Prof. German E. Berrios


German E. Berrios Controversias Psiquiatria Barcelona
Talk The Concept of Crisis: history and epistemology
Date Thursday, April 20th, 2017
Time 18:00 - 18:30


Al Presente
- Catedrático Emérito de la Epistemología de la Psiquiatría, Universidad de Cambridge
- Fellow Vitalicio, Robinson College, Universidad de Cambridge
- Fellow de la Academia de Ciencias Médicas del Reino Unido
- Fellow del Colegio Real de Psiquiatras del Reino Unido.
- Fellow de la Sociedad Británica de Psicología
- Director de la revista internacional “History of Psychiatry”

Hasta 2007:
- Jefe del Departamento de Neuropsiquiatría de la Universidad de Cambridge (31 años)
- Presidente del Comité de Investigación y Ética de la Universidad de Cambridge (20 años)
- Presidente del Comité de Medicina Psicológica del Hospital de Addenbrooke's (10 años)
- Bibliotecario Mayor del Colegio Real de Psiquiatras del Reino Unido (10 años)
- Encargado del material de lectura de los residentes psiquiátricos del Reino Unido (10 años)

Honores recientes
- Dr. Medicina honoris causa, Universidades de:
Heidelberg (Alemania); San Marcos (Perú); Barcelona (España); Buenos Aires (Argentina);
Córdoba (Argentina); Chile (Chile)
- Cátedra de psicopatología "German Berrios" fundada en Universidad de Antioquia (2006)
- Condecorado por el Gobierno Peruano con la Orden del Sol, grado "Gran Oficial" (2007)
-Premio Ramón y Cajal, International Neuropsychiatric Association (2008)
-Fellow de Honor, Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK (2010)
-Otras 17 "Fellowships Honorarias' de Asociaciones Médicas y Psiquiátricas Mundiales.

Medicina & Filosofia (San Marcos, Perú); Filosofía, Psicología, Neurología, Psiquiatría e Historia y Filosofía de la Ciencia de la Universidad de Oxford (bajo la tutela de G. Ryle, C. Webster, A. Crombie, R. Harré, E. Anscombe, B. Farrell, M Gelder, R Russell). Como Profesor Asistente en la Universidad de Leeds se entrenó en técnicas estadísticas y modelación matemática con el Profesor Max Hamilton y recibió psicoanálisis didáctico con el profesor Harry Guntrip. Por 10 años fue primer asistente del Profesor Sir Martin Roth en Cambridge.

Contribución académica
Ha publicado más de 440 artículos y 17 libros sobre neuropsiquiatría, psicopatología descriptiva, y la historia y epistemología de la psiquiatría. En 1997, su libro sobre la "Historia de los síntomas mentales" ganó el premio nacional de la Asociación Medica Británica al mejor libro en psiquiatría (traducido al castellano en 2008 FCE, Coreano 2009, etc.). En 2011 publicó “Hacia una Nueva Epistemología de la Psiquiatría” (Buenos Aires, Polemos)

Para más detalles biográficos ver:


The statement "Psychiatry is in crisis" has been repeatedly made since Psychiatry was constructed as a profession at the beginning of the 19th century. Its truth or otherwise depends upon the: 1) meaning conferred upon the terms 'Crisis' and 'Psychiatry'; 2) utterer's intentions; and 3) context of the utterance.

In Classical Greece, the generic term krísiz (crisis) named judgments about state of affairs undergoing change. Made by a krîtiz (judge) and according to a krît?rion (criterion), judgements of this type were passed in all fields, whether the Law, Medicine, Ethics or Aesthetics.

Considered as a time of discontinuity or instability affecting any process, a krísiz could lead to a good, bad or neutral outcome. In this sense, processes such as a biological metamorphosis, the French revolution or Kuhn's paradigm change could be correctly named as 'crises'. However, by the 18th century the original clarity of the concept of crisis started to be eroded by the appearance of metaphorical derivatives that rendered it tantamount to 'disaster', 'emergency', 'calamity', 'catastrophe', 'danger', etc. Later efforts to map the concept have unveiled additional semantic ambiguities. For example, it is unclear whether 'crisis' should be considered as descriptive or explicative, qualitative or quantitative, episodic or processual, subjective or objective, foundational or procedural, predictive or non-predictive, value-free or value-laden, etc.

Likewise, the meaning of the term 'Psychiatry' seems to remain unstable. Although it officially refers to a medical sub-specialism dedicated to the diagnosis and cure of mental illness, in practice, both its association with medicine, its explanatory narratives, and the very meaning of 'mental illness' have been subject to challenge. These disagreements have encouraged alternative definitions of psychiatry and may explain the widespread belief that Psychiatry is in crisis.

In view of the meaninglessness of 'crisis' and the multiple meanings of 'Psychiatry', the statement "Psychiatry is in crisis" is difficult to understand unless more is known about the views and circumstances of its utterers. Be that as it may, it is unlikely that most of those making such claim are referring to the Greek sense of the term but instead believe that Psychiatry is in trouble and needs urgent mending. In the absence of agreement as to the meaning, narratives, methodology and goals of Psychiatry, some will challenge its foundations, others its definition of madness or mental disorder; yet others will disagree with the predominance of the neuroscientific narrative.

It can be concluded that the claim that Psychiatry is in crisis has little intrinsic meaning. This does not mean to say that Psychiatry is unproblematic. Those who want to help should: 1) put forward conceptions of the discipline that are more likely to help persons affected by mental sufferings, and 2) design methodologies conducive to reaching such goal. It should not be forgotten that Psychiatry and all related clinical disciplines exist because sufferers exist. This modificatory (rather than contemplative) function binds them all to an ethical commitment that cannot be disregarded.