Saving the DSM-5? Descriptive conceptions and theoretical concepts of mental disorders. MEDICINA & STORIA, 109-128.

Medicina E Storia 2 (9-10):109-129 (2016)
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Abstract: At present, psychiatric disorders are characterized descriptively, as the standard within the scientific community for communication and, to a cer- tain extent, for diagnosis, is the DSM, now at its fifth edition. The main rea- sons for descriptivism are the aim of achieving reliability of diagnosis and improving communication in a situation of theoretical disagreement, and the Ignorance argument, which starts with acknowledgment of the relative fail- ure of the project of finding biomarkers for most mental disorders. Descrip- tivism has also the advantage of capturing the phenomenology of mental dis- orders, which appears to be essential for diagnosis, though not exhaustive of the nature of the disease. I argue that if we rely on the distinction between conceptions (procedures of identification) and concepts (reference-fixing representations), which was introduced in the philosophical debate on the nature of concepts, we may understand a limited but valid role for descrip- tive characterizations, and reply to common objections addressed by those who advocate a theoretically informed approach to nosology.

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Elisabetta Lalumera
University of Bologna


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