Chapter

Setting Benchmarks for Psychiatric Concepts

Edited by Jennifer Radden

in The Philosophy of Psychiatry

Published in print June 2004 | ISBN: 9780195149531
Published online January 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199870943 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195149531.003.0030

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

 Setting Benchmarks for Psychiatric Concepts

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This chapter analyzes the so-called “benchmark problem”, which is the problem of determining a diagnostic benchmark beyond which the ordinary (or normal) becomes extraordinary (or abnormal). Through an exploration of three diagnoses—chronic fatigue syndrome, schizophrenia, and Tourette's syndrome—it shows the extent to which psychiatric diagnosis involves what philosophers have called essentially contested concepts. It argues that when discernible physically abnormal states are absent, benchmarks for normality and tolerability are intrinsically unstable and arbitrary.

Keywords: benchmark problem; chronic fatigue syndrome; schizophrenia; Tourette's syndrome; normality; tolerability

Chapter.  2099 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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