Someone has probably told you before that what you thought, felt or feared was "all in your mind". I am here to tell you something else: there is no such thing as mind and there is nothing mental. I call this "the no-mind thesis." The no-mind thesis is fully compatible with the idea that people are conscious and that they think, feel, believe, desire, and so on. What this is incompatible with is the notion that consciousness, thinking, feeling, believing, desiring, etc. are mental, part of the mind, or done by the mind.
The no-mind thesis does not mean that people are “just bodies.” On the contrary, it means that, when confronted with man as a whole, we must not think that he can be divided into "mind" and "body" or that his properties can be neatly divided between "mental" and "mental." "non-psychic". It is noteworthy that in Homeric Greek there are no terms that can be consistently translated as "mind" and "body". In Homer we find a view of people as a connected set of communicating parts - "the spirit in my chest moves me"; "My legs and arms are ready." A similar view of humans as a large bundle of overlapping intelligent systems in near-constant communication is increasingly being advocated in cognitive science and biology.
The terms "mind" and "mental" are used in many ways and have such a mixed history that they carry more baggage than meaning. Concepts of the mind and the mental are both ambiguous and misleading, especially in various important areas of science and medicine. When people talk about "mind" and "mental," the no-mind thesis does not deny that they are talking about something—on the contrary, they are often talking about too many things at once. Sometimes when people talk about "reason" they really mean freedom of action; other times, knowledge; the third - consciousness; some uses of the word "psychic" actually mean psychiatric; other psychological; others are not yet essential; and others, something else.
This conceptual vagueness is detrimental to the usefulness of the idea of "reason." To be fair, many concepts build bridges: they exhibit a specific, generally harmless ambiguity called polysemy, with slightly different meanings in different contexts. The flexibility and elasticity of polysemy binds together disparate areas of research and practice, encouraging people to recognize their similarities and interconnectedness. For example, if a computer scientist talks about "computing," they usually mean something slightly different than an engineer, a cognitive scientist, or someone chatting with a friend. The overarching concept of computing ties all these conversations together, helping us to identify commonalities between them.
The problem is that creating such links is not always a good idea. This sometimes stimulates creative interaction between different fields of knowledge and offers useful analogies that would otherwise be difficult to discover. But other cases of polysemy lead to pernicious confusions and pernicious analogies. They make people talk past each other or invest in defending or attacking certain concepts rather than defining their overall goals. This can reinforce misunderstandings and stigmatization.
You have to give it to the mind and the mental: they are one of the most ambiguous concepts that exist. Lawyers talk about "mental" abilities, psychiatrists talk about "mental illness", cognitive scientists claim to study "mind" as psychologists and some philosophers do; many people talk about the "mind-body problem", and many people wonder if it's okay to eat animals depending on whether they have a "mind". These are just a few of many other examples. In each case mind and mental mean something different: sometimes slightly different, sometimes not very subtle.
In such high-stakes areas, being clear is vital. Many people are too ready to believe that the problems of "the mentally ill" are "all in their heads." I have never heard anyone doubt that a heart problem can lead to problems outside the heart, but I have regularly had to explain to friends and family that "mental" illnesses can have physiological consequences outside the "mind." Why do people so often find one more mysterious and seemingly surprising than the other? This is because many of the bridges built by the mind and the mental are bridges that need to be burned once and for all. Psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and "anti-psychiatrist" Thomas Szasz argued that mental illness does not exist. He believed that mental illnesses are "life problems", things that prevent you from living well, because they are associated with personal conflicts, bad habits and moral errors. Thus, mental illness was the individual responsibility of the patient. As a consequence, Szasz argued that psychiatry should be abolished as a medical discipline, since it had nothing to treat. If the symptoms
centuries had a physiological basis, then these were physical disorders of the brain, and not "mental". And if the symptoms do not have a physiological basis, Szas argued, then they are not a real "disease".
This argument was largely based on the idea that mental illness is categorically different from "physiological". This is an example of how the dualistic connotations of the mind associated with certain metaphysical theories of the mental can be inappropriately imported into psychiatry. However, many mental illnesses have physiological causes and effects, and even those without a clear physiological cause often require medical intervention because people suffering from such conditions still need medical attention.
Unlike Sasz, I believe that mental illness is only mental in the sense that it is psychiatric. The ordinary understanding of the mind and what is and is not part of it has nothing to do with it. Perception is usually considered mental, part of the mind, however, although medical science considers deafness and blindness to be perceptual disorders, it does not classify them as mental illnesses. Why? The answer is obvious: because psychiatrists, as a rule, are not the best doctors for treating deafness and blindness (if they need treatment, which, in particular, many deaf people would refuse).
When people talk about "mind" and "mental" in psychiatry, my first thought is always "What exactly do they mean?" – what exact meaning of mind and mental are they using, what other area are they trying to reach, what bridge are they trying to get me to cross? A "mental" illness is just an illness that psychiatry can handle. This is determined both by practical considerations about the skills that psychiatrists can offer and by theoretical or philosophical factors. But this pragmatic approach is covered by appeals to "mental illness". In many contexts, the term "mental" tends to bring inappropriate and stigmatizing connotations, showing that the wrong bridges have been built.
