Toward a different framework for investigating the concept of mental disorder

Dr Luca Malatesti concluded at the end of his fascinating talk that developing a proper notion of mental disorder involves addressing conceptual (engineering) and empirical issues around the notions of unity, harm, and inability, as well as some appropriate normative justification. The talk was titled “A framework for investigating the concept of mental disorder “.

In the lecture held on December 13th in the Grand Hall of the Institute of Social Sciences (in front of a live audience and via Zoom), Luca Malatesti, a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Rijeka, presented an argument centred on the imperative to advance the ongoing debate surrounding the concept of mental disorder. He contended that progress in the analytic philosophy of psychiatry discourse necessitates a careful examination of both the objectives guiding the debate and the methodologies employed to achieve them. Malatesti asserted that investigating the concept of mental disorder should occur within a methodological framework focused on conceptual revision.

Within this overarching framework, he proposed that when revising the concept of mental disorder, particularly in reference to conditions characterized by a combination of behaviors, inferred mental states, and personality traits, four key desiderata must be fulfilled. A mental disorder should encompass (1) a unitary condition observed across affected individuals and involve (2) harmful (3) incapacities or restricted capacities that (4) align with properly justified standards.

For example, within this framework, a condition like depression would be considered a mental disorder to the extent that it represents a unitary condition, allowing for predictions, explanations, and treatment applicable to all individuals sharing this condition. Additionally, the condition should encompass harmful incapacities or limited capacities to meet certain properly justified standards regarding the appropriateness of specific behaviors, mental states, or personality traits in particular contexts. This might include justified requirements specifying when extreme sadness or suicidal thoughts are deemed inappropriate.

Moreover,  he demonstrated how desiderata (1)-(4) guide research projects aimed at elucidating central notions, such as unitarity, incapacity, harm, and properly justified standards. Dr Malatesti argued that normatively justified individuation of the basic abilities (and thus inabilities) is needed.

To exemplify the diverse challenges these projects encounter, he used the controversial example of psychopathy as a case study.

Luca Malatesti’s lecture is the fourteenth in the series of seminars on “Philosophy and Psychiatry” organized by the Center for Philosophy at the Institute of Social Sciences.

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Јавни конкурс за попуњавање радног места – директор Института друштвених наука

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30. 11. 2022.

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