Classification of Psychopathology:
The Nature of Language

G. Scott Acton
Northwestern University

Author Note


This article criticizes the approach to language underlying the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV; American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Concepts from the philosophy of language illuminate taxonomic problems that haunt users of the DSM nosology: lack of coverage, comorbidity, and within-category heterogeneity. Exception is taken to the operationism that results in a highly artificial DSM nomenclature, raising the specter of non-referential criterion sets. A dimensional approach is recommended because it would better correspond to an objectively seamless reality.