This article does not directly consider the feelings and emotions that occur in mental illness. Rather, it concerns a higher level methodological question: To what extent is an analysis of feelings and felt emotions of importance for psychiatric classification? Some claim that producing a phenomenologically informed descriptive psychopathology is a prerequisite for serious taxonomic endeavor. Others think that classifications of mental disorders may ignore subjective experience. A middle view holds that classification should at least map the contours of the phenomenology (...) of mental illness. This article examines these options. I conclude that it is not true that phenomenology is a logical prerequisite for classification, nor even that classification should necessarily respect phenomenological boundaries, but that detailed phenomenological examination can sometimes inform classification. (shrink)
Trying to figure out the contours of the concept of disorder is worthwhile because whether something counts as a disorder frequently makes a huge difference to us in everyday life. Suppose I drink a lot – if I think alcoholism is a disease I may visit a doctor, if I consider it a moral failing I may blame myself for my weakness of will.
Increasingly, Deaf activists claim that it can be good to be Deaf. Still, much of the hearing world remains unconvinced, and continues to think of deafness in negative terms. I examine this debate and argue that to determine whether it can be good to be deaf it is necessary to examine each claimed advantage or disadvantage of being deaf, and then to make an overall judgment regarding the net cost or benefit. On the basis of such a survey I conclude (...) that being deaf may plausibly be a good thing for some deaf people but not for others. (shrink)
In this paper I will argue that Aristotelian accounts of disease cannot provide us with an adequate descriptive account of our concept of disease. In other words, they fail to classify conditions as either diseases, or non-diseases, in a way that is consistent with commonplace intuitions. This being said, Aristotelian accounts of disease are not worthless. Aristotelian approaches cannot offer a decent descriptive account of our concept of disease, but they do offer resources for improving on the ways in which (...) we think about the harms that afflict human beings. While they cannot offer an account of ‘disease' they can offer an account of ‘harm'—and this it turns out, is ultimately of greater importance. (shrink)
: Sociologists of Scientific Knowledge sometimes claim to study scientists belonging to other forms of life. This claim causes difficulties, as traditionally Wittgensteinians have taken it to be the case that other forms of life are incomprehensible to us. This paper examines whether, and how, sociologists might gain understanding of another form of life, and whether, and how, this understanding might be passed on to readers. I argue that most techniques proposed for gaining and passing on understanding are inadequate, but (...) I end by describing a method that might work. (shrink)
is a term introduced by Ian Hacking to refer to the kinds of people—child abusers, pregnant teenagers, the unemployed—studied by the human sciences. Hacking argues that classifying and describing human kinds results in feedback, which alters the very kinds under study. This feedback results in human kinds having histories totally unlike those of natural kinds (such as gold, electrons and tigers), leading Hacking to conclude that human kinds are radically unlike natural kinds. Here I argue that Hacking's argument fails and (...) that he has not demonstrated that human kinds cannot be natural kinds. Introduction Natural kinds Hacking's feedback mechanisms 3.1 Cultural feedback 3.2 Conceptual feedback. (shrink)
The DSM is the main classification of mental disorders used by psychiatrists in the United States and, increasingly, around the world. Although widely used, the DSM has come in for fierce criticism, with many commentators believing it to be conceptually flawed in a variety of ways. This paper assesses some of these philosophical worries. The first half of the paper asks whether the project of constructing a classification of mental disorders that âcuts nature at the jointsâ makes sense. What is (...) mental disorder? Are types of mental disorder natural kinds (that is, are the distinctions between them objective and of fundamental theoretical importance, as are, say, the distinctions between the chemical elements)? The second half of the paper addresses epistemic worries. Even if types of mental disorder are natural kinds there may be reason to doubt that the DSM will come to reflect their natural structure. In particular, I examine the extent to which the DSM is theory-laden, and look at how it has been shaped by social and financial factors. Ultimately, I conclude that although the DSM is of immense practical importance it is not likely to become the best possible classification of mental disorders. (shrink)