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Vagueness, the sorites paradox, and posttraumatic stress disorder 

Vagueness, the sorites paradox, and posttraumatic stress disorder
Chapter:
Vagueness, the sorites paradox, and posttraumatic stress disorder
Source:
Vagueness in Psychiatry
Author(s):

Peter Zachar

and Richard J. McNally

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198722373.003.0009

This chapter explores the vagueness inherent in the conceptual structure of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although psychopathologists have developed precise diagnostic criteria for PTSD, concepts such as traumatic, severe, and impaired generate borderline cases. As in the sorites paradox, where difficult to distinguish but successively smaller piles of sand may be called heaps, in PTSD similar but successively milder traumatic events may produce PTSD symptoms. The vagueness that bedevils PTSD is of two sorts: the degree vagueness manifested in gradual transitions between subtraumatic and traumatic stressors; and vagueness between normal and abnormal reactions. Also discussed here is an alternative causal systems approach in which the symptoms of PTSD are causally related parts of PTSD. Such mereological structures produce combinatorial vagueness in which there are borderline cases between PTSD and other psychiatric syndromes.

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