The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy vol:38 issue:2 pages:107-127
In the past couple of years, psychiatry and philosophy of psychiatry have witnessed a growing consensus of opinion about the claim that mental disorders are not natural kinds, i.e. naturally bounded entities with fixed internal properties. Yet there has always been a sizeable number of lay people as well as (biological) psychiatrists holding precisely such a natural kind view about mental disorders. In this paper we attempt to solve this incongruity by highlighting a number of processes that possibly explain the popularity of the natural kind view. One such process is the general tendency of lay people to essentialize conceptual structures, including biological, social and psychiatric categories. Another process involves the persistent popularity of biological psychiatry. Advocating a categorical and biological approach, this strand of psychiatry probably reinforced the already existing lay essentialism about mental disorders. As such, the question as to why we essentialize mental disorders is a nice example of how cultural trends zero in on natural tendencies, and vice versa, and how both can boost each other.