SOPhiA 2013

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programm - Vortrag

Fictionalism and Philosophy of Psychiatry
(Philosophie des Geistes, Englisch)

My aim in this essay is to raise the question 'Is there such a thing as mental illness?' " Thomas Szasz once famously wrote "and to argue that there is not" (Szasz, 1960, p. 113), which resulted not only in "incredulous stares" among mental health professionals, but triggered psychiatric schism as well. Although Thomas Szasz didn't put the final nail in the coffin of psychiatry and other "misbehavioral sciences" (Szasz, 2008, p. 1), he undoubtedly undermined its basic subject matter and contributed to the development of an antipsychiatric atmosphere and the already ongoing debates about the existence of mental disorder. Almost simultaneously, with the emergence of philosophy of psychiatry, "an area of application, and also an area to test more abstract philosophical methods, accounts and theories" (Thornton, 2007, p. 1) has developed. In the light of these claims, this paper examines the possibility of application of fictionalist theory in dissolving mentioned debates about the existence of mental disorder. I will proceed as follows. In the first part, I will give a brief presentation of Szasz's argument from his famous paper The Myth of Mental Illness. According to his view, all the sentences that incorporate terms like "mental disorders", "ills of the psyche" and "mental illness" are false simply because mental illnesses do not exist. Moreover, it seems that Thomas Szasz provided fairly persuasive reasons for the acceptance of what I will call Szaszian eliminativism -- abandoning all the talk about mental illnesses. In the second part, I will try to strengthen Szasz's position by addressing certain ontological difficulties to which the realist about mental illness might stumble upon. Finally, in the last part of the paper, I will try to show that we should take fictionalist attitude towards mental disorders and nevertheless keep the "psychiatric talk", because it is useful. In other words, I will advocate the same attitude we usually take towards useful fictions, tales and games: although fictional tales are all literally false, they are all in some aspect -- useful. According to this view "a fictionalist must see something problematic about the relevant area of thought, [but] on the other hand, the fictionalist must see something valuable about the relevant region of thought. That is, the "good" feature that is available even when truth is absent" (Sainsbury, 2010, p. 176). After proposing fictionalism as a possible solution, I will try to show several benefits of this attitude.

Sainsbury, R.M., 2010. Fiction and Fictionalism. Routledge, London; New York.
Szasz, T.S., 1960. The Myth of Mental Illness. Am. Psychol. 15, 113-118.
Szasz, T.S., 2008. Psychiatry: The Science of Lies. Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, New York.
Thornton, T., 2007. Essential Philosophy of Psychiatry, 1st ed. Oxford University Press, USA.

Chair: Tae-Kyung Kim
Zeit: 10:30-11:00, 14. September 2013 (Samstag)
Ort: HS 107

Lovro Savić
(Centre for Croatian Studies - University of Zagreb, Kroatien)

Lovro Savić is currently and undergraduate (BA) philosophy and history student at the Centre for Croatian Studies - University of Zagreb, Croatia. His main areas of interest are philosophy of psychiatry and bioethical aspects of psychiatry.

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