Category Archives: Journals

New History of Psychiatry: Eugenics, Therapeutic Showers, and More

The March 2019 issue of History of Psychiatry is now available online. Full details follow below.

“Ancient philosophers on mental illness,” by Marke Ahonen. Abstract:

This article explores how the ancient philosophers from Plato to late antiquity understood mental illness. It outlines when, how and in what kind of contexts the phenomenon of mental illness was recognized in the ancient philosophical texts, how mental illness was understood in terms of the body–mind interaction, and how mental disorders of the medical kind were distinguished from non-medical psychic disturbances. It establishes that, while the philosophers mostly understood mental illness along the lines of ancient medical thinking, their ideas, for example on the nature and location of the soul, informed their theories of mental illness.

“Eugenic concerns, scientific practices: international relations in the establishment of psychiatric genetics in Germany, Britain, the USA and Scandinavia, c.1910–60,” by Volker Roelcke. Abstract:

The article describes the emergence of research programmes, institutions and activities of the early protagonists in the field of psychiatric genetics: Ernst Rüdin in Munich, Eliot Slater in London, Franz Kallmann in New York and Erik Essen-Möller in Lund. During the 1930s and well into the Nazi period, the last three had been research fellows at the German Research Institute for Psychiatry in Munich. It is documented that there was a continuous mutual exchange of scientific ideas and practices between these actors, and that in all four contexts there were intrinsic relations between eugenic motivations and genetic research, but with specific national adaptations.

“Amok: a mirror of time and people. A historical review of literature,” by Hissei Imai, Yusuke Ogawa, Kiyohito Okumiya, Kozo Matsubayashi. Abstract:

The conceptualization of psychiatric disorders changes continuously. This study examined ‘amok’, a culture-bound syndrome related to sudden mass homicide, to elucidate changing and varied concepts. A historical review of 88 English articles revealed that the meanings and assumed causes of amok have changed over time. These changes appear to have been affected by social events, medical discoveries, knowledge of descriptors and occasionally, the benefit to users. In other words, the concept of amok changes depending on the history of society and the knowledge and intention of people at the time. We should consider in detail what we focus on when diagnosing a disorder.

“Showers: from a violent treatment to an agent of cleansing,” by Stephanie C Cox, Clare Hocking, Deborah Payne. Abstract:

In the early nineteenth century, physicians designed the first manufactured showers for the purpose of curing the insane. Sustained falls of cold water were prescribed to cool hot, inflamed brains, and to instil fear to tame impetuous wills. By the middle of the century showers had appeared in both asylums and prisons, but shower-related deaths led to their decline. Rather than being abandoned, however, the shower was transformed by the use of warm water to economically wash the skins of prison and asylum populations. In stark contrast to an involuntary, deliberately unpleasant treatment, by the end of the century the shower was a desirable product for the improvement of personal hygiene and population health.

“Psychiatrists and mental health activism during the final phase of the Franco regime and the democratic transition,” by Rafael Huertas. Abstract:

In the final years of the Franco dictatorship and during the period known as the democratic transition, there were a significant number of protests in the sphere of mental health in Spain. This article analyses the origins and functioning of the Psychiatric Network, which emerged in 1971, its connection to the formation of professional organizations and its role in the reception of anti-psychiatry ideas in Spain. We reach the conclusion that, although the Network’s activities took place within a left-wing political and ideological framework, and at such an important time of social change as the end of the dictatorship, its discourse and practices always demonstrated a marked professional approach.

“Colonial surgeon Patrick Hill (1794–1852): unacknowledged pioneer of Australian mental healthcare,” by Toby Raeburn, Carol Liston, Jarrad Hickmott, Michelle Cleary. Abstract:

Despite making a substantial contribution to the development of mental health services in colonial Australia, until now the story of Dr Patrick Hill’s (1794–1852) life has been overlooked by historians. This paper reviews primary sources including clinical notes, patient lists, letters, government documents and newspaper articles which reveal that Dr Hill was a dedicated physician who played a vital role in the development of Australian mental healthcare. He was held in such esteem that by the time of his sudden death in 1852 he had been elevated to the most senior medical office in New South Wales. Dr Hill’s career serves to exemplify how the local practice of individual colonial doctors helped build the reputation of medicine in the modern era.

“Managing difficult and violent adolescents (adolescents difficiles) in France: a genealogical approach,” by Yannis Gansel. Abstract:

‘Difficult adolescent’ is a clinical category defined by psychiatrists’ expertise. Since the end of the 1990s, it has been extensively used to describe a population of disruptive, violent yet vulnerable adolescents, at the margins of public institutions that manage youth deviancy in France. For the present study, an interconnected network of 49 documents was analysed using a genealogical method in order to provide comprehensive elements in the results. This category found its ecological niche in the 1960s, revealing a moral tension in the use of constraint. It addressed new problems of intractable individuals, whose dangerousness and vulnerability require coordination between penal, social and psychiatric institutions. It defines an ambiguous condition, suspended between the trouble experienced by the caregivers and an adolescent’s individual disorder.

