Nature and main kinds of psychopathological mechanisms

Abstract
The paper deals with two central issues in the philosophy of neuroscience and psychiatry, namely those of the nature and the major kinds and types of psychopathological mechanisms. Contrary to a widespread view, I argue that mechanisms are not kinds of systems but kinds of processes unfolding in systems or between systems. More precisely, I argue that psychopathological mechanisms are sets of actions and interactions between brain-systems or circuits as well as between the latter and other systems in one's body and external environment, both physical and social, involved in human psychopathology. According to the kinds of properties of the interacting systems or their component-parts, psychopathological mechanisms may be physical, chemical, biological, psychological, social, or, typically, mixed ones. Furthermore, I focus on two main kinds of psychopathological mechanisms involved in the causation of mental disorders, namely the pathogenetic and pathophysiological ones, stressing the importance of their careful distinction for the integrative understanding of otherwise disparate and apparently incommensurable psychiatric research findings. I illustrate my analysis with an example drawn from contemporary research on the mechanisms of acute psychosis. Finally, I stress the relevance of psychopathological mechanisms to a more scientifi cally-grounded classifi cation of mental disorders.
Keywords mechanisms  explanation  psychopathology  pathogenesis  pathophysiology  mental disorders  classification
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