Friday, 1 July 2016

Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences

Dear Colleague,

I'm pleased to inform you that the new issue of the international online journal Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences has been published, it is freely readable at :

The issue contains:
Volume 9, Issue 1, June 2016

O. Doerr-Zegers & H. Pelegrina-Cetrán
Phenomenology of emotions with special reference to dysphoria

R. Henman
Implementing Generalized Empirical Method in Neuroscience by Functionally Ordering Tasks

S. Valente
The hysterical anorexia epidemic in the French nineteenth-century

C. Laségue
On hysterical Anorexia

H. H. Maung
In Defence of Chalmers: A Comment on Korf

P. De Rossi
Present and future trajectories towards a possible valid and useful diagnosis of ADHD

Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences proposes and includes Original Papers, Negative Experimental Results, History of Mental Concepts, New Ideas and Dialogues, as described in the guidelines for the authors.

Would you like to write a Dialogue? It is a short article (up to 600 words) freely published and without any deadline commenting another article already published on the previous issues of our Journal.

If you have any question about this Journal then please feel free to contact me at your convenience. I hope you find at least some of our publications of interest and value.

If you think someone of your friends or colleagues could be interested in our Journal please forward them this email. Anybody can register himself at our service of email-alert which will inform about new issues or other news about the Journal through an email. The service is completely free at

Kind regards
Daniela Cardillo
Editorial Office

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Dysphagia: getting it right for the patient #ADP_2016

I have spent the day (at the generous invitation of Hazel Roddam) at Advancing Dysphagia Practice conference at UCLan, this year focusing on the theme of getting it right for the patient and hence on the application of person centred care. Three papers this morning addressed overlapping aspects of this general theme.

Heulwen Sheldrick asked “how, why, how?” for staying person centred. Using the difficult example of a relative of hers who had recently died and had refused to accept the agreed pessimistic clinical view of her prognosis, she asked how person centred care should address such apparent denial. Should one collude or deny such patient views? Her suggestions were, by her own view, familiar. We should practice empathy (whilst avoiding maudlin sympathy) and sitting alongside. Services should be co-designed, co-produced and co-commissioned wherever possible. And clinicians needed to reconcile their personal with their professional values in order to be authentic.

Hannah Crawford described her own small scale qualitative study of the lived experience of mealtimes and food for people with PIMD and dysphagia from the perspective of the family and carers, looking in depth at three families. Her research had examined meanings, roles, relationships and challenges. For me the key conclusion was that food played a very important role in mother (the primary carer in these cases) child relationships. (The mothers responded to the food-related wishes communicated by their non-verbal children.) Hence ‘messing about’ – as she put it – with food via clinical recommendations came at the potential cost of messing with crucial relationships. These should thus be weighed and understood alongside more narrowly clinical factors.

David Hamilton addressed the challenges of involving patients in complex team decisions using head and neck cancer as an example. Three aspects of his talk stood out. First there is evidence that patients and clinicians place different values on states of health and ill-health (eg living with a full laryngectomy or the consequences of chemo therapy) but further that there is widespread variation within both groups. Second, that typically patients are involved in a clinical decision only after a view / recommendation has been decided without them in a MDT. Often the suggestions / options are then presented to the patient framed in particular ways to elicit the clinically preferred outcome. There is even dispute among honourable clinicians about whether all options should be presented (because it reveals a lack of medical certainty). Third, he presented an example of a patient who had made a decision based on only partially relevant and partially understood prior experience of his patients’ deaths.

That third talk suggested to me a general worry: what is informed decision making? What is the difference between an ‘unwise decision’ based on good though divergent from clinical reasons and, on the other hand, making an ill-informed decision because based on bad reasons? Can reasons and outcomes be sufficiently independent to allow this distinction? This question seems to me particularly pregnant on a day in which the UK is voting in a referendum on whether to exit the EU.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Crowdfunding for maternity research

One of my PhD student tutees is attempting to crowdfund an aspect of her research.

Her page is here

"Who am I? ¿Quién soy yo? 
My name is Lucia and my ambition is to help women achieve healthier and happier births. I am a midwife and full time self-funding PhD student at the University of Central Lancashire under the supervision of Professor Soo Downe. I am raising funds to be able to carry out this research project, which is a pilot clinical trial looking at the management of pregnant women whose waters have broken when labour haven't started yet"

Friday, 20 May 2016

Philosophy and Psychiatry: Mind, Value and Mental Health

Two linked events for philosophers, scientists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, and service users.

