’.
    – Robert Spillane
    I dedicated today’s posts to health and well-being. 🙂

  2. It is the darkness using the machine, to pull us away from the divine. Great post!

  3. Liberty of Thinking

    First: if the half guy on the book’s cover is Spillane, I could write both an essay and an anamnesis of the professor:-)
    Second: to call the mind a myth, you don’t really need much of it…
    Third: it is absolutely true that the mind is the human brain’s most misunderstood operative function, in such an absolute interdependence and fine balance, that even the slightest chemical, and thus electrochemical imbalance shows disastrous results.
    Fourth: It is unfortunately the religiously and culturally influenced views of the mind which are at odds with the human mind’s true functionality and its understanding…
    Fifth: The existence of the mind should not be questioned in light of psychiatry’s, psychology’s and mental health’s oftentimes catastrophic stupidities and their selling themselves sometimes out -as many other sciences- to profit oriented corporations.

    “The human brain is a weapon; the mind is it’s ammunition.” Romulus Campan


    • I would love to read your essay and an anamnesis of Professor Spillane.
      Did you watch the video I posted on PSYCHIATRY? It’s thought-provoking.

      • Liberty of Thinking

        OK, thank you very much for your openness and honesty in dealing with controversial issues. I am becoming more and more tired of “ex-cathedra” speaking individuals, and I am glad you are not one of their club members:-D
        Thanks again for being allowed to express my view(s). Nota bene before reading: I am a rather theorethician, with about three decades of observations behind, of which two decades as religious counseler amongst others, a writer on top of all, with an overly analytical attitude, which should encourage the reader to read again my thoughts, before considering, as many of my observations heavily relay on observing and understanding very small details.
        So for an “anamnesis”, let’s start with Spillane’s academic credentials, which speak about him being a “management professor who teaches philosophy”… Yeehaa!
        Well, very impressive, but instead of getting sidetracked into “mental health” issues, he should be concentrating maybe -I don’t know, he may, and I’m just ignorant of it, as I haven’t dedicated my life to studying him- on why management has become the pseudo-science of convincing labourers to work for hilarious wages, while expecting of them to do so by showing a worship-like attitude about their “management”…
        Further, philosophy has never been a good counselor of “exact” sciences, shown in his case by the outrageously pathetic #2 axiomatic statement, which says “the mind is not a bodily organ”…
        Well, I agree with the statement’s physically palpable side understanding. But I hope this doesn’t mean that in his views the brain is just a deposit of fatty tissues!? Which is morpho-chemically true, but there’s more to it, isn’t it:-D?
        I’m not going to get any further, hoping to have made my point.
        And even if only this amongst his premises is flawed, his whole argument falls, together with his following, confusing and confused premises.
        The mind IS a bodily organic function, unseen as many other organic functions, seen nevertheless in its infinitely complex extrapolations, not the brain itself, but inseparably connected to it, in yet to be studied and understood ways.
        And please, this is not a managerial sancta simplicitas sort of “corporation A has a profit margin of XY, how can this be increased by forcing two workers to work for the wages of one” situation. No wonder anatomy and physiology in their unfathomable complexity have been the favourite subject of people like Da Vinci and not Malthus…
        As for the cover picture, oftentimes people who represent themselves in black-and-white show (in my opinion) an Occamian tendency to reducing issues to their ad absurdum ireducibility, while his missing half, combined with the condescendently ironic look, well that makes me stop here, fearing haunting nightmares:-D

        Sorry for the lengthy mini-essay, please consider after reading again my Nota Bene:-D

  4. As a therapist for 30 years, I can tell there is no such thing as a mentally healthy person. Bring me one. All people have varying levels of personal issues and problems. If there is no such thing as a mentally healthy person, how could you then label anyone as mentally ill? llness requires a healthy state to define the difference. This is the central flaw of the diagnosis, profit-driven, “mental health” system. “Mental health” does not exist, mental illness is a spectrum and everyone falls somewhere on the sprectrum Hence it cannot be labeled an illness.
    This whole mess started because shrinks built the mental health delivery system on a medically based model., ie., disease/illness based which you correctly point out does not exist.

