Beyond the Brain Conference

Beyond the Brain Conference

Academic Conference at the University of Edinburgh on Reconceptualizing Mental Disorders

Abstracts: Harriet Fagerberg

‘Brain Disorder’: A List of Things It Need Not Entail


Firstly, (1) the claim that mental disorders are brain disorders does not entail reductive eliminativism. The metaphysical identification of mental disorder is compatible with realism about mental functions and concepts. Beyond that, (2) it need not imply that mental disorders are chronic or static. The brain, as well as the mind, is flexible and responsive to environmental demands. Thirdly, (3) and on that note, a view of mental disorders as brain disorders does not negate the causal influence of so-called ‘social factors’. Because the brain is structurally responsive to environmental demands, some condition can both constitute a ‘brain dysfunction’ and have primarily social or environmental etiology. Finally, and perhaps most controversially, (4) the metaphysical identification of mental disorder with brain disorder is compatible with non-reductive physicalism about the mind/brain relation. The mere fact that a function is mental, and multiple realised at the physical level, does not make it less of the brain. It is not just mental disorder that is in need of conceptual revision; brain disorder could do with a reconceptualization as well.


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