Convincing others that your pain is not "mental" may be how you defended the reality of your condition.
Imagine that you are suffering from long-term, chronic pain. You go to the last in a line of doctors: by this point, especially if you belong to a marginalized group (say a woman or a person of color), the doctors may have rejected you or disbelieved you; they might think that you are exaggerating your pain, or perhaps that you are a hypochondriac. After some tests and a few questions, you are eventually told that your chronic pain is a mental illness and referred to a psychiatrist. You are told that the psychiatrist will not prescribe medication or surgery, but will instead prescribe psychotherapy, also known as "talk therapy" and sometimes "mental therapy."
You might reasonably think that this doctor doesn't believe you either. You know that something is really wrong and that your pain is real, but the doctor tells you that your illness is mental and needs mental treatment. Perhaps they think you're delusional, or that you're lying because of some kind of personality disorder? Convincing friends, family, and colleagues, not to mention medical professionals, that your pain is not "mental" may be how you protect the reality of your condition. Indeed, The Guardian recently published a series of articles exploring chronic pain, one of which was titled, "Chronic pain sufferers have long been told it's all in their head." Now we know it's wrong." In other major articles on the subject, referral to a psychiatrist is seen as tantamount to distrust, dismissal, or being labeled a hypochondriac. Some proponents argue that fibromyalgia (a condition that causes chronic pain) should not be considered a mental illness because it is "real" and not "imagined".
It is understandable that you may be annoyed that your condition is called "mental illness". But what about your doctor - what did they want you to take away from this interaction? It may well be that they absolutely believed that you were experiencing severe, involuntary pain caused by increased sensitivity of the peripheral nervous system as a result of the "rewiring". Pain resulting from the rewiring of the nervous system is known as "nociplastic pain" and has recently been recognized as a medically significant category of pain. They don't necessarily think you're lying or delusional. What they could mean by "mental illness" was that it was best treated by talking therapy, and best treated and understood by a psychiatrist.
Despite your legitimate annoyance, your doctor may also be right. The term "mental" in the phrase "mental illness" simply means psi
chiatric. Your doctor may be aware that psychiatrists and psychiatric researchers continue to play an important role in the recognition and study of nociplastic pain. They may be optimistic about the effectiveness of talking therapy because they know it is effective in relieving many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia and chronic pain, perhaps even in reducing the pain itself. They may also have read a recent review that suggested that talking therapy could be an effective immune system intervention—indeed, just as effective in reducing the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis as conventional medications.
So you and your doctor may actually agree on the nature of your condition, and yet you understandably feel frustrated about your referral to a psychiatrist. Something has gone very wrong here. The problem, I think, is the notion that psychiatry deals with "mental illness," mental disorders. Indeed, it is common knowledge that mental illness is a mental disorder, and psychiatry treats mental illness. If you look in dictionaries, textbooks or diagnostic classifications, you will find just such a characteristic of psychiatry and its field. The key problem is that the mind and the mental are associated with associations that are highly inappropriate when characterizing the medical discipline - after all, "mental" can be contrasted with "real", "biological" and "physical".
We have a problem of misunderstanding that arises from the confusion of the ideas of the mind and the mental. The terms mind and mental can be used in many different ways and have many different meanings, sometimes implying the absence of reality, sometimes indicating a connection with psychiatry, and sometimes meaning something completely different.
Depression and schizophrenia are no more "all in the mind" than chronic pain
Instead, imagine that your doctor has told you that you have a "psychiatric" illness, but emphasized that the mental illness is not "mental" in any significant sense. Imagine if you were told that you could be given "talk therapy" but emphasized that many conditions that are not "in the mind" are amenable to talking therapy, which can affect almost every "plastic, malleable" part of a person. Existence. Imagine even more optimistically that people do not generally conclude that classifying an illness as psychiatric automatically makes it psychiatric, or think that because a condition can be influenced by "mental" states such as beliefs or expectations, it is therefore not mental. biological or non-physical or "all in the mind".
Non-introduction of the ideas of the mind and the mental greatly facilitates communication. You can walk away from such a conversation with a doctor, feeling that you are believed and that psychiatry can help you. However, your doctor hasn't done anything differently; Other than assuaging your concern that your illness is not being taken seriously, the rest of the procedure is exactly the same. While chronic pain may be psychiatric, it is not imaginary or non-biological, and the terms "mind" and "mental" lubricate all of these things together. Problems of the mind and psyche are not limited to the treatment of chronic pain. Adding to the stigmatization of other mental illnesses is that they are described as "mental": depression and schizophrenia are no more "all in the mind" than chronic pain.
