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Abstract: Some would say that philosophy can contribute more to the occurrence of mental disorder than to the study of it. Thinking too much does have its risks, but so do willful ignorance and selective inattention. Well, what can philosophy contribute? It is not equipped to enumerate the symptoms and varieties of disorder or to identify their diverse causes, much less offer cures (maybe it can do that-personal philosophical therapy is now available in the Netherlands). On the other hand, the scientific study of mental disorder has a long way to go. There is much disagreement and uncertainty about the nature, causes, and treatment of many specific disorders, as is evident from DSM's classification of them in predominantly symptomatic terms. And even if what is reflected in DSM were a consensus rather than a compromise, still this shifts periodically with each new edition. Moreover, it is a notorious fact that many patients who clearly have psychiatric abnormalities do not fit any of the recognized diagnostic categories.1
Abstract: Elisabeth Pacherie is a research fellow in philosophy at Institut Jean Nicod, Paris. Her main research and publications are in the areas of philosophy of mind, psychopathology and action theory. Her publications include a book on intentionality (_Naturaliser_ _l'intentionnalité_, Paris, PUF, 1993) and she is currently preparing a book on action and agency
Abstract: There is no satisfactory account for the general phenomenon of confabulation, for the following reasons: (1) confabulation occurs in a number of pathological and non-pathological conditions; (2) impairments giving rise to confabulation are likely to have different neural bases; and (3) there is no unique theory explaining the aetiology of confabulations. An epistemic approach to defining confabulation could solve all of these issues, by focusing on the surface features of the phenomenon. However, existing epistemic accounts are unable to offer sufficient conditions for confabulation and tend to emphasise only its epistemic disadvantages. In this paper, we argue that a satisfactory epistemic account of confabulation should also acknowledge those features which are (potentially) epistemically advantageous. For example, confabulation may allow subjects to exercise some control over their own cognitive life which is instrumental to the construction or preservation of their sense of self.
Abstract: This dissertation examines psychiatry from a philosophy of science perspective, focusing on issues of realism and classification. Questions addressed in the dissertation include: What evidence is there for the reality of mental disorders? Are any mental disorders natural kinds? When are disease explanations of abnormality warranted? How should mental disorders be classified?
In addressing issues concerning the reality of mental disorders, I draw on the accounts of realism defended by Ian Hacking and William Wimsatt, arguing that biological research on mental disorders supports the inference that some mental disorders (e.g., schizophrenia, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders) are real theoretical entities, and that the evidence supporting this inference is causal and abductive. In explicating the nature of such entities, I argue that real mental disorders are natural kinds insofar as they are natural classes of abnormal behavior whose members share the same causal structure. I present this position in terms of Richard Boyd’s homeostatic cluster property theory of natural kinds, and argue that this perspective reveals limitations of Hacking’s account on the looping effects of human kinds, which suggests that the objects classified by psychiatrists are unstable entities. I subsequently argue that a subset of mental disorders (e.g., schizophrenia and Down syndrome) are mental illnesses insofar as they are disorders caused by a dysfunctional biological process that leads to harmful consequences for individuals. I present this analysis against Thomas Szasz’s argument
that mental illness is a myth.
In addressing issues of psychiatric classification, my analysis focuses on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which has been published regularly by the American Psychiatric Association since 1952, and is currently in its fourth edition. After examining the history of DSM in the twentieth century, and in particular, DSM’s shift to an atheoretical and purely descriptive system in the 1980s, I consider the relative merits of descriptive versus causal systems of classification.
Drawing on Carl Hempel’s analysis of taxonomic systems in psychiatry, I argue that a causal classification system would provide a superior approach to psychiatric classification than the descriptive system currently favored by DSM.