PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Reductionism and Anti-reductionism about Mental Disorders: Not Where the Action Is

One main divide in psychiatry lies between those taking a neuroscientific or biological approach to mental disorders and those approaching mental disorders in cognitive terms. This corresponds naturally to a disagreement about proper treatments, pharmacological vs. cognitive or perhaps psychotherapeutic. Philosophers of psychiatry have naturally taken this to debate to rely on an underlying disagreement about the metaphysical issue of reductionism vs. anti-reductionism. Focusing especially on recent clinical, neurobiological, and historical research on post-traumatic stress disorder, this paper argues that the salient issues concerning the nature of mental disorders like PTSD cross-cuts the reductionism/anti-reductionism debate and proposes a more accurate account of the relevant disagreements.

Author Information:

Alyssa Ney    
University of California, Davis


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