What is psychiatric disease? A commentary on Dr Ghaemi's paper

Derek Bolton

in Philosophical Issues in Psychiatry II

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199642205
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754777 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

What is psychiatric disease? A commentary on Dr Ghaemi's paper

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There are many points of interest and worthy of discussion in Dr Ghaemi's paper. It discusses contrasts on a grand scale between Hippocratic and Gallean traditions in medicine; between post-modernism, pragmatism and realism in philosophy; and between the eventual clarity and therapeutic success of the 19th- and 20th-century disease models—and the apparent relative messiness of current psychiatry.

In this commentary I will focus on four points relevant to Dr Ghaemi's argument: 1. On the definition of disease, which is more problematic than Dr Ghaemi seems to suppose. 2. On the shift from the relatively clear 19th/20th-century disease models to the relatively complex, messy, models of contemporary models of psychiatric conditions, which Professor Ghaemi's presents in the context of, or even as, changes in philosophy—I will suggest, rather, that this shift has been in the science. 3. On why the current diagnostic classification manuals have operationalized criteria: this is a matter of scientific method, not (or not only) an expression of post-modernism. 4. Having discussed these points of disagreement, however, I will suggest that Professor Ghaemi is right when his points are interpreted as recommendations for a distinctive role of medical psychiatry within the broader domain of mental healthcare.

Chapter.  1948 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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