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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Are mental illnesses real? (Part One)

John Danaher
Philosophical Disquisitions
Originally published November 12, 2013

Here are some excerpts:

It may be a push, but I think it is fair to say that no branch of modern medicine faces the same existential challenges as psychiatry. To give a sense of the problem, a quick browse through Amazon reveals a plethora of books, many published within the past ten years, that either directly challenge the legitimacy of mental illness, call into question the medicalisation of the mind, or dispute the unholy alliance between “pharma” and psychiatry. This is to say nothing of the organisations and religious groups (most famously the scientologists) who critique modern psychiatry and try to dismantle its apparatuses.

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Part of the reason for this is philosophical. The attempt to identify, diagnose and treat mental illness seems to bring the mind within the scope of biomedical science: to “reduce” mental phenomena to scientifically tractable, manipulable and treatable “disorders”. This cuts to the core of one of the central projects in modern philosophy: the reconciliation project. This project tries to determine the appropriate relationship between the world as it seems to be to us (the manifest image) and the world as it seems to be when viewed through the lens of modern science (the scientific image).

As such, the topic of mental illness — what it is and how it should be treated — is one that is particularly ripe for philosophical analysis and debate. The purpose of this series of posts is to look at some aspects of this analysis and debate. Specifically, to look at various attempts to determine what an “illness” or “disease” really is, and at arguments for or against the legitimacy of “mental illness”.

The entire blog post is here.
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