[ExI] Reinforcing our Prejudices

Rafal Smigrodzki rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com
Sat Apr 19 14:30:04 UTC 2008

On 4/19/08, Stathis Papaioannou <stathisp at gmail.com> wrote:
> On 19/04/2008, Samantha Atkins <sjatkins at mac.com> wrote:
> > What is judged to be "mental illness"  can have very real social
> >  construct components.  For instance, women who actually admitted to
> >  sexual desires and enjoying sex were considered "mentally ill" not
> >  that long ago.  Homosexuality was listed as a mental illness much more
> >  recently.
> If these had been called illnesses of the endocrine system, does that
> mean diabetes is also a social construct?

### Stathis, you seem to blur the distinction between "the fact of the
matter" (a set of behaviors, with more or less clear biological
underpinnings) and our opinion of it - whether it is called an
illness. Of course, there is a certain "Ding-an-Sich" to every disease
but whether we actually make it into a recognized medical problem is
especially in psychiatry a social issue. Yes, there is a biological
dimension, and a set of behaviors to e.g. homosexuality, but choosing
to call it a disease is culturally conditioned to a much larger extent
than our attitudes towards e.g. a broken leg.

Maybe there is a "medicine envy" among psychiatrists, like the
"physics envy" among biologists - wanting to say that every condition
they treat is like an elemental particle of the mind, rather than a
fuzzy concept.

Opinions and disparate values have a much greater impact on psychiatry
than on cardiology. Almost everybody will readily agree that heart
disease hurts, and then you die but our opinions on matters of the
mind are, legitimately, much more varied.


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