Does the philosophy of psychiatry need a metaphysics?

June 3, 2016
Department of Politics, Philosophy & Religion, Lancaster University

Lecture Theatre
The Storey Institute, Meeting House Lane
Lancaster LA1
United Kingdom


Derek Bolton
Center for the Humanities and Health (King's College of London)
Rachel Cooper
Lancaster University
John O'Neill
University of Manchester
Tim Thornton
University of Central Lancaster
Peter Zachar
Auburn University Montgomery


Rachel Cooper
Lancaster University

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Much recent work in the philosophy of psychiatry has presupposed some metaphysical framework or other (eg pragmatism, realism, a McDowellian or Wittgensteinian approach). This conference brings together the authors of a number of influential recent books to consider the extent to which work in the philosophy of psychiatry requires the assumption of a metaphysical framework. Speakers will speak from Wittgensteinian, McDowellian, Realist and Pragmatist perspectives.


Derek Bolton (KCL) (author of Mind, Meaning and Mental Disorder, 1996)

Rachel Cooper (Lancaster) (author of Classifying Madness, 2005)

Tim Thornton (UCLAN) (author of Essential Philosophy of Psychiatry, 2007)

Peter Zachar (Auburn) (author of A Metaphysics for Psychopathology, 2014). 

The aim of the conference is to consider whether the key claims of each writer could have been made without the controversial metaphysical assumptions that they in fact employ.

Work in the philosophy of psychiatry is perhaps marked more by metaphysical disagreements than is work in the philosophy of many other special sciences. However, similar issues have also arisen in other areas. John O’Neill (Manchester) will act as a commentator and speak about the ways in which disagreements regarding basic metaphysics have impacted on the areas in which he works (environmental philosophy, philosophy of economics).

This conference is free to attend and everyone is welcome (though if you can email me at [email protected] to book a place that would be useful). It will be at the Storey Institute, which is right by the train station. Times will be confirmed nearer the time.

The conference is sponsored by the Department of Politics, Philosophy & Religion; Lancaster University

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