Mental illness as mental: a defence of psychological realism

Humana Mente 3 (11):25-44 (2009)
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This paper argues for psychological realism in the conception of psychiatric disorders. We review the following contemporary ways of understanding the future of psychiatry: (1) psychiatric classification cannot be successfully reduced to neurobiology, and thus psychiatric disorders should not be conceived of as biological kinds; (2) psychiatric classification can be successfully reduced to neurobiology, and thus psychiatric disorders should be conceived of as biological kinds. Position (1) can lead either to instrumentalism or to eliminativism about psychiatry, depending on whether psychiatric classification is regarded as useful. Position (2), which is inspired by the growing interest in neuroscience within scientific psychiatry, leads to biological realism or essentialism. In this paper we endorse a different realist position, which we label psychological realism. Psychiatric disorders are identified and addressed on the basis of their psychological manifestations which are often described as violations of epistemic, moral or social norms. A couple of examples are proposed by reference to the pathological aspects of delusions, and the factors contributing to their formation.



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Lisa Bortolotti
University of Birmingham

Citations of this work

Diagnosis and Causal Explanation in Psychiatry.Hane Htut Maung - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 60 (C):15-24.
Mental disorders are not brain disorders.Natalie F. Banner - 2013 - Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice 19 (3):509-513.

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