New Articles: Digestion and the Mind, Psychiatric Care in Japan

The Febuary 2019 issue of Social History of Medicine includes two articles that may be of interest to AHP readers. Full details below.

“‘The Grand Organ of Sympathy’: ‘Fashionable’ Stomach Complaints and the Mind in Britain, 1700–1850,” by James Kennaway and Jonathan Andrews. Abstract:

Although the nerves have often been at the centre of the historiographical discussion of the so-called fashionable diseases of Georgian Britain, the stomach and digestion have at least as much claim for consideration. Associations between excessive consumption and elite status lent a touch of glamour to digestive problems, while creating the basis for a critique that depicted stomach maladies as the result of excess, greed and immorality. The first section of this paper explores how the patient experience of these disorders related to their glamorous connotations. The second part then considers changing views of the relationship between the digestion and the mind, arguing that the stomach was very much at the heart of ideas of selfhood until the nineteenth century. The third section examines the reasons for the apparent decline of modish stomach complaints at the end of the Georgian era in terms of changing medical thinking and socio-cultural context.

“Reinvented Places: ‘Tradition’, ‘Family Care’ and Psychiatric Institutions in Japan,” by Susan L Burns. Abstract:

This article explores the history of the care of the mentally ill at Iwakura, a site in northeast Kyoto in Japan where two large psychiatric hospitals now stand. Long a topic of research in Japan, Iwakura reflects a peculiar spatial arrangement common in Japan in which psychiatric hospitals came to be established near religious sites associated with care of the mentally ill in the pre-modern period. In the early twentieth century, Japan’s first generation of psychiatrists began to celebrate Iwakura as offering an indigenous form of ‘family care’, then the object of considerable discussion among psychiatrists and others in Europe and North America. I argue that the valorisation of Iwakura as offering a mode of care that was simultaneously ‘traditional’ and ‘progressive’ reflects the struggle to establish psychiatric institutions that involved local economic interests, public policy, and members of the new psychiatric discipline.

Winter 2019 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences

The Winter 2019 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now available. Full details below:

The muscular sense in Russia: I. M. Sechenov and materialist realism
Roger Smith

Contemporary Russian sensory physiology and psychology uses the notion of a “dark sense,” referring to the background of bodily sensation, especially of the position and movement of the body. The physiologist Ivan Sechenov introduced this language in the 1860s in the context of arguing for a physiological basis for scientific psychology. The muscular sense (the term preceding modern notions of kinaesthesia and proprioception) thereafter featured in the many talks and journal articles he presented to spread scientific enlightenment. The paper describes the history and significance of this. It does so in the light of Soviet representations of Sechenov as a scientist who substantially contributed to the Leninist materialist–realist theory of knowledge. These representations assessed Sechenov’s discussions as a breakthrough in world science to the understanding of the human organism as a self?regulating material system. It is necessary to understand the purposes and pressures driving Soviet historiography. The paper confirms the historical importance the sense of movement has had in realist theories of knowledge of the world; and it contributes a previously unknown chapter to the history of psychology.

The moral power of suggestion: A history of suggestion in Japan, 1900–1930
Yu?chuan Wu. Abstract:

In Japan, as in the west, suggestion theory was the predominant theory of hypnosis, and suggestive therapy was one of the most important, if not the most important, form of psychotherapy in the early 20th century. While the use of suggestion was met with objections on both scientific and moral grounds in the west, it was seen in a more positive light and has had a significant influence on the development of psychotherapy in Japan. With regard to the contexts of suggestion, suggestive power, suggestibility, and the effects of suggestion, this study will examine the distinctive conceptions and practices of suggestion developed by analogy with existing ideas about interpersonal influence, particularly with the concept of kanka (assimilative transformation) in Japan. They provide an interesting comparison to the western ideas of suggestion, helping us understand the historical and cultural particularity of western dynamic psychiatry and psychotherapy, particularly their presumptions about interpersonal influence.

“The myth of the collective unconscious,” by Jon Mills. Abstract:

This essay challenges the most basic tenet of Jung’s analytical psychology, namely, the existence of the collective unconscious. Despite the fact that there are purported to be universal processes and ontological features of mind throughout all psychoanalytical schools of thought, Jung’s is unique in the history of psychoanalytic ideas for positing a supraordinate, autonomous transpersonal psyche that remains the source, ground, and wellspring from which all unconscious and conscious manifestations derive. This bold claim is analyzed through a close inspection of Jung’s texts that questions the philosophical justification for postulating a supernatural macroanthropos or reified collective mind. Pointing out the problems of agency and fallacies of hypostatization, it is not necessary to evoke a transpersonal cosmogony to explain how universality suffuses individual subjectivity within social collectives. Here we may conclude that the collective unconscious construct is a signifier for the common psychological dynamics and characteristics of shared humanity. In this sense, the myth of the collective unconscious is better understood as a metaphor for a higher abstraction or ideal principle ordained with numinous value.

