Jorge Gonçalves, 24 May 2016, 11h

May 24, 2016

ArgLab Research Colloquium


Av. de Berna 26, I&D Building, ground floor, room 007


Psychiatry and Values

Jorge Gonçalves, ArgLab, Institute of Philosophy (IFILNOVA), Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal


This session is about the role of values in Psychiatry. This discipline has been accused of not having the same scientific status of Medicine. The reason for such accusation is that mental illness cannot be defined in a descriptive and objective mode and physiological illness, supposedly, can. That being so, some sustain mental illnesses are merely labels which aim to control the minds of people. Here I follow the line of defending a generic argument by analogy to demonstrate that Psychiatry can be as scientific as Medicine. From the concept of physiological illness one constructs, by abstraction, the genus “illness”. Mental illness will then be a species (of illness). One verifies that the concept of illness could not be described in a mere naturalist and causal language. In Nature, as it is described by our contemporary science, there is no place for the concept of “illness”. It is an intentionalist concept that implicitly refers to human norms and values. The main difference between the concepts of physiological and mental illness is that, in the former, there is a broad agreement about the values but in mental illness such an agreement does not exist. Hence, it is very difficult to find categories in Psychiatry that define mental illness in all different cultural and historical contexts






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Faculdade de Direito Universidade Nova de Lisboa