Towards an Ameliorative Account of Psychiatric Disorder

History & Philosophy of Science & Medicine Seminar-Miriam Solomon, Temple University

The concept of disorder in psychiatry is as elusive as the concept of disease in medicine. Despite many efforts to analyze the history and present usage of the concepts, we still do not have an understanding that helps with resolving difficult cases. Using an example from medicine (migraine) and an example from psychiatry (grief) I will argue that what Sally Haslanger (2005) calls an “ameliorative approach” is more productive than conceptual and descriptive approaches at getting to the heart of what we want these concepts to do. I will take some initial steps towards such an ameliorative account.