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This course will raise and discuss a number of philosophical questions concerning our current understanding of mental health and mental illness. We will begin by examining the general concepts of health and disease, and then apply them to human psychology. Throughout the course, our focus will be on the best theoretical and practical knowledge we now have to diagnose, explain, and alleviate mental illness. Some of the questions that we will discuss are: What is psychopathology and what are its causes? Is it possible to have systematic knowledge of subjective experience? If so, is that knowledge importantly different in kind or in rigor from the knowledge we gain through physics, chemistry or geology? Are there metaphysical and ideological assumptions in contemporary psychiatry, and if so, could and should they be avoided? What is the basis on which current psychiatric diagnostic manuals are organized? Is that principle of organization justifiable or not? Do particular case histories offer good explanations of psychopathology? In framing and answering these questions, we will discuss subjective experience (or phenomenology) of mental illness; holism vs. reductionism; functional, historical and structural explanations of psychopathology; theory formation, evidence, and the role of values in psychology and psychiatry; the diversity and disunity of psychotherapeutic approaches; relationship between knowers and the known; and relationship between theoretical knowledge in psychiatry and the practices of healing.
several writing assignments, evenly spaced throughout the semester
two philosophy courses; or one philosophy and one STS course; or consent of the instructor
students who took Philosophy of Science or Philosophy of Mind; Philosophy and Psychology majors
PHIL Contemp Metaphysics + Epistemology Courses