Are Mental States a Useful Concept? Neurophilosophical Influences on Phenomenology and Psychopathology

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Recent trends in neurophilosophy question the validity of conceptions as to the nature of mental states and of “folk psychology” (FP) in general. One school of thought, the “eliminative materialistics,” see FP as a misdirected and scientifically redundant approach to the mind which should be discarded; the “functionalists,” in contrast, consider FP categories, such as belief, to be essential. Between these extremes other neurophilosophical positions affect the way we view mental life. This paper extends the debate to include a consideration of abnormal mental states. It is argued that approaches to phenomenology and psychopathology cannot be immune from any conceptual reconfiguration of normal mental life which might occur. The manner and extent to which psychiatric theory and practice may be affected as a result of these developments is discussed.

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