Along with the increased stigmatization of mental illness, the confusion of the psyche also fuels misguided arguments for radical reform (and even abolition) of psychiatry as a medical discipline. In contrast to Sasz's views on antipsychiatry, many people advocate a fusion of psychiatry and neuroscience. This relies on certain philosophical "theories of the mind" popular in cognitive science: some people think that the mind is the brain; others think that the mind is software running in the brain, much like Windows runs on my laptop. This argument is based on the notion that, since psychiatry deals with "mental" illness, it must rely on philosophical views of the "mind" popular in cognitive science. The problem is that "mental" in mental illness simply means psychiatric illness, which these philosophers and scientists don't talk about.
As a result, we should be suspicious of appeals to reason and the mental in psychiatry. Psychiatric patients certainly do not need the burden of any additional stigma, and understanding mental states is difficult enough without the constant risk of confusion and misunderstanding. For no reason to keep them, we must throw out the concepts of "mind" and "mental" from psychiatry. And not only there: concepts wreak havoc in both cognitive science and psychology.
Just as psychiatry should be the branch of medicine dealing with mental illness.
cognitive science and psychology are supposedly the sciences that study the mind. However, psychology and cognitive science do not study exactly the same thing. Disciplines such as personality psychometry are historically a major part of psychology, but a dubious part of cognitive science in general. Conversely, cognitive science has inherited a broader interest in self-organization, information processing, and adaptive behavior from some of its predecessors, especially cybernetics. The fields of psychology and cognitive science also do not overlap with the field of psychiatry. Perception remains firmly in the realm of psychology and cognitive science, but blindness and deafness are not mental illnesses (again,
The fields of psychology and cognitive science also include abilities that you probably don't mean when you talk about "mind" in everyday life. For example, there are cognitive models that cover how organisms survive by homeostasis (maintaining stable internal parameters in the body, such as heart rate and blood temperature) and allostasis (adjusting these parameters and behavior depending on the context).
There are also ways to map immunity in cognitive terms. In the 1960s and 1970s, the work of the American psychologist Robert Ader revealed a surprising feature of the immune system. He taught rats to avoid a harmless sweetener by injecting it along with a nausea-inducing chemical called cyclophosphamide. When testing that the training had worked by administering only the sweetener, the rats began to die. The more sweetener, the faster they died. It was a mystery. It turns out that cyclophosphamide is an "immunosuppressant," a chemical that shuts down the immune system. The immune system only “learned” to shut down in response to the sweetener, and this left the rats vulnerable to normally harmless pathogens in the environment that would kill them. In other words, Ader found that the immune system is amenable to classical Pavlovian conditioning.
Should we consider the immune system to be "mental" because it is psychological and cognitive?
This led to the creation of "psychoneuroimmunology" - a field in which, among other things, psychologists who study the immune system participate. More recent research has uncovered many more interesting facts about the wiring and signals that link the immune system and the brain. The immune system responds differently to stress and trauma – imbalances in the immune system are linked to several trauma-related mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder (both often trauma-related). The immune system also plays an important role in controlling social behavior. For example, some scientists believe that depression can sometimes be a side effect of your immune system, reducing your social motivation to minimize the risk of spreading the disease; The idea is that your immune system has been forced to mistakenly "believe" that you are contagious.
The commitment to interpret cognitive science and psychology as studying the "mind" creates a false impression of what these disciplines do and raises potentially nonsensical questions, such as whether we should consider the immune system and its abilities "mental" because they are psychological and cognitive. Once again, the bridges built by the mind and the mental turned out to be useless. Psychoneuroimmunology has struggled to gain widespread acceptance, especially among immunologists. This is in large part because it is widely considered a form of "mind-body medicine," a term that refers to the same gimmicks and bloated self-help as legitimate medical research. The bridges built between a sort of casual holism, fraud, and psychoneuroimmunology owe a lot to mind and mentality, and have done little to help the disciplines they purportedly serve.
Instead, it is much better to speak of psychology as the study of the psychological and cognitive science as the study of the cognitive. This may seem circular, but it only reflects the fact that these disciplines are responsible for discovering their fields, and that we simply don't know enough yet to say exactly what these fields should be in completely independent terms. No one has a problem describing physics as the study of the physical, and the idea that it is the study of the fundamental laws of motion and contact has long been abandoned.
When we see that the concepts of mind and mental are causing such harm, we have every reason to get rid of them. Instead of talking about "mind" and "mental", we would do better to discuss more precise and useful concepts related to what we do. The good news is that for the most part they already exist and work great once they're connected to
mind and mental is disturbed. Psychology has psychological, cognitive science, psychiatry and psychiatry. Beyond these realms, there are many, many more—consciousness, imagination, responsibility, agency, thought, memory, to name but a few. Feminist work on relational autonomy and the relational self, as well as historical antecedents such as Homer, offer promising avenues for developing conceptions of people that do not address the notion of reason—views that people are coherent wholes, not because they have something unifying. inner core, but because of the way they are, their relationships and their surroundings come together.
The conclusion is that there is no such thing as the mind and nothing is mental, even if we both think, feel, believe, wish and dream. Whenever you come across the terms "mind" and "mental" - especially when they carry a lot of argumentative weight - you have to wonder what they really mean and ask yourself what ambiguities lie beneath the surface.