In his lecture, titled “Beyond Psychiatry: Rethinking Madness Outside Medicine”, Dr Justin Garson, from the City University of New York, presented some serious challenges to the orthodox dysfunction-centred perspective of psychiatry.
In the presentation held over Zoom on October 25, with a live audience at the Grand Hall of the Institute of Social Sciences, Garson argued for a paradigm shift in perspective in psychiatry.
He proposed and defended a claim, as he did in several books and papers already, that psychiatry should shift from a dysfunction-centered perspective, which he calls “madness-as-dysfunction,” to a function-centered perspective, the “madness-as-strategy” understanding. But this is not to argue for a kind of pluralism in psychiatry; it is to reject the authority of medicine over that condition, as highlighted by the author.
More recently, the author has come to suspect that a shift of that nature is impossible within psychiatry. That’s because psychiatry, as a branch of medicine, is essentially wedded to a dysfunction-centered model. To question whether, say, depression or schizophrenia is functional rather than dysfunctional, then, is to challenge the authority of psychiatry over depression. What makes something a medical condition is that it arises from dysfunction, and so “madness-as-dysfunction” is constitutive of psychiatric thought and diagnosis.
Justin Garson’s lecture is the sixth in the series of seminars on “Philosophy and Psychiatry” organized by the Center for Philosophy at the Institute of Social Sciences. The seminar aims to provide young colleagues and doctoral students with an opportunity to present their work and enhance it through the discussions that follow each lecture.