General Psychopathology

Review of An Introduction to Psychopathology. By D. Russell Davis. (Pp. 388+vi. 30s.) London: Oxford University Press. 1957.

British Medical Journal, 13 September 1958, p. 679.

We have long lacked in Great Britain any book on general psychopathology which can be recommended with confidence to the student. In this way we are badly handicapped in comparison with Germany, for instance, where in every textbook of psychiatry a substantial part of the whole volume is given to this part of teaching. What we have had instead is a number of works, many of them of great excellence, on psychopathology in the limited Freudian sense. Dr. Russell Davis has now supplied the deficiency with a book which covers the whole ground and is so lucid and intelligent that it is a pleasure to read. The author's basic tenet is that the most promising line of advance in psychiatry at the present time lies in the application of the findings of experimental psychology. His book is essentially the discussion of mental illness in the context of psychological theories. This is done with great ability, and the evidence has been collected and presented in a critical and stimulating way. Nevertheless the result is a work which is, as the author himself admits, somewhat one-sided in nature. The lack of appreciation felt for observations and theories along physical, medical, and genetical lines constantly involves him in difficulties. In presenting the hypothesis of a purely environmental and psychological causation for some condition he has to say that "there is little conclusive evidence with which to support it" or that it "would be possible to deny any weight to the arguments from which the theory has been built up." Though it is always made clear to the reader when the author's partialities are taking him beyond the evidence, one cannot but regret that a more judicial attitude was not found possible.

    Despite these criticisms, this is an excellent and important book. It will not escape the thoughtful reader that in the present state of knowledge the psychological theories cannot bear the whole of the weight that is placed upon them. Yet the author has collected a mass of data, especially from the fields of experimental psychology and sociology, which are not easily available to psychiatrists, and he has poinited out lines of approach which may very well prove fruitful. Teachers and students are alike in his debt.