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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Patricia E. Murphy, PhD (Rush University Medical Center)
Description: Clarity about mental illness and the whole person has important ethical and legal ramifications. This book considers mental disorders from a philosophical perspective supporting an understanding of persons that takes into account consciousness in and through an embodied relationship to the world.
Purpose: The author addresses the question of whether or not there is a distinction between bodily disorders with clear physiological symptoms and mental disorders for which symptoms such as abnormal beliefs and emotions don't always have an organic basis. The scientific approach of medicine focusing on failure of organs to function correctly can lead to a perceived dichotomy between the mind and the brain. As the author explains in describing human interactions, the answer to "Why you are smiling?" cannot be explained simply by biological mechanisms.
Audience: Society needs thinkers who step back and look at the larger question of what it means to be human in order to insure that interventions in the face of mental disorders is ethical and leads to the good of both individuals and society. This book is written for those who are interested in bringing this reflection to medicine whether they are clinicians or those who want to have a framework about the moral treatment of persons receiving psychiatric treatment.
Features: The author artfully weaves his way through philosophical approaches to the mind that reflects a dichotomy based on a desire to approach medicine scientifically. He points out the complexity of mental disorders, some of which are related to organic function and some which seem not to be. Further, the pain of mental illness can harm persons' relationships with society and the world in which they live. This is not necessarily true for physical illnesses.
Assessment: This is a valuable review of philosophical approaches to mental illness that is both clear and critical. The respectful approach to persons is increasingly important when our media presents stories of situations in which failures in our mental health system have led to tragedy.