Mental health is an immensely important topic, made all the more so in the COVID era. Happy, healthy individuals are the essential components of a free society, and a society with less mental health is likely to also be less free. This discussion colloquium will bring together graduate students and scholars working within the Classical Liberal tradition to study liberal approaches to mental health, individual responsibility, and liberty. The discussion will take place in the Washington, DC area from August 20-22, featuring Northwestern’s Professor Anna Chorniy as Discussion Leader.

Session I: Thomas Tryon’s Way to Health (44 pages)

Tryon, Thomas. A Way to Health, Long Life, and Happiness, or, A Discourse of Temperance. Second Edition, London, 1691.

  • “To the Reader” and “Table of Contents.”
  • Chapter I, “The Introduction to the Whole Treatise,” pages 1-32.

Session II: William Godwin on Happiness and the Mind (65 pages)

Godwin, William. Thoughts on Man: His Nature, Productions, and Discoveries. Interspersed with Some Particulars Respecting the Author. London: Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, 1831.

  • Essay I, “Of Body and Mind. The Prologue,” pages 1-15.
  • Essay III, “Of Intellectual Abortion,” pages 53-72.
  • Essay V, “Of the Rebelliousness of Man,” pages 93-111.
  • Essay XIX, “Of Self-Complacency,” pages 343-356.

Session III: The Asylum as a “Total Institution” (65 pages)

Goffman, Erving. Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates (New York: Anchor Books, 1990).

  • “Preface” and “Introduction,” pages ix-xiv.
  • “On the Characteristics of Total Institutions,” pages 1-60.

Session IV: Thomas Szasz (46 pages)

Szasz, Thomas S. “The Myth of Mental Illness.” American Psychologist 15 no. 2 (1960): 113-118.

Miller, Jonathan. “The Myth of Mental Illness: A Conversation with Thomas Szasz.” The Sciences (July/August 1983): 22-30.

Richards, Christina. “Of Cocaine and Scaffold Bars: A Critique of The Myth of Mental Illness by Thomas S. Szasz.” Existential Analysis 25 no. 1 (January 2014): 66-78.

Cresswell, Mark. “Szasz and His Interlocutors: Reconsidering Thomas Szasz’s ‘Myth of Mental Illness’ Thesis.” Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 38:1 (2008): 23-44.

Session V: Deconstructing Mental Health (73 pages)

Goffman, Erving. “The Medical Model and Mental Hospitalization: Some Notes on the Vicissitudes of the Tinkering Trades.” In Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates, 321-386 (New York: Anchor Books, 1990).

Adlam, John, Irwin Gill, Shane N. Glackin, Brendan D. Kelly, Christopher Scanlon, and Seamus Mac Suibhne. “Perspectives on Erving Goffman’s ‘Asylums’ Fifty Years on.” Medical Health Care and Philosophy (2013): 605-613.

Session VI: Mental Health After 2020

Free Discussion


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