TTEASK026U Philosophy of Mental Health
Mental illness is an increasing problem involving dramatic personal and socioeconomic costs. Developments in genetics, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience over the last two decades have made it obvious for psychiatrists and psychologists alike that the question ‘what is mental illness?’ is still an open question that requires interdisciplinary resources. Philosophy of mental health is an attempt to develop a solid conceptual framework for the interdisciplinary exploration of mental illness. This course is an introduction to the burgeoning field of philosophy of psychiatry. Against a solid historical background, the course sets out to present, examine, and discuss concepts fundamental to our understanding of mental illness (mind, body, self, person, rationality, emotion, normality/disorder), the meaning of psychopathology, the relationship between biology (genetics, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience in particular) and subjectivity, and the question of therapy (the values and norms of well-being).
This course will introduce you to some of basic philosophical dimensions of mental health. This introduction will enable the student to understand and evaluate critically the problems involved in the growing challenges to mental health. Besides getting a solid understanding of the historical background of contemporary philosophy of mental health, you will learn about the virtues and limit of scientific explanations of mental illness; the complex relationship of biological, psychological, and social factors involved in mental illness; the question of psychopathology and phenomenology in a scientific culture; the problem of health care; the issue of medicalization; and the scope and aim of therapy.
Teaching and learning methods
The sessions are structured as a combination of lecture, discussion, and group work with a focus on engaging the student. Each session is framed by a systematic PowerPoint presentation of the themes and readings in question. The presentation will encourage and guide the discussion and the group work in the class. The student can expect a lively and systematically oriented teacher who will attempt to make the issues both interesting and relevant to a contemporary setting while maintaining a substantial theoretical level and the necessary historical perspective.
Course ECTS credits 15
Please note: First lesson will take place 28 August.
- Graham, George. The Disordered Mind: An Introduction to
Philosophy of Mind and Mental
Illness, 2nd edition London: Routledge 2013.
- Richard J. McNally. What is Mental Illness? Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 2011.
- Roy Porter. Madness: A Brief History of Mental
Illness. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2002.
Articles and Chapters
- Femi Oyebode. Sims’ Symtoms in the Mind. 4th Edition. Philadelphia: Elsevier 2008, Ch. 1: 3-25).
- Dominic Murphy. "Philosophy of Psychiatry", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .
- Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen. Making Minds and Madness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2009, Ch.10: 185-196.
- Eric R. Kandel. “A New Intellectual Framework for Psychiatry”. American Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 155 (1998): 457-469.
- George L. Engel. “The Need for a New Medical Model: A Challenge for Biomedicine”. Science 196 (1977): 129-136.
- Allen Frances. “DSM in Philosophyland: Curiouser and Curiouser”. AAP&P Bulletin 17 (2010): 21-25.
- Wolfgang Blankenburg. “Phenomenology and Psychopathology”. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology 11 (1980): 50-78.
- Russell Meares. Intimacy & Alienation. London: Routledge 2000, Ch. 2-5: 7-39.
- Truls Wyller. “The Place of Pain in Life”. Philosophy 80 (2005): 385-393.
- Shaun Gallagher and Dan Zahavi. The Phenomenological Mind. London: Routledge 2012, Ch. 2: 15-47
- Thomas Nagel. “What It Is Like to Be a Bat”. The Philosophical Review 83 (1974): 435-450.
- Jerome C. Wakefield. “The Concept of Mental Disorder: Diagnostic Implications of the Harmful Dysfunction Analysis”. World Psychiatry 6 (1992): 149-156.
- Thomas R. Insel & Bruce N. Cuthbert. “Brain Disorders? Precisely: Precision Medicine Comes to Psychiatry” Science 348 (2016): 499-500.
- Class Instruction
- Course Preparation
- Exam Preparation
Full degree students enrolled in Study Programmes at departments of the University of Copenhagen: Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up. Remember to attach a pre-approval form your Study Board. Application deadline 1 June and 1 December.
For merit- og tilvalgsstuderende – følg link
For ÅU-studerende – følg link
For Masterstuderende – følg link
- 15 ECTS
- Type of assessment
- Written assignmentUndergraduate requirements (bachelor students):
Requirement to pass the course for undergraduate students (bachelor students): Active attendance (at least attendance in 75% of the class-sessions, documented by protocol). The syllabus volume and content are determined by the teacher, and three to five assignments are handed in to the teacher on each 9,600-12,000 characters, ie. 4-5 pages, as well as a final major assignment, which has s size of 19,200-24,000 characters, ie. 8-10 pages, and based on 400-500 pages literature in agreement with the teacher. The assignments are assessed by the teacher and the final assessment is given after the 7-point grading scale.
Graduate requirements (kandidat/master students):
Requirement to pass the course for graduate students (kandidat/master students): Active attendance (at least attendance in 75% of the class-sessions, documented by protocol). The syllabus volume and content are determined by the teacher, and three to five assignments are drawn on each 9,600-12,000 characters, ie. 4-5 pages, as well as a final major assignment, which has a size of 26,400-36,000 characters, ie. 11-15 pages, and is based on 800-1000 pages of literature in agreement with the teacher. The assignments are assessed by the teacher and the final assessment is given after the 7-point grading scale.
- Marking scale
- 7-point grading scale
- Exam period
Winter and Summer Exam