Friday, 24 May 2013


In the attempt to understand, labels are used, however they can be- at best- a partial glimpse of a given phenomena from a given perspective at a given time.

They're useful, like signposts, but signposts shouldn't be taken too seriously and if history teaches us one thing it's that boundaries tend to be redefined over the course of time.

The (recently mentioned) launch of DSM 5 is a road atlas of many of these place names, an attempt to reduce complex experiences into given conditions, and this in turn often leads to looking for a physical corelate: i.e. a gene. A recent Science News article explains that they have not yet found one for depression.

Whilst I'm far from against any kind of systematic study, in just about any area or discipline, I can't help but be reminded of Gilbert Ryle's concern over the category mistake of a person who views a selection of schools, sports grounds and administrative buildings and then asks where the university is.

By all means take things apart to understand the parts better, but we can't forget that it's in the dynamic interaction between the parts that the good stuff happens.

The Science News article on the depression gene can be viewed here.

Ryle's view of category mistakes can be viewed on Wikipedia here.

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