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Szasz: Struggle for Definition and Life

What is it that this writer, Szasz, believes and what does he offer to persuade us to take his position?

"The struggle for definition is veritably the struggle for life itself. In the typical Western two men fight desperately for the possession of a gun that has been thrown to the ground: whoever reaches the weapon first shoots and lives; his adversary is shot and dies. In ordinary life, the struggle is not for guns but for words; whoever first defines the situation is the victor; his adversary, the victim. For example, in the family, husband and wife, mother and child do not get along: who defines who as troublesome or mentally sick?...[the one] who first seizes the word imposes reality on the other: [the one] who defines thus dominates and lives; and [the one] who is defined is subjugated and may be killed."

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This quote from Szasz is basically pondering the age-old question "Who am I?". With this quote, Szasz is comparing words to weapons in the sense that both are used as assault attacks to gain an upper hand in one way or another in effort to define who a person is. In the gun scenario in the quote, the men from the West try to dominate one another in order to gain the upper hand. The one who is fortunate enough to obtain the weapon first from the floor is the dominant force and wins the upper hand. As a prize, he gets to live. With the family scenario, one person uses words in the same fashion in order to gain the upper hand and define who the other is which, in this case, happens to be the lower being. As a prize, the more powerful one gets to dominate.

In essence, the dominant person in both scenarios forces the other to be the weaker one who must conform in a bad situation. The weaker force is therefore dominated by the stronger force and is "killed" because of the repression and degrading that he or she had to endure by the dominant force. Therefore, the more dominant force has all of the power ...

Solution Summary

The expert examines the struggle definition and life.