Psychiatric explanation and understanding

Thornton, Tim orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-0137-1554 (2010) Psychiatric explanation and understanding. European Journal of Analytic Philosophy, 6 (1). pp. 95-110. ISSN 1845-8475

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Jaspers’ binary distinction between understanding and explanation has given way first to a proliferation of explanatory levels and now, in John Campbell’s recent work, to a conception of explanation with no distinct levels of explanation and no inbuilt rationality requirement. I argue that there is still a role for understanding in psychiatry and that is to demystify the assumption that the states it concerns are mental. This role can be fulfilled by placing rationality at the heart of understanding without a commitment to the attempt to use rationality to shed light on interpretation and mindedness as though from outside those notions. Delusions still present a significant challenge to philosophical attempts at understanding, but this merely reflects the genuine clinical difficulties such states present.

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