Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Myth of “The Myth of Mental Illness”

By Peter Bowditch

Scientologists argue against the existence of the mind, and therefore mental illness.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Some time ago I attended a dinner function where the speaker was advertised as coming to talk about philosophy and the mind. I spent some enjoyable times studying this sort of stuff at university, so I looked forward to an entertaining evening.

The presentation started out with a mention of how René Descartes had proposed the still-unsolved problem of the interaction between a material body and an immaterial mind. The speaker then went on to solve the duality problem by simply declaring that there is no such thing as a mind: an interesting, although rather naïve, philosophical position.

The next statement led into uncharted waters, declaring that as there’s no such thing as a mind there can be no such thing as mental illness. Well, it was an uncharted area for anyone who hadn’t met Scientology before. He appeared to be using the syllogism:

  • mental illness requires a mind;
  • there is no such thing as a mind; and
  • therefore there can be no such thing as mental illness.

This is a logical fallacy called Modus Tollens, specifically a subset of fallacies that come under the heading: “Denying the Antecedent”. If you start with an axiom that there is no such thing as mental illness then the non-existence of the mind becomes a convenient piece of evidence supporting your position.

I may well have been the only person...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.