Natural Kinds, Psychiatric Classification and the History of the DSM

History of Psychiatry 27 (4):406-424 (2016)
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This paper addresses philosophical issues concerning whether mental disorders are natural kinds and how the DSM should classify mental disorders. I argue that some mental disorders (e.g., schizophrenia, depression) are natural kinds in the sense that they are natural classes constituted by a set of stable biological mechanisms. I subsequently argue that a theoretical and causal approach to classification would provide a superior method for classifying natural kinds than the purely descriptive approach adopted by the DSM since DSM-III. My argument suggests that the DSM should classify natural kinds in order to provide predictively useful (i.e., projectable) diagnostic categories and that a causal approach to classification would provide a more promising method for formulating valid diagnostic categories.

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Jonathan Y. Tsou
University of Texas at Dallas


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