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MSM Book Review: OXFORD TEXTBOOK OF PHILOSOPHY AND PSYCHIATRY

Keywords: Core concepts in philosophy and mental health , Philosophical history of psychopathology , Values , ethics and mental health , Philosophy of mind and mental health , Case-history approach

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This tome was passed on to me by a dear old classmate, now a psychiatrist in Canada, who attended the last Annual Conference of the Indian Psychiatric Society (ANCIPS 2007), with a smirk and a whisper, "Here, you might want to get started on weightlifting at least now!" Her whisper was not merely for dramatic effect; she was clearly out of breath, wielding the heavy volume, a freebie from the conference that I was unable to attend.Weighty it is indeed; and for those who relish intellectual sparring with insights into the raison d'etre of our discipline, there could be no better and closer-to-complete reference volume. The interface of the vast domains of philosophy and psychiatry is considered in five parts; the division, albeit and even inevitably artificial, facilitates reference to particular relevant material greatly. The first part is "Core concepts in philosophy and mental health," which includes some fundamentals of the two disciplines, a broad review of the Szazian antipsychiatry and its tenets, as also the arguments against these. Framed well are the usefulness and limits of the medical model. The topic of psychopathology is here introduced. Boorse's distinction between illness and disease is elaborated.In the second part, "A philosophical history of psychopathology," there is a succinct summary of the history of concepts of mental illness. The phenomenological approaches of Karl Jaspers and Edmund Husserl are expanded upon, and the limitations of a purely phenomenological approach are rightly emphasized. "Philosophy of science and mental health" is the third part, wherein the philosopher J.L. Austin's notions of the nature of science, the place of psychiatry and indeed of psychology in the realm of the sciences (often so grudgingly granted by other well-recognized 'pure' and 'applied' sciences) and Freudian psychoanalysis are deliberated upon. The importance of subjective and objective judgments and the 'evidence-base,' much bandied about in recent times in medicine, are analyzed.The "Values, ethics and mental health" section, the fourth, is arguably the most useful one for the busy clinician to keep a keen and clean view on the how and why of morality in the practice of mental health.The final section is "Philosophy of mind and mental health." Structuralism, the Cartesian paradigm; and functionalism are expatiated upon here. Reductionism, its roots and usefulness, as well as the arguments against it, are excogitated; as are causation, freedom, rationality and irrationality. Then there is an empathic chapter on personal identity and schizophre

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