Abstract/Details

The reality and classification of mental disorders: Issues in the philosophy of psychiatry


2008 2008

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Abstract (summary)

This dissertation examines psychiatry from a philosophy of science perspective, focusing on issues of realism and classification. Questions addressed in the dissertation include: What evidence is there for the reality of mental disorders? Are any mental disorders natural kinds? When are disease explanations of abnormality warranted? How should mental disorders be classified?

In addressing issues concerning the reality of mental disorders, I draw on the accounts of realism defended by Ian Hacking and William Wimsatt, arguing that biological research on mental disorders supports the inference that some mental disorders (e.g., schizophrenia, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders) are real theoretical entities, and that the evidence supporting this inference is causal and abductive. In explicating the nature of such entities, I argue that real mental disorders are natural kinds insofar as they are natural classes of abnormal behavior whose members share the same causal structure. I present this position in terms of Richard Boyd's homeostatic cluster property theory of natural kinds, and argue that this perspective reveals limitations of Hacking's account on the looping effects of human kinds, which suggests that the objects classified by psychiatrists are unstable entities. I subsequently argue that a subset of mental disorders (e.g., schizophrenia and Down syndrome) are mental illnesses insofar as they are disorders caused by a dysfunctional biological process that leads to harmful consequences for individuals. I present this analysis against Thomas Szasz's argument that mental illness is a myth.

In addressing issues of psychiatric classification, my analysis focuses on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which has been published regularly by the American Psychiatric Association since 1952, and is currently in its fourth edition. After examining the history of DSM in the twentieth century, and in particular, DSM's shift to an atheoretieal and purely descriptive system in the 1980s, consider the relative merits of descriptive versus causal systems of classification. Drawing on Carl Hempel's analysis of taxonomic systems in psychiatry, I argue that a causal classification system would provide a superior approach to psychiatric classification than the descriptive system currently favored by DSM.

Indexing (details)


Subject
Mental health;
Philosophy;
Economic history;
Studies
Classification
0347: Mental health
0422: Philosophy
0509: Economic history
Identifier / keyword
Philosophy, religion and theology; Health and environmental sciences; Social sciences; Causality; Classification; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; Mental disorders; Philosophy of Science; Philosophy of psychiatry; Psychiatry; Realism
Title
The reality and classification of mental disorders: Issues in the philosophy of psychiatry
Author
Tsou, Jonathan Y.
Number of pages
238
Publication year
2008
Degree date
2008
School code
0330
Source
DAI-A 69/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
ISBN
9780549569558
Advisor
Richards, Robert J.; Wimsatt, William C.
University/institution
The University of Chicago
University location
United States -- Illinois
Degree
Ph.D.
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Language
English
Document type
Dissertation/Thesis
Dissertation/thesis number
3309113
ProQuest document ID
304429923
Copyright
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
http://search.proquest.com/docview/304429923/abstract
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