“Attaining landmark status: Rumelhart and McClelland’s PDP Volumes and the Connectionist Paradigm,” by Michelle Gibbons. Abstract:

In 1986, David Rumelhart and James McClelland published their two?volume work, Parallel distributed processing: Explorations in microcognition, Volume 1: Foundations and Volume 2: Psychological and biological models. These volumes soon become classic texts in both connectionism, specifically, and in the cognitive science field more generally. Drawing on oral histories, book reviews, translations, citation records, and close textual analysis, this paper analyzes how and why they attained landmark status. It argues that McClelland and Rumelhart’s volumes became classics largely as a result of a confluence of rhetorical factors. Specifically, the PDP Volumes appeared at a kairotic moment in the history of connectionism, publishing dynamics that facilitated their circulation played an important role, and the volumes were ambiguous about the relationship between model and brain in a manner that enabled them to address an expansive audience. In so doing, this paper offers insight into both the history of cognitive science and rhetoric’s role in establishing classic texts.

The “Two Cultures” in Clinical Psychology

The most recent issue of Isis includes a piece on the history of clinical psychology: “The “Two Cultures” in Clinical Psychology: Constructing Disciplinary Divides in the Management of Mental Retardation,” by Andrew J. Hogan. Abstract:

During the late twentieth century, drawing on C. P. Snow’s well-known concept of a “two cultures” divide between scientists and humanists, many psychologists identified polarizing divergences in their discipline. This essay traces how purported professional divides affected the understanding and management of mental retardation in clinical psychology. Previous work in the history of science has compared the differing cultures of disciplines, demonstrating that there is no one, unified science. Through an examination of multiple “two cultures” divides within the discipline of psychology, the essay demonstrates that perceived divergences in the field were animated by considerations of professional identity, ambitions, and goals. It argues that differing views among clinical psychologists about mental retardation, and crucially the localization of its causes—in individual bodies, minds, and genomes or within social institutions—reflected their position among the multiple “cultures” of psychology. References to Snow’s two cultures spanned the late twentieth-century scientific and clinical literature and were often used to encourage a conversation about the nature and goals of research in a field. In considering these purported “two cultures” divides, the essay proposes that historians of science must take care to look beyond constructed polarities, to instead analyze the resulting discussions about professional training and purpose.

Müller’s Doctrine of Specific Nerve Energies

Now available online, and forthcoming in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, are two pieces on Müller’s doctrine of specific nerve energies that may be of interest to AHP readers.

“Realism without tears I: Müller’s Doctrine of Specific Nerve Energies,” by Alistair M. C. Isaac. Abstract:

The Doctrine of Specific Nerve Energies has been and continues to be enormously influential in the physiology, psychology, and philosophy of perception. In simple terms, the Doctrine states that we directly perceive in the first instance the activity of our nerves, rather than properties in the external world. The canonical early statement of the Doctrine by the physiologist Johannes Peter Müller had profound influence on both the philosophy and psychology of the 19th and early 20th centuries, especially as reformulated and transmitted by Müller’s student Helmholtz. A common assumption of historical and ongoing debate about the Doctrine has been its supposedly idealist or skeptical implications. What is not commonly recognized is that Müller himself advanced a realist interpretation along lines that would be recognized today as a form of epistemic structural realism. This paper analyzes Müller’s structuralist epistemology in detail and reconstructs his articulation and defense of the Doctrine of Specific Nerve Energies in its canonical form. Part II argues for the continued importance of the Doctrine and its structuralist interpretation for contemporary psychology, philosophy of perception, and history of philosophy of science.

“Realism without tears II: The structuralist legacy of sensory physiology,” by Alistair M. C. Isaac. Abstract:

This paper examines the implications of the Doctrine of Specific Nerve Energies for contemporary philosophy and psychology. Part I analyzed Johannes Peter Müller’s canonical formulation of the Doctrine, arguing that it follows from empirical results combined with methodological principles. Here, I argue that these methodological principles remain valid in psychology today, consequently, any naturalistic philosophy of perception must accept the Doctrine’s skeptical conclusion, that the qualities of our perceptual experience are not determined by, and thus do not reveal the nature of, their causes in the world. Nevertheless, this does not mean that we must be global skeptics; rather, I argue that contemporary epistemology of perception should embrace Müller’s own response to the Doctrine: epistemic structural realism. As articulated by Müller’s student, Helmholtz, structural realism follows from the Doctrine once we recognize that active exploration constitutes part of the mechanism that determines perceptual experience, a view congenial to contemporary theories of embodied perception in cognitive science. Structural realists in philosophy of science should likewise heed the lessons of the Doctrine, as it played a critical part in the early history of their view, and may still serve a constructive role as exemplar today.