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Classifying Psychopathology

Mental Kinds and Natural Kinds

Harold Kincaid

Publication Year: 2014

In this volume, leading philosophers of psychiatry examine psychiatric classification systems, including the <I>Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders </I>(DSM), asking whether current systems are sufficient for effective diagnosis, treatment, and research. Doing so, they take up the question of whether mental disorders are natural kinds, grounded in something in the outside world. Psychiatric categories based on natural kinds should group phenomena in such a way that they are subject to the same type of causal explanations and respond similarly to the same type of causal interventions. When these categories do not evince such groupings, there is reason to revise existing classifications. The contributors all question current psychiatric classifications systems and the assumptions on which they are based. They differ, however, as to why and to what extent the categories are inadequate and how to address the problem. Topics discussed include taxometric methods for identifying natural kinds, the error and bias inherent in DSM categories, and the complexities involved in classifying such specific mental disorders as "oppositional defiance disorder" and pathological gambling.<B>Contributors</B>George Graham, Nick Haslam, Allan Horwitz, Harold Kincaid, Dominic Murphy, Jeffrey Poland, Nancy Nyquist Potter, Don Ross, Dan Stein, Jacqueline Sullivan, Serife Tekin, Peter Zachar

Published by: The MIT Press

Series: Philosophical Psychopathology

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This volume brings together a number of perspectives on the issue of whether mental disorders are natural kinds. Some of the contributors presented papers at a workshop on Natural Kinds and Classification in Psychopathology held at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in April...

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1 Classifying Psychopathology: Mental Kinds and Natural Kinds

Harold Kincaid and Jacqueline Sullivan

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pp. 1-10

According to the Mental Health Atlas ( World Health Organization 2011 , p. 13), “ neuropsychiatric disorders are estimated to contribute to 13% of the global burden of disease ” — that is, more than 450 million people suffer from neuropsychiatric disorders. They are leading causes of disabilityadjusted life years, accounting for 37 percent of the healthy years lost from ...

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2 Natural Kinds in Psychiatry: Conceptually Implausible, Empirically Questionable, and Stigmatizing

Nick Haslam

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pp. 11-28

Psychiatric classification would be a great deal easier if its diagnostic entities were like biological species. Taxonomists of spiders, snails, or slime molds can be reasonably certain that nature contains an assortment of distinct types, that each type has an identity-fixing genetic signature, and that the diversity of types can be organized into hierarchies that tell the ...

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3 Deeply Rooted Sources of Error and Bias in Psychiatric Classification

Jeffrey Poland

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pp. 29-64

DSM-III ( American Psychiatric Association 1980 ) and its successors have dominated classification in mental-health practice for three decades. This classification scheme has played a role in the practices of the vast majority of mental-health clinicians and researchers, and is central to what I shall refer to as “ conventional psychiatric practice ” (CPP), a form of clinical and...

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4 Psychopharmacology and Natural Kinds: A Conceptual Framework

Dan J. Stein

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pp. 65-74

Although Homo sapiens probably has used psychotropic compounds for thousands of years, it is only recently that basic and clinical psychopharmacology have developed as productive scientific fields. The availability of a broad range of psychotropic medications has in turn led to a range of conceptual and ethical questions ( Stein 2008 ). I begin by noting that many ...

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5 Beyond Natural Kinds: Toward a “Relevant” “Scientific” Taxonomy in Psychiatry

Peter Zachar

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pp. 75-104

I began writing about natural kinds and psychiatric disorders in 1997. Just before submitting my first work on the subject for publication, I asked a former philosophy professor to read what I had written and tell me whether he found it adequately philosophical. He responded: “ It ’ s very philosophical, too much so. In using specialized concepts like ‘ natural...

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6 Natural Kinds in Folk Psychology and in Psychiatry

Dominic Murphy

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pp. 105-122

In this chapter, using delusions as my chief example, I will argue that our attribution of mental illness relies on a conception of psychiatric kinds as fundamentally psychological categories with distinctive if unknown causal signatures — characteristic ways of producing similar effects across different people. This aligns psychiatric thought, as well as the folk psychology of ...

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7 Being a Mental Disorder

George Graham

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pp. 123-144

Are there — in addition to the beliefs, desires, wants, memories, and so on that help to constitute the minds or mental states or attitudes of persons —mental disorders or illnesses? We certainly act and talk as if there are mental disorders or illnesses.1 We visit psychiatrists to get help for them. We take medication to ameliorate them. We write memoirs to share experiences...

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8 Defensible Natural Kinds in the Study of Psychopathology

Harold Kincaid

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pp. 145-174

In this chapter I argue for two main theses: that there are some types of psychopathology that can reasonably and usefully be thought of as constituting natural kinds, given a naturalist take on the latter, and that those kinds are best thought of as categorical rather than dimensional. I also make some arguments about what must be done — but largely has not been...

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9 Oppositional Defiant Disorder: Cultural Factors That Influence Interpretations of Defiant Behavior and Their Social and Scientific Consequences

Nancy Nyquist Potter

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pp. 175-194

In this chapter I focus on school and prison as socializing mechanisms. Developmental pathways to socialization or to psychopathology and criminality are affected by school systems ’ assertions of authority when children are defiant and otherwise hard to manage. I identify cultural factors that affect how children ’ s behavior is interpreted and responded to, looking...

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10 Syndrome Stabilization in Psychiatry: Pathological Gambling as a Case Study

Don Ross

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pp. 195-208

Systematic research into gambling behavior, especially problem and pathological gambling, has become a substantial academic industry. Several research centers and an annual conference draw investigators from psychiatry, psychology, neuroscience, and social sciences (particularly economics). Historical moments when interdisciplinary research matrices...

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11 The Social Functions of Natural Kinds: The Case of Major Depression

Allan V. Horwitz

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pp. 209-226

The study of depression reveals a paradox about the view of mental disorder as a natural kind. On the one hand, until recently diagnosticians and practitioners held a fairly consistent view of depression. On the other hand, the concept and measurement of depression from 1980 to the present has been distinctly different from previous observations about...

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12 The Missing Self in Hacking’s Looping Effects

Şerife Tekin

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pp. 227-256

A significant philosophical discourse has been dedicated to the ontological status of mental disorders. (See, for example, Hacking 1986 , 1995a , b , 2007a , b ; Cooper 2004a , b , 2007 ; Samuels 2009 ; Graham 2010 ; Zachar 2001 .) The primary focus has been on whether mental disorders are natural kinds — that is, whether they are similar to the kinds found in the nonhuman...

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13 Stabilizing Mental Disorders: Prospects and Problems

Jacqueline Sullivan

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pp. 257-282

A primary focus of the debates in philosophy of psychiatry addressed in each of the chapters in this volume is whether mental disorders are natural kinds. The question subdivides into several interrelated questions: Are mental disorders real and stable regularities in nature that exist independent of our systems of classifying them? Do the sets of necessary and...


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pp. 283-284


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pp. 285-286

E-ISBN-13: 9780262322430
E-ISBN-10: 0262322439
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262027052

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Philosophical Psychopathology