Mental illness as mental: a defence of psychological realism

Humana Mente 3 (11):25-44 (2009)

Lisa Bortolotti
University of Birmingham
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.
Keywords psychiatry  psychological realism  delusions
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 65,599
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Mental Disorders Are Not Brain Disorders.Natalie F. Banner - 2013 - Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice 19 (3):509-513.
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 60:15-24.

View all 9 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
140 ( #78,712 of 2,462,217 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #223,271 of 2,462,217 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes