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, 17 (68 Pt 4), 469-86

'Mind in General' by Sir Alexander Crichton


'Mind in General' by Sir Alexander Crichton

G E Berrios. Hist Psychiatry.


The history of the 'philosophies of psychiatry' can be defined as the contextualized study of past theoretical views on the nature, understanding and management of madness and related notions. The application of an hermeneutic apparatus to past psychiatric narratives gives rise to the history of psychiatry; its application to current narrative gives origin to the philosophy of psychiatry. If the latter employs off-the-shelf, ready-made, external philosophies, it follows a centripetal approach; if it starts from the inside of psychiatry and generates its own tools and meta-language, it follows a centrifugal approach. Psychiatry is burdened by intrinsic and extrinsic philosophical problems. The former result from its hybrid nature, i.e., from the fact that psychiatry unsteadily straddles the natural and human sciences. The latter are borrowed from the conceptual frames into which psychiatry has been inscribed since the 19th century. The philosophy of psychiatry may anticipate or follow empirical research. The ante rem mode is based on the idea that empirical research requires conceptual supervision, audit and guidance, for it is always ideology- and theory-laden. The post rem mode is based on the view that science is the only way to 'truth' and hence all that the philosophy of psychiatry can (or should) do is facilitate, interpret, justify, defend or glorify empirical findings. The Classic Text that follows was written by Sir Alexander Crichton at the end of the 18th century, and is a good example of the centripetal mode of philosophy-making.

Comment on

  • Mind in General
    A Crichton. Hist Psychiatry 17 (68 Pt 4), 486-97. PMID 17419140.

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