Category Error of “mental” sources of illness

Illness is physical, always physical! Even if we do not yet understand much about what starts it and what maintains it and what can prevent or cure it. Illness is never “mental” . We talk of mental illness without investigating basic patterns of vital signs. No one knew that Paula’s vital signs were abnormal because of this error in thinking. People noted behavioural change and never asked whether something was physically wrong and never looked to see what her vital signs were. Paula’s vita signs were most abnormal, especially her breathing rate and rhythm and pattern. Paula was not aware. Without careful measurement, no one suspected that anything was wrong with her breathing muscles. People were looking at the wrong things.

Category error has affected and is still affecting our thinking about “mental” illness, particularly serious incapacitating illness such as bipolar illness and schizophrenia.

The Concept of Mind is a 1949 book by philosopher Gilbert Ryle, in which the author argues that “mind” is “a philosophical illusion hailing chiefly from René Descartes and sustained by logical errors and ‘category mistakes‘ which have become habitual.”[1]

In the chapter “Descartes’ Myth”, Ryle introduces “the dogma of the Ghost in the machine” to describe the philosophical concept of the mind as an entity separate from the body:

Ryle writes….I hope to prove that it is entirely false, and false not in detail but in principle. It is not merely an assemblage of particular mistakes. It is one big mistake and a mistake of a special kind. It is, namely, a category mistake.

Ryle rejects Descartes’ theory of the relation between mind and body, on the grounds that it approaches the investigation of mental processes as if they could be isolated from physical processes.

Patients who are admitted to a psychiatric ward for depression or mania or delusions or hallucinations or psychosis are not examined for physical signs at all. They get admitted based on observations of behaviour , on the patients complaints and on their psychological history. The idea that the patients have no idea why they are experiencing these symptoms s never considered. The idea that these patients are exhibiting a chronic delirium and have no insight into this is not at all considered because causes of a possible delirium are not investigated. Even something as basic as looking at the pattern of vital signs to see if they are normal or not is not done.

Why? The reason is the idea of the mind [or the soul] being separate from the body. That is why.

Doctors are so used to this kind of thinking that they are not even aware that they are making a grave category error. ….. and they are making this kind of antiquated category error in the 21st century.

The procedures in a psychiatric ward are completely different than those in a medical ward. Because of this category error. A category error which treats mood and behavioural problems as different than physical issues.

to be continued………………


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