Ambiguity in Eric Kandel's neuroscientific basis of psychiatry
The philosophical principles underlying the work of Eric Kandel are investigated on the basis of his innovative paper entitled 'A new intellectual framework for psychiatry' (Kandel 1998). A careful analysis of the concepts involved reveals some ambiguity in Kandel's proposition in the mind-body debate. On the one hand Kandel uses formulations that are compatible with (classical) psychophysical identity theories; on the other hand he expresses views that actually have more in common with non-eliminative physicalism (or epiphenomenalism). In addition, he weakens his position by using misleading metaphors an analogies. This can lead to what is known as the 'mereological fallacy'. The final part of the article examines what this ambiguity tells us about Kandel's views on psychotherapy and the social justification for psychiatry. Kandel's approach can lead to a pointless narrowing down of the psychiatrist's normative role and to an over-restrictive attitude to psychotherapy.