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S. Nassir Ghaemi tells us that whereas "neurologists are sometimes accused of admiring disease rather than treating it," psychiatrists seek to cure disease even when they do not understand it. At the same time, he notes that Freud had both theoretical and practical interests that occasionally point in different directions, and psychiatrists have learned that theoretical understanding of the sources of suffering does not always translate directly into useful clinical practice. For their part, philosophers are often criticized for indulging in armchair speculation that yields neither empirical understanding nor practical efficacy. Writing as a philosopher in "Depression: Illness, Insight, and Identity," I had hoped to engage both scientific and therapeutic interests while linking them to humanistic concerns about values. Ghaemi's emphasis is primarily therapeutic--to help, to heal--but he seems generally sympathetic to my goal of integrating moral and therapeutic perspectives. I benefited from his cautions about the need to pursue that integration with close attention to therapeutic imperatives.


This article was originally published in Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology, volume 6, issue 4, in 1999.

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Johns Hopkins University Press