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A philosophical view on concepts in psychiatry

International Journal of Law and Psychiatry
Year of publication: 
Scientific journal article - peer reviewed

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.

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