In Search of Psychiatric Kinds: Natural Kinds and Natural Classification in Psychiatry

Abstract

In recent years both philosophers and scientists have asked whether or not our current kinds of mental disorder—e.g., schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder—are natural kinds; and, moreover, whether or not the search for natural kinds of mental disorder is a realistic desideratum for psychiatry. In this dissertation I clarify the sense in which a kind can be said to be “natural” or “real” and argue that, despite a few notable exceptions, kinds of mental disorder cannot be considered natural kinds. Furthermore, I contend that psychopathological phenomena do not cluster together into kinds in the way that paradigmatic natural kinds (e.g., chemical kinds and species) do; and, in light of this fact, I conclude that the normative ideal of natural classification—i.e. classifying real or natural kinds—is not appropriate as a general strategy for psychiatry. In the conclusion to this dissertation I propose an alternative way forward. Rather than assuming a priori that psychopathological phenomena cluster together into kinds, a more tractable and theoretically promising approach would be to first explain how particular kinds of experiences and behaviours—e.g, hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking, mania, low mood, etc.—are produced.

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The meaning of 'meaning'.Hilary Putnam - 1975 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 7:131-193.
Explaining the brain: mechanisms and the mosaic unity of neuroscience.Carl F. Craver - 2007 - New York : Oxford University Press,: Oxford University Press, Clarendon Press.
The social construction of what?Ian Hacking - 1999 - Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

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