Perhaps psychiatry is a bad mix of science and ethics


Some psychiatrists wish to revise the definition of depression. This controversy sheds light on psychiatry as a science. 

As Gary Gutting, professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame shares puts it, in the NYT:

Psychiatric practice does seem to be based on implicit moral assumptions in addition to explicit empirical considerations, and efforts to treat mental illness can be society’s way of controlling what it views as immoral (or otherwise undesirable) behavior. Not long ago, homosexuals and women who rejected their stereotypical roles were judged “mentally ill,” and there’s no guarantee that even today psychiatry is free of similarly dubious judgments. 


Foucault is, then, right: psychiatric practice makes essential use of moral (and other evaluative) judgments. Why is this dangerous? Because, first of all, psychiatrists as such have no special knowledge about how people should live. They can, from their clinical experience, give us crucial information about the likely psychological consequences of living in various ways (for sexual pleasure, for one’s children, for a political cause). But they have no special insight into what sorts of consequences make for a good human life. It is, therefore, dangerous to make them privileged judges of what syndromes should be labeled “mental illnesses.”