Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Scientific Epistemology

Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences 2 (2):33-39 (2009)
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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) continues to be controversial with arguments for and against its veracity being waged by individuals representing a variety of disciplines from behavioral scientists to philosophers. Our perspective focuses on the epistemological underpinnings of what is now commonly known as ADHD. Its ignominious history and current disputes may stem from a "pessimistic" epistemology, meaning that truth is only the province of persons in authority and power. The authoritative organizations that govern the diagnostic labels and criteria are the American Psychiatric Association and their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and the World Health Organization that sponsors the International Classification of Disease. We contrast the pessimistic epistemology with criteria for truth from the scientific method. Although scientific scrutiny has been and is being applied subsequent to "authoritarian edicts" of the disorder, we opine that ADHD currently does not have status beyond that of the "hypothetical construct." Moreover, current brain-based causal models have failed to provide rigorous supporting data that comes from testing falsifiable hypotheses.


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