Cooper, Rachel. Classifying madness: a philosophical examination of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders
Publisher: Classifying Madness concerns philosophical problems with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, more commonly known as the D.S.M. The D.S.M. is published by the American Psychiatric Association and aims to list and describe all mental disorders. The first half of Classifying Madness asks whether the project of constructing a classification of mental disorders that reflects natural distinctions makes sense. Chapters examine the nature of mental illness, and also consider whether mental disorders fall into natural kinds. The second half of the book addresses epistemic worries. Even supposing a natural classification system to be possible in principle, there may be reasons to be suspicious of the categories included in the D.S.M. I examine the extent to which the D.S.M. depends on psychiatric theory, and look at how it has been shaped by social and financial factors. I aim to be critical of the D.S.M. without being antagonistic towards it. Ultimately, however, I am forced to conclude that although the D.S.M. is of immense practical importance, it is unlikely to come to reflect the natural structure of mental disorders.
Comment: The early chapters are particularly useful in teaching, as they discuss the treatment of mental disorders as natural kinds. They are particularly useful in teaching applied ethics related to mental disorders and can inform a discussion on the claims made by the members of the antipsychiatrist movement. The text can also provide good support for advanced level teaching focusing on natural kinds and social constructs.
Cooper, Rachel. Psychiatry and philosophy of science
Publisher: Psychiatry and Philosophy of Science explores conceptual issues in psychiatry from the perspective of analytic philosophy of science. Through an examination of those features of psychiatry that distinguish it from other sciences – for example, its contested subject matter, its particular modes of explanation, its multiple different theoretical frameworks, and its research links with big business – Rachel Cooper explores some of the many conceptual, metaphysical and epistemological issues that arise in psychiatry. She shows how these pose interesting challenges for the philosopher of science while also showing how ideas from the philosophy of science can help to solve conceptual problems within psychiatry. Cooper’s discussion ranges over such topics as the nature of mental illnesses, the treatment decisions and diagnostic categories of psychiatry, the case-history as a form of explanation, how psychiatry might be value-laden, the claim that psychiatry is a multi-paradigm science, the distortion of psychiatric research by pharmaceutical industries, as well as engaging with the fundamental question whether the mind is reducible to something at the physical level. “Psychiatry and Philosophy of Science” demonstrates that cross-disciplinary contact between philosophy of science and psychiatry can be immensely productive for both subjects and it will be required reading for mental health professionals and philosophers alike.
Comment: This book is written in a very approachable way and requires little prior knowledge of psychiatry or philosophy, which makes it an excellent resource for undergraduate teaching. Chapters two and three contain one of the most informative and clear reviews of the debate about the nature of mental illness. Chapters four to seven focus on the scientific status of psychiatry and look at the possibility of neurobiological reductionism. The text can be used in a number of teaching situations, stretching from moral dilemmas related to mental illness, to the philosophy of mind questions on mind-brain reductionism.