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A philosophical view on concepts in psychiatry

  • Helge Malmgren
  • Susanna Radovic
  • Henrik Thorén
  • Bjorn Haglund
Publishing year: 2010
Language: English
Pages: 66-72
Publication/Series: International Journal of Law and Psychiatry
Volume: 33
Issue: 2
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Elsevier

Abstract english

This essay first outlines a philosophical theory of concepts and then applies it to two areas of relevance to psychiatrists, especially forensic psychiatrists. In the philosophical theory, the respective roles of verbal and non-verbal definitions are illuminated, and the importance of the phenomenon of division of semantic labour is stressed. It is pointed out that vagueness and ambiguity of a term often result when the term is used for several practical purposes at the same time. Such multi-purpose uses of terms may explain both the current problems associated with the Swedish forensic-psychiatric concept of a severe mental disorder and some of the shortcomings of DSM-IV. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Philosophy
  • Operational definitions
  • psychiatry
  • Forensic
  • Diagnostic criteria
  • Concepts
  • Conceptual analysis
  • Severe mental disorder


  • ISSN: 0160-2527
Henrik Thorén
E-mail: henrik [dot] thoren [at] fil [dot] lu [dot] se

Visiting research fellow

LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)



Theoretical Philosophy


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Phone: +46(0)46- 222 80 81
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