A rose by any other name would smell as sweet? Objections to the 'brain disorder' label in psychiatry

Zoom - registration required
Monday 11 July 2022 (13:00-14:00)

Stacey Smith at s.j.smith.2@bham.ac.uk

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet? Objections to the 'brain disorder' label in psychiatry

With Anneli Jefferson, Lecturer in Philosophy, Cardiff University

Many clinicians and philosophers reject the view that mental disorders are (also) brain disorders because they think it is committed to an objectionable form of reductionism. They believe the 'brain disorder' label implies that a condition can be explained purely by appeal to antecedent brain dysfunction and should be treated by direct physical intervention. I argue that this is an overly narrowly view of brain disorders and dysfunction and not the one endorsed by most supporters of the brain disorder view, such as the RDoC. A different, practical objection to the brain disorder label is that irrespective of its theoretical merits, it should be rejected because it has stigmatising effects. According to this objection, people are intuitive dualists who naturally think of brain disorders as purely mechanical defects. This has negative effects for the self-conception and agency of those suffering from conditions so labelled. I analyse the plausibility of this claim and propose ways of counteracting this way of thinking about brain disorders. 

About the speaker

Anneli Jefferson is Lecturer in Philosophy, Cardiff University, UK. Her main research areas are moral philosophy and philosophy of psychology and psychiatry. She is especially interested in the intersection of these areas, for example in questions relating to moral psychology or the relationship between mental illness and moral responsibility. She recently published a book on the relationship between mental disorders and brain disorders, Are Mental disorders Brain Disorders? (Routledge 2022)

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