Paradigms of Psychiatry: Eclecticism and Its Discontents

Seyyed Nassir Ghaemi


Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2006;19(6):619-624. 

In This Article

Pragmatism: Being Useful

Pragmatism in psychiatry is often promoted, sometimes by those who use the term colloquially, rather than in the more rigorous philosophical usage. In the latter case, however, this approach often means the willingness to test theories by their results, letting the observed data drive theorizing rather than the reverse. It can mean following James'[36] approach of an insistence on open-mindedness and unwillingness to accept any single system of thought, or it can mean an adherence to Pierce's[37] concept of the community of investigators gradually getting closer and closer to the truth but never perceiving the absolute truth (antipositivism). It also often involves an appreciation for the role of values in human experience and the need to avoid being excessively positivistic and objectively oriented in empirical and clinical work.[38] It finally can mean a utilitarianism of method, seeking to combine different methods based on pragmatic ends and value judgments.[39*]

Although a philosophically rigorous pragmatism has many strengths, including the important virtue of avoiding dogmatism, it can also be excessively loose, seeking to combine methods based on individual whims or preferences, in a manner that can make it quite similar to extreme eclecticism.


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