Customer Service | Help | FAQ | PEP-Easy | Report a Data Error | About
Tip: Books are sorted alphabetically…

PEP-Web Tip of the Day

The list of books available on PEP Web is sorted alphabetically, with the exception of Freud’s Collected Works, Glossaries, and Dictionaries. You can find this list in the Books Section.

For the complete list of tips, see PEP-Web Tips on the PEP-Web support page.

Laing, R.D. Szasz, T. (2004). “Knowing What Ain't So”. Psychoanal. Rev., 91(3):331-346.

(2004). Psychoanalytic Review, 91(3):331-346

“Knowing What Ain't So”

R. D. Laing and Thomas Szasz, Ph.D.


“The trouble with people,” observed Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw, 1818-1885), the great nineteenth-century American humorist, “is not what they don't know but that they know so much that ain't so.”

Psychiatrists and people interested in psychiatry “know” that Ronald D. (David) Laing (1927-1989), the Scottish psychiatrist, and I share the same ideas about mental illness and involuntary mental hospitalization. We are lumped together as the cofounders and coleaders of the “antipsychiatry” movement. My aim in this brief essay is to show that it “ain't so.”


Regarding the management of mental illness, these are some of the opinions Laing expressed and some of the actions he engaged in:

When I certify someone insane, I am not equivocating when I write that he is of unsound mind, may be dangerous to himself and others, and requires care and attention in a mental hospital. (1960, p. 27)

To say that a locked ward functioned as a prison for non-criminal transgressors is not to say that it should not be so. Our society may continue to “need” some such prisons for unacceptable persons. As our society functions at present such places are indispensable. This is not the fault of psychiatrists, nor necessarily the fault of anyone. (1985, p.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

Copyright © 2021, Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing, ISSN 2472-6982 Customer Service | Help | FAQ | Download PEP Bibliography | Report a Data Error | About

WARNING! This text is printed for personal use. It is copyright to the journal in which it originally appeared. It is illegal to redistribute it in any form.