Problems of Living: Perspectives from Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Cognitive-Affective Science

8 Sep 2021 - 16:30


Psychiatric practice immediately raises a series of philosophical questions about the nature of mental disorders, the validity of psychiatric knowledge, and the aptness of psychiatric treatment . The more porous the boundaries between mental illness and problems of living, the more these questions intersect with key ‘big questions’ of philosophy including what can we know, how should we live, and what can we hope for .

This lecture will provide a conceptual framework for addressing both narrower questions raised by psychiatry, as well as wider ‘big questions’ of philosophy . Very broadly speaking, we can contrast a classical position which is optimistic about progress in our lives and in psychiatric science, and a critical position which is sceptical of notions of progress and which sees mental disorders as requiring a hermeneutic approach .

The conceptual framework provided aims to integrate the best of the classical and the critical positions . Thus, an integrative position views psychiatry as engaging with both mechanisms and meanings . And an integrative position steers between overly scientistic/Panglossian and overly sceptical/gloomy views; our knowledge is fallible but we can develop powerful accounts, we have multiple values but can weight these up reasonably, and we can aim to live more meaningful lives .