Conceptual Analysis versus Scientific Understanding: An Assessment of Wakefield's Folk Psychiatry

Abstract: Wakefield's (2000) responses to our paper herein (Murphy and Woolfolk 2000) are not only unsuccessful, they force him into a position that leaves him unable to preserve any distinction between disorders and other problems. They also conflate distinct scientific concepts of function. Further, Wakefield fails to show that ascriptions of human dysfunction do not ineliminably involve values.

We suggest Wakefield is analyzing a concept that plays a role in commonsense thought and arguing that the task of science is to identify the natural processes that accord with that commonsense concept. We argue that this represents an attempt to use conceptual analysis to legislate what should be acceptable science. We conclude that this constraint on science is unacceptable and that therefore Wakefield's overall position should be rejected.