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The Philosophy of PsychiatryA Companion$
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Jennifer Radden

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195149531

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195149531.001.0001

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Setting Benchmarks for Psychiatric Concepts

Setting Benchmarks for Psychiatric Concepts

Chapter:
(p.409) Chapter 28 SETTING BENCHMARKS FOR PSYCHIATRIC CONCEPTS
Source:
The Philosophy of Psychiatry
Author(s):
Jennifer Radden
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195149531.003.0030

This chapter analyzes the so-called “benchmark problem”, which is the problem of determining a diagnostic benchmark beyond which the ordinary (or normal) becomes extraordinary (or abnormal). Through an exploration of three diagnoses—chronic fatigue syndrome, schizophrenia, and Tourette's syndrome—it shows the extent to which psychiatric diagnosis involves what philosophers have called essentially contested concepts. It argues that when discernible physically abnormal states are absent, benchmarks for normality and tolerability are intrinsically unstable and arbitrary.

Keywords:   benchmark problem, chronic fatigue syndrome, schizophrenia, Tourette's syndrome, normality, tolerability

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