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“Thistle, Violet, Madness: the influence of botanical classification on our understanding of mental illness”

Daniel Mason
Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Stanford University
Date and Time: 
Wednesday, December 6, 2017 - 17:30

Department of Anthropology
Main Quad - Building 50
Room 51A (Colloquium Room)


The question of how to classify mental illness remains one of the most contentious in medicine. In this
talk we will approach psychiatric classification from a historical perspective, finding the roots of today’s
system in the botanical taxonomies of the Enlightenment. For thinkers ranging from Linnaeus, to Darwin,
to the founders of modern psychiatry, the metaphor of “disease as plant” has provided the dominant
model for classifying disease. But what to make of this legacy? Has it helped or hindered our understanding
of mental suffering?