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Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology 13.2 (2006) 133-141

Dysfunctions, Disabilities, and Disordered Minds
Bengt Brülde
Filip Radovic

Richard Gipps' and Jerome Wakefield's commentaries on our article are so different from each other that we have decided to deal with them separately. Gipps suggests that we adopt a different framework altogether. In his view, our main question—"What makes a mental disorder mental?"—is somehow defective, and it ought to be replaced by an alternative question, namely, "What makes a mind disordered?" He thinks he can answer this question by providing an alternative account of the mental in terms of intentionality and suigeneris psychological understanding. He also suggests that mental disorders are "alterations within the intentional order." Wakefield, on the other hand, shares most of our "framework assumptions"; for example, he accepts the way we formulate our central question and how we present the different possible answers. The only part of our general project to which he objects is the attempt to find a principled account of what makes a mental function (dysfunction, mechanism, ability, or the like) mental. His main purpose is to defend and develop his own version of the internal cause view, namely, the idea that mental disorders are (harmful) mental dysfunctions. Because Gipps' comments are of a far more general nature than Wakefield's, we respond to Gipps first. This gives us an opportunity to make our "framework assumptions" more explicit.

Gipps' Criticism of the Notion of Mental Disorder

Let us first note that Gipps' suggestions are often vague. As Gipps himself puts it, his account is "clearly in need of much further clarification and elaboration" (121). This means that we sometimes have to reconstruct what he says to attribute sufficiently clear views to him.

Gipps questions our assumption that there is such a thing as a general category of disorder, of which mental and somatic disorders can be regarded as subcategories. Or more precisely, he rejects the view that "disorder" is a proper category (or "semantic category," as he puts it), and he also seems to deny that "mental disorder" is a category. This is supposed to imply that our central question is somehow wrongly formulated, and to pave the way for his reformulation of this question (from now on, "the move").

To determine whether Gipps' objection is valid or not, we need to know what he means by the term "category." However, all we are told is that a noun designates a (semantic) category if and only if it has a "unitary sense." Unfortunately, he does not specify what this "unitary sense" consists in. For example, does he implicitly assume that a noun designates a category if and only if there are necessary conditions for membership that are jointly sufficient? The example he offers (see [End Page 133] p. 118) suggests another possible interpretation, however. Here, he claims that the relation between the terms "mental disorder" and "physical disorder" are analogous to the relation between the terms "chemical reaction" and "emotional reaction." This suggests that the term "disorder" as it occurs in the phrase "physical disorder" and the term "disorder" as it occurs in the phrase "mental disorder" have different senses. This is an interesting suggestion that may well be correct, but Gipps does not offer any arguments for the assumption that "disorder" behaves like "reaction." Neither does he offer any examples of proper (semantic) categories.

The Move from "Mental Disorders" to "Disordered Minds"

In Gipps' view, mental disorders are best conceived of as disorders of the mind, and physical disorders as disorders of the body, and he therefore suggests that we ask what makes a disordered mind disordered rather than what makes a mental disorder mental. But why does Gipps believe that this move from "mental disorder" to "disordered minds" constitutes an improvement? The first reason has already been given, namely that the term "disorder" might not designate a proper category. But this is not a good reason for making the move Gipps suggests unless we assume that "mind" and "body" are proper categories. At this...