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A Metaphysics of Psychopathology$
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Peter Zachar

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262027045

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262027045.001.0001

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Classification and the Concept of Psychiatric Disorder

Classification and the Concept of Psychiatric Disorder

8 (p.115) Classification and the Concept of Psychiatric Disorder
A Metaphysics of Psychopathology

Peter Zachar

The MIT Press

The nominalist assertion that “psychiatric disorder” is only a name for conditions that psychiatrists decide to treat is unacceptably relativistic. One of the best thought-out attempts to regiment the concept of disorder in response to such relativism is Jerome Wakefield's harmful dysfunction model, which is an explicitly essentialist model. In contrast, the imperfect community model seeks to avoid both the relativism of the traditional nominalist account and the speculative, metaphysical inferences of the essentialist account. The imperfect community refers to the fact that the various symptom configurations that are classified by psychiatrists resemble each other in a number of ways, but there is no property or group of properties that all of them share in common as a class. This non-essentialist model is illustrated by exploring causally related symptom networks as alternatives to the essentialism promulgated by latent variable models.

Keywords:   Essentialism, Nominalism, Relativism, Wakefield, harmful dysfunction, network model, imperfect community, latent variable

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