The Mechanistic Approach to Psychiatric Classification

Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences 2 (2):45-49 (2009)
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A Kuhnian reformulation of the recent debate in psychiatric nosography suggested that the current psychiatric classification system (the DSM) is in crisis and that a sort of paradigm shift is awaited (Aragona, 2009). Among possible revolutionary alternatives, the proposed fi ve-axes etiopathogenetic taxonomy (Charney et al., 2002) emphasizes the primacy of the genotype over the phenomenological level as the relevant basis for psychiatric nosography. Such a position is along the lines of the micro-reductionist perspective of E. Kandel (1998, 1999), which sees mental disorders reducible to explanations at a fundamental epistemic level of genes and neurotransmitters. This form of micro-reductionism has been criticized as a form of genetic-molecular fundamentalism (e.g. Murphy, 2006) and a multi-level approach, in the form of the burgeoning Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, was proposed. This article focuses on multi-level mechanistic explanations, coming from Cognitive Science, as a possible alternative etiopathogenetic basis for psychiatric classification. The idea of a mechanistic approach to psychiatric taxonomy is here defended on the basis of a better conception of levels and causality. Nevertheless some critical remarks of Mechanism as a psychiatric general view are also offered.

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Elisabetta Sirgiovanni
Università degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza


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