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What is Mental Disorder? An essay in philosophy, science, and values.
Derek Bolton

What is Mental Disorder? An essay in philosophy, science, and values.

(New York, Oxford University Press, 2008, collection « International Perspectives in Philosophy and Psychiatry »)

This new book by Derek Bolton tackles the problems involved in the definition and boundaries of mental disorder. These problems are evident now in many contexts: in the diagnostic manuals themselves, in epidemiological estimates of prevalence, in distinguishing normal sadness from depressive illness, for example, or childhood temperamental traits from developmental psychopathology, and in mental health legislation and criminal law.
In many ways these problems are contemporary expressions of those identified in the heated debates surrounding psychiatry in the 1960s and 1970s: does psychiatry pathologize what is really normal life suffering? Is mental illness really social deviance, not a proper domain of medicine? Is psychiatry really a form of social control?
However, these original problems have been transformed by crucial developments over the past few decades, and the book seeks to update the position taking them into account. The last few decades have seen the closing of the asylums and the appearance of care in the community: mental disorder is now in our midst, intensifying the problems of the '60s and '70s.
Attempts have been made to define clearly a concept of mental disorder that is truly medical as opposed to social, inevitably relying on the distinction between human nature and culture. In the science, there is increasing evidence that this distinction is unviable, and accumulating evidence that there is no clear line between what is normal in the population and what is abnormal.
What is Mental Disorder? reviews these various crucial developments and their profound impact for the concept and its boundaries in a provocative and timely book.


1. The current diagnostic manuals: aims, methods, and questions
2. The sciences on mental order/disorder and related concepts: normality, meaning, natural and social norms
3. Mental disorder and human nature
4. Clinical definition: distress, disability and the need to treat
5. Boundaries and terminology in flux
6. Some conclusions

Comptes-rendus :

Mind, Meaning and Mental Disorder: The nature of causal explanation in psychology and psychiatry
Derek Bolton

Mind, Meaning and Mental Disorder: The nature of causal explanation in psychology and psychiatry

(Oxford, New-York, Oxford University Press, 2004, collection « International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry »)

Philosophical ideas about the mind, brain, and behavior can seem theoretical and unimportant when placed alongside the urgent questions of mental distress and disorder. However, there is a need to give direction to attempts to answer these questions. On the one hand a substantial research effort is going into the investigation of brain processes and the development of drug treatments for psychiatric disorders, and on the other, a wide range of psychotherapies is becoming available to adults and children with mental problems. These two strands reflect traditional distinctions between mind and body, and causal as opposed to meaningful explanations of behavior. In this book, which has been written for psychiatrists, psychologists, philosophers, and others in related fields, the authors propose a radical re-interpretation of these traditional distinctions. Throughout the discussions philosophical theories are brought to bear on the particular questions of the explanation of behaviors, the nature of mental causation, and eventually the origins of major disorders including depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and personality disorder.

First published in 1996, this volume played an important role in bridging the gap between philosophy and psychiatry, and introducing those in psychiatry to philosophical ideas somewhat neglected in their field. Completely updated, the new edition of this acclaimed volume draws on the strengths of the first edition, and will be a central text in the burgeoning field of philosophy of psychiatry.

Product Details

432 pages
ISBN13: 978-0-19-851560-9ISBN10: 0-19-851560-X

About the Author(s)

Derek Bolton, Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, London
Jonathan Hill, Child Mental Health Unit, Royal Liverpool Children's Hospital


Auteurs :
Karl Abraham
Christopher Bollas
Derek Bolton
Pierre-Henri Castel
Alain de Mijolla
Erik H. Erikson
W. R. D. Fairbairn
Sandor Ferenczi
Antoine Fratini
AndrAndré Green
André Green
Joel Kanter
Jean-Claude Lavie
Bernd Nitzschke
Adam Phillips
Neil Pickering
Luiz Eduardo Prado de Oliveira
Thierry Simonelli
Donald Winnicott


- Freud 1877-1900
- Sigmund Freud
- Gesammelte Werke
- Correspondance
- Karl Abraham

- Glossaire traduction