As a preamble to an article on alternate ways of classifying mental disorders, we point to a built-in source of ambiguity. The use of the construction, "mental disorders,'' together with the phrase "mental health'' in the title of the encyclopedia, reflects an implicit acceptance of a particular worldview from which the traditional approaches to classification are generated. The use of the word "mental" implies an assured and nonproblematic ontological status for the concept of mind, notwithstanding the many critiques of the concept, and by the claim that ''mind'' is an exemplar of the human tendency to transfigure a metaphor to a literal entity. Lost in the history of lexicography is the recognition that at one time mind was a verb, useful for talking about silent and unseen actions, such as thinking, imagining, and so on.

For the most part, the traditional approach treats "mind" as a literal entity, often as a quasi-organ parallel to the brain, or as an epiphenomenon arising from the workings of the brain. In actual practice, mental health professionals do not deal with ''minds,'' but with persons whose actions fail to meet a particular society's standards of propriety or fail to meet self-imposed standards. It is an illusion that therapists aid in reconstructing ''minds,'' although they may be instrumental in modifying beliefs and values, in reinforcing strategies for managing interpersonal relations, in changing habits, and in acquiring self-knowledge.

"Disorders" is also an unsettled concept. The term implies a departure or deviation from ''ordered'' conduct. It is important to note that the supraordinate concepts ''ordered'' and ''disordered'' (staples of mental health and mental illness doctrines) are derived from a particular worldview, probably unrecognized by the vast majority of mental health workers. The worldview is that of the machine, the root metaphor of which is the transmission of forces. Being "in order" or ''out of order'' (disordered), although apt constructions for describing the condition of a clock, a motor, or a computer, are misleading when applied to the acts of human beings. As a descriptor for unacceptable conduct, ''disorders'' is derived from traditional practices for classifying absurd or unwanted conduct— such practices being consistent with the mechanistic worldview that the ''mind'' operates like other machines —as a vehicle for the transformation of forces.

Related to the mechanistic conception of order is another implicit meaning of ''disorder.'' The concept of ''social order'' grew out of the belief in an orderly universe. Thus, ''disorder'' is applied to violations of the normative expectations for human conduct in everyday life. Shared constructions of the social order supply the context within which conduct may be classified as mentally disordered, deviant, nonconform-ing, abnormal, inept, or improper. Further, the shared constructions provide the background for legitimating interventions such as hospitalization, incarceration, or other systematic effort to restore order to the social group the equilibrium of which has been disrupted by the conduct of the ''disorderly'' or ''disordered'' person.

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