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Schreuder, J.

Department of Theoretical Philosophy

How to be both a Realist and a Social Constructivist about Mental Disorders

In this thesis, I will claim that we can be a realist about some aspects of mental disorders, while being a social constructivist about others. On the realist side, I argue that mental disorders are Homeostatic Property Clusters (HPC’s), characterized by their network of symptoms and related causal mechanisms. By searching for different causal pathways that can lead to a symptom-network, we can establish to what extent we are justified in believing that this network is real. On the constructivist side, I argue that we cannot give a realist interpretation to the distinction between pathological symptom-networks and different but non-pathological ones. Moreover, which symptom-networks constitute mental disorders is socially constructed in two ways: we decide when a symptom-network constitutes a mental disorder, and the actual consequences of symptoms are dependent on how well society accommodates them. The resulting hybrid view addresses concerns from both the realist and constructivist camps.

Last modified:06 September 2016 12.31 p.m.