Mental illness is indeed a myth
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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In Matthew Broome & Lisa Bortolotti (eds.), Psychiatry as Cognitive Neuroscience. OUP Oxford (2009)
This chapter offers a novel defence of Szasz’s claim that mental illness is a myth by bringing to bear a standard type of thought experiment used in philosophical discussions of the meaning of natural kind concepts. This makes it possible to accept Szasz’s conclusion that mental illness involves problems of living, some of which may be moral in nature, while bypassing the debate about the meaning of the concept of illness. The chapter then considers the nature of schizophrenia and the personality disorders (PDs) within this framework. It argues that neither is likely to constitute a scientifically valid category, but that nonetheless their symptoms can be scientifically explained. It concludes with a discussion of the way in which Cluster B or ‘bad’ PDs involve failures of virtue or character, and argues that this does not preclude them from being appropriately treated within contemporary, multidisciplinary, mental health services.
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