In Defence of the Concept of Mental Illness

Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 94:77-102 (2023)
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Abstract

Many worry about the over-medicalisation of mental illness, and some even argue that we should abandon the term mental illness altogether. Yet, this is a commonly used term in popular discourse, in policy making, and in research. In this paper I argue that if we distinguish between disease, illness, and sickness (where illness refers to the first-personal, subjective experience of the sufferer), then the concept of mental illness is a useful way of understanding a type of human experience, inasmuch as the term is (i) apt or accurate, (ii) a useful hermeneutical resource for interpreting and communicating experience, and (iii) can be a good way for at least some of us to establish a liveable personal identity within our culture.

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