New article: “Eugen Bleuler’s Place in the History of Psychiatry”

berriosGerman Berrios (Emeritus Professor and Chair of the Epistemology of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge) has written an article in the Schizophrenia Bulletin entitled “Eugen Bleuler’s Place in the History of Psychiatry“.

The article starts thus:

Like the guildsmen of old, 19th century Alienists (now psychiatrists) also realized that a pantheon of proceres would be useful to their trade and social standing: by the 1850s, national pantheons had already been constituted and by the early 20th century, a well-populated international Valhalla was in existence. Ever since it has been required that the anniversaries of the pantheonized be dutifully posted (In relation to Bleuler’s anniversaries, see, for example, the note by Fusar-Poli and Politi 1 posted in the American Journal of Psychiatry.).This notwithstanding, the rules for pantheonization remain unclear and their enactors shadowy. To do justice to Eugen Bleuler’s place in the pantheon of psychiatry, this obscurity needs some illumination.

It is a common historical observation that current psychiatrists tend to select for special attention only some of the many accounts of madness developed in earlier times. Although the reasons for such selection have never been fully explored, it is customary to accept the view that no prescription is involved and that the accounts in question select themselves on account of their scientificity and truth-making power. It follows that those responsible for such accounts are considered as anticipators or pioneers of a current truth. In other words, their entitlement to a place in the psychiatric pantheon is determined not by their contemporary values but by those reigning in the present.

This way of getting into the psychiatric pantheon is perilously dependent upon the quality and stability of the said selection criteria. If, as proclaimed, the criterion in question is the “truth” of science, then the pantheonized have little to worry about; but if it is socioeconomic or political convenience, then pantheon membership becomes a precarious affair and psychiatry should be required to set in place rules for depantheonization.

Against this backdrop, what is Eugen Bleuler’s entitlement?

To access the entire article, click here.

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