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Paperback | $25.00 Short | £17.95 | ISBN: 9780262517447 | 424 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 3 illus.| January 2012

Psychiatry in the Scientific Image


In Psychiatry in the Scientific Image, Dominic Murphy looks at psychiatry from the viewpoint of analytic philosophy of science, considering three issues: how we should conceive of, classify, and explain mental illness. If someone is said to have a mental illness, what about it is mental? What makes it an illness? How might we explain and classify it? A system of psychiatric classification settles these questions by distinguishing the mental illnesses and showing how they stand in relation to one another. This book explores the philosophical issues raised by the project of explaining and classifying mental illness.

Murphy argues that the current literature on mental illness--exemplified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders--is an impediment to research; it lacks a coherent concept of the mental and a satisfactory account of disorder, and yields too much authority to commonsense thought about the mind. He argues that the explanation of mental illness should meet the standards of good explanatory practice in the cognitive neurosciences, and that the classification of mental disorders should group symptoms into conditions based on the causal structure of the normal mind.

About the Author

Dominic Murphy is Senior Lecturer in the Unit for History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney.


"A welcome introduction to topics at the interface of philosophy and psychiatry, including provocative arguments for a causal classification of psychiatric disorders."
Kenneth F. Schaffner, University Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh

"Using the tools of modern philosophy of science, Murphy takes on several of the most fundamental issues now confronting psychiatryarguing, in particular, that it should avoid the seductive position that true explanation lies only in reductive models. He also suggests that the descriptive and atheoretical approach to psychiatric diagnosis taken by DSM-III and its successors is ultimately counterproductive and must yield to a system based on etiology. This is a deeply challenging work deserving of a wide readership."
Kenneth S. Kendler, Rachel Brown Banks Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry, Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics

"Providing a much-needed benchmark in the philosophy of psychiatric science, Murphy has systematically addressed the confluence of classification, empirical research, and theoretical explanation. The writing is straight up but the argument is full of intriguing twists and turns! I expect this book to be of substantial interest to clinicians looking for the big picture of psychiatry, as well as philosophers seeking novel domains in the analytical philosophy of science."
John Z. Sadler, Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Program in Ethics in Science and Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas

"What makes a mental disorder 'mental'? What makes it a 'disorder'? Dominic Murphy attempts to answer these questions, bringing to bear a formidable combination of empirical and philosophical expertise. The result is an entirely new system of classification for psychiatry. Murphy's 'nosology' makes underlying causal structures the basis of disease taxonomy, while allowing that the symptoms and significance of mental illness demand explanations at several different levels. A spectacular theoretical accomplishment with patent practical value."
Louise Antony, Professor of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst