Psychiatry After Postmodernism

If language is inherently unstable, then how can we hope to diagnose illness accurately?

Language separates humans from all the other animals on this planet. Birds may have their songs, bees may wobble their bottoms, but none of them can match us when it comes to describing the difference between a coffee cup, a runny nose and the theory of relativity. We have evolved language, a wonderfully complex system for manipulating, storing, retrieving and sharing meaningful symbols. Human language has given birth to human civilisation and all that we have achieved as a species, for better or for worse, over the past 50,000 years.  

Naming things, abstract or concrete, is a form of categorisation, but it is important to remember that our categories say more about the categoriser than the categorised. This need not be problematic if the difference is trivial. The philosopher Wittgenstein showed how words are fundamentally and necessarily imprecise; every effort to use a word to describe something and communicate it to another, is in some senses doomed to failure, because

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