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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 52 (2010) 7, 445 - 454

Essay

Philosophy of science for psychiatric practice

A.S.G. Ralston

summary

background The prevailing view is that psychiatry has its roots in two separate methodologies: the natural sciences and the social sciences. It is assumed that these are separate domains, each with its own way of knowing. Psychiatric and psychological theories are based mainly on one or other of these two types of science; this leads to a ongoing dualism in psychiatry, which some people regard as problematical.
aim This article aims to make a methodological contribution to the scientific and philosophical foundations of psychiatry.
method This philosophical and theoretical dichotomy is criticized in this article in the light of recent developments in the philosophy of science, and two methods are introduced which offer an alternative analysis: values-based practice and actor-network theory.
results Brief examples are given which demonstrate that a combination of these two methods can be productive for psychiatry.
conclusion Values-based practice and actor-network theory provide a way of resolving the stalemate in the conflict between the physical sciences and the sciences of the mind, a conflict that is dominated by professionals. In addition these two new methods empower the professionals by not deriving legitimacy from the false image of a dichotomous science, but from a normative sense of professionalism.


keywords philosophy, psychiatry, science, values