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A philosophical view on concepts in psychiatry

Elsevier Science Ltd
Publication Date
  • Psychiatry
  • Operational Definitions
  • Forensic
  • Diagnostic Criteria
  • Concepts
  • Conceptual Analysis
  • Severe Mental Disorder
  • Medicine And Health Sciences
  • Philosophy And Religion
  • Criminology
  • Linguistics
  • Medicine
  • Philosophy


This essay first outlines a philosophical theory of concepts and then applies it to two areas of relevance to psychiatrists, especially forensic psychiatrists. In the philosophical theory, the respective roles of verbal and non-verbal definitions are illuminated, and the importance of the phenomenon of division of semantic labour is stressed. It is pointed out that vagueness and ambiguity of a term often result when the term is used for several practical purposes at the same time. Such multi-purpose uses of terms may explain both the current problems associated with the Swedish forensic-psychiatric concept of a severe mental disorder and some of the shortcomings of DSM-IV. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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