Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie vol:52 issue:7 pages:455-461
Background: Psychiatry and ‘philosophy of mind’ are both concerned with the study of the
relationship between body/brain (‘physical’ domain) and mind (‘mental’ domain), but often there
is little interaction between both disciplines. In contemporary psychiatry, neurobiological research
predominates, and it is often assumed that the results of this type of research are only compatible
with reductionist physicalist positions in the ‘philosophy of mind’, rendering further philosophical
Aim: To demonstrate the continuing relevance of the ‘philosophy of mind’ for the self-image of
modern psychiatry as a clinical and scientific discipline.
method We illustrate this view by investigating whether a non-reductionist physicalist
position, which postulates that the ‘mental’ supervenes on the ‘physical’ without being reducible
to it, is compatible with the results of research on alterations in the brain during psychotherapy.
results A non-reductionist physicalist position is compatible with recent functional brain
imaging research, since the latter shows that psychiatric disorders (disorders of the ‘mind’) are
associated with functional neurophysiological changes (alterations in the brain) that are influenced
in different ways by pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy.
Conclusion: Modern neurobiological research in psychiatry is not only compatible with
reductionist physicalist positions in the ‘philosophy of mind’, as is often assumed, but also with a
non-reductionist physicalist position in which the ‘mental’ is granted greater autonomy vis-à-vis