The Oxford Handbook of Psychiatric Ethics

Philosophical Pragmatism in Psychiatric Ethics

This chapter describes how pragmatism may be used as method of ethical inquiry to help clarify and resolve issues in psychiatric practice. We set out the basic contours of both classical and contemporary pragmatism and then illustrate the pragmatic method using three examples drawn from clinical experience. We propose that given the diversity of issues in psychiatry—from questions about the ontological status of mental disorders to the particularly fraught role of therapists as humanist-scientists—pragmatism provides a kind of conceptual space for consensus building, compromise, and measurable progress.