    • Thanks, Cindy for commenting and i agree with you.
      Psychiatry has medicalised the normal spectrum of emotions, feelings and responses of people to ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ and in the process invented ‘mrntal illness’.
      Instead of helping people to learn the roots of their emotional problems and developing better coping mechanisms, intially they lobotomised them physically and now they chemically lobotomise them to the massive benefit of the psychiatric and pharmceutical industries.

    • Liberty of Thinking

      Hi Cindy,

      How could you say there’s no such “thing” as mental health, and that we are all scattered anywhere on a spectrum of mentalness:-D
      If for all others outthere this might be true, it isn’t for me!
      My therapist told me to repeat this before taking my daily tablets:-D

      Fun over, I for the most subscribe to your professional oppinion, maintaining though, that as any other scientific categorization, the lower end of mental imbalance scale, could be identified in all honesty as a healthier end (as healthy should not mean perfectly healthy, as such a thing doesn’t exist) in contrast with the multiple simptomacy prsenting higher end of the same. I am aware of the rather semantic complexity of my argument, but it is rather simplification which caused the ongoing confusion.
      Nevertheless also, the chemo-hormonal imbalances cannot be ignored, but neither should these be as easily as done by many psychiatrists, dealt with, using heavy behavioural conditioners and tranquilisers.

      • The so-called ‘chemo-hormonal imbalances’ are hypothetical; they have never been measured in a ‘normal’ brain, let alone an ‘ill’ one.

      • Liberty of Thinking

        Well, the “they have never been measured…” might be a rather strong statement, since for example the human post-partum depression, seen in the animal world to extents of the mother eating its offspring, and in humans at different, sometimes tragic extents, must have to do with the complex hormone balance variations preceeding and following pregnancy. That it hasn’t been measured, might become compensated by the observable effects. Also it might have to do with chemistry the fact that a severe lack of the B vitamins cause serious emotional problems as well, which at least for me, are part of our mental constituency. Iodine, vital for thyroid’s and para-thyroid’s functions is known to influence the “moods” of people suffering of related problems.

    • Liberty of Thinking

      I don’t want to sound like a pain in the neck, but the fact that Szasz was on one side a uni. prof. of psychiatry, a psychiatric association fellow etc. and on the other side an outspoken critique of his own profession, looks like convictional bi-polarism:-)
      I fully agree on the other hand, with his advocacy of returning psychiatry into neurology, as in my opinion most psychiatric problems -as I have repeatedly said- could probably be related to chemo-hormonal imbalances, and therefore treated as such.
      I am also fully aware of the easiness with which professionals prescribe heavy drugs, turning patients oftentimes into zombie-like creatures.
      But that doesn’t exclude the fact that the mind is NOT the brain, but its operational function, and as such should be researched and treated accordingly. Sedation of the brain does to the mind what applying all the brakes simultaneously does to a car… It slows it down, but at what price?

  5. Liberty of Thinking

    My friend, it’s rather complicated to continue an exchange of opinion while to my personally written replies, I am getting links to videos only…
    Could you kindly back your statement about myself, that I would understand your use of it, in my case?
    Thank you.

  6. Liberty of Thinking

    Yes, that I understood/understand, even though my replies and comments come from some field-related experience, plus some knowledge about the opinion of people like Szazsz. Nothing new, these pro-con arguments were in place since Freud/Jung etc…
    Unfortunately, and I agree with that, the turning of mind related research into a drug business, is tragic, and something has to be done. But I don’t think manager/philosophers, or psychiatrists professor/fellow/anti-psychiatrists have the answer to that, either.
    I still haven’t got a reply to my own person related latest question, please…

  7. this argument about mental issues is complex. What I have called mental disease I replaced it with Brain disease. Whether it’s drug induced on it’s in the genes, a “mind” is taken out of context. There’s a saying that each cell in our body has a “mind” of it’s own. At any rate, I’m sticking to brain disease and there’s no perfect mind.

    • It is complex, for example, if it is ‘brain disease’ then why aren’t neurologists treating it instead of psychiatrists?
      The DSM, the ‘psych bible’ has an ever-increasing number of diseases added on and this done by psychiatrists voting on it, unlike the rest of medicine which is evidence-based.
      I am not saying that the people with ‘psych diagnoses’ do not have real problems or that they don’t need help, I’m merely saying that the psychiatric way may not be a legitimate or useful way of doing this.

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