Psychiatry is Epistemologically Crippled (Can J Psychiatry. 1988)
A re-examination of the theoretical basis of our practice of psychiatry (that is, its epistemology) reveals the insufficiency of the empirical, inductive approach which we have come to regard, too myopically, as the sine qua non of our science. Traditionally in psychiatry, the discipline of philosophy, of which epistemology is one of its major fields of endeavour, has generally come to be regarded as irrelevant or unreliable as a source of true knowledge. But an objective look at our variegated practice of psychiatry–roughly divided into two groups–the biological on the one side and the psychosocial on the other–reveals a glaring lack of integration, cohesion, or synthesis in basic theory. While analysis is the prime modus operandi of science, synthesis is the main objective of philosophy. While we subscribe to various operational theories to explain how our various procedures work, we lack an overarching, unified, general theory to subsume them. Hence we lack a truly holistic concept of the person who is our patient. In this we are much in need of the discipline of philosophy, which promotes clarity of thought, breadth of comprehension, and systematic (logical) reasoning. Psychiatrists acquire more of this philosophic expertise through collaboration with professional philosophers (epistemologists in particular) and through the introduction into our graduate psychiatric training programs of some specific course content from the literature of philosophy. As a preliminary suggestion for this, an “Annotated Reading List” is appended.
PMID: 3203268 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]