Doctors without 'Disorders'

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On one influential view, the problems that should attract medical attention involve a disorder, because the goals of medical practice are to prevent and treat disorders. Based on this view, if there are no mental disorders then the status of psychiatry as a medical field is challenged. In this paper, I observe that it is often difficult to establish whether the problems that attract medical attention involve a disorder, and argue that none of the notions of disorder proposed so far offers a successful demarcation criterion between medical and non-medical problems. As an illustration, I consider why delusions are considered pathological and whether they attract medical attention in virtue of being pathological, where ‘pathological’ stands for ‘being caused by a disorder’. Although there are several promising answers to what makes delusions pathological, available accounts of the pathological nature of delusions fail to distinguish delusions from other irrational beliefs that are not typically thought of as pathological; and cannot explain why delusions typically attract medical attention whereas other irrational beliefs do not.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-184
Number of pages22
JournalAristotelian Society Supplementary Volume
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2020


  • disorders
  • medicine


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