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Cooper, Rachel. Classifying madness: a philosophical examination of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders
2005, Dordrecht: Springer.
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Added by: Simon Fokt
Publisher’s Note: 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.

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