3rd Oxford Summer School in Philosophy and Psychiatry: 13-14 July 2017

A two-day summer school delivered by renowned experts in the field through guest lectures and seminars, providing opportunities for substantial dialogue between philosophers, clinicians, scientists and others.

Provisional themes for 2017 include:

Philosophical psychopathology today
Positive aspects of abnormal cognition
Depression/Bipolar disorder
Epistemic injustice and psychiatry

Further details will be announced soon - details of 2015 Summer School.

2nd International Conference in Philosophy and Psychiatry: 15 July 2017

A one-day conference featuring international keynote speakers and short presentations from graduate students and recent post-doctoral researchers. Programme in development - details of 2015 conference.

These events follow on from the highly successful events in 2013 and 2015 and will be led by members of Oxford’s Faculty of Philosophy.

Course directors:

Dr Anita Avramides (Reader in Philosophy of Mind, University of Oxford, and Southover Manor Trust Fellow in Philosophy, St. Hilda’s College)
Professor Martin Davies (Wilde Professor of Mental Philosophy, Corpus Christi College)
Professor Bill Fulford (Fellow of St Catherine’s College and Member of the Philosophy Faculty, University of Oxford, and Emeritus Professor of Philosophy and Mental Health, University of Warwick)
Dr Edward Harcourt (University Lecturer (CUF) in Philosophy, Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy, Keble College)

Please register your interest to receive updates about these events.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

MMU Workshop: Radical Ethnomethodology

Workshop: Radical Ethnomethodology
23 June 2016
Location: Manchester Metropolitan University, New Business School, Floor 3, room # 3.14 (M16 6BH)
10:00 AM until 6:00 PM

On 23 June 2016, there will be a meeting at MMU on the topic of “Radical Ethnomethodology.” This meeting will include presentations and discussions on the topic of radical ethnomethodology. Just what is (and/or was) radical about ethnomethodology and conversation analysis (CA) will be open to discussion and debate at the meeting, but our initial aim will be to explicate what was radical about the commitments expressed in the writings and lectures of Harold Garfinkel and Harvey Sacks. The purpose of the meeting is to consider the current state of ethnomethodology and CA in light of those commitments.

More than a half-century ago, Garfinkel and Sacks in different ways set out to investigate the production of social actions without privileging the theories, models, and methods of the contemporary social sciences. Along with their contemporaries and successors, Garfinkel, Sacks, and many others produced several interesting lines of work, but recent trends have obscured and diminished their radical initiatives. These trends include treatments of ethnomethodology/CA as: (1) a precursor of more recent programs and “turns” toward culture, discourse, linguistics, and cognitive science; (2) a continuation of one or another line of classical theory; and (3) a method to be integrated with other qualitative and quantitative social science approaches. This meeting will be devoted to critical discussion of these trends, and suggestions of how to sustain ethnomethodology and CA as radical approaches social phenomena.

The meeting will consist of four panel presentations and discussions. Presenters and discussion leaders will include Dusan Bjelic, Graham Button, Jeff Coulter, Michael Lynch, Doug Macbeth, and Wes Sharrock. Among the questions they shall address are:

Just what is radical about ethnomethodology’s programme?
How does ethnomethodology relate to “classic” social theory?
How does ethnomethodology relate to methods of “constructive analysis” in the social sciences?
In light of the way conversation analysis has developed in recent decades, what might a radical ethnomethodological CA look like?

Meeting Organizers: Michael Lynch (Cornell University), Wes Sharrock (University of Manchester), Phil Hutchinson & Marie Chollier (MMU)

Free of charge - Mandatory registration before 15th June
Information & registration:

Thursday, 28 April 2016

The balance of description and criticism in philosophy essays

Another case of putting something on my blog because I often rehash the same broad idea and so should keep a copy.

Teaching on a Philosophy and Mental Health distance learning programme, Gloria and I are often asked by our mainly non-philosopher students about the nature and balance of criticism and description in philosophy writing. For some students, this may be the result of being familiar with the more descriptive style of literature review in the social sciences (though even here, such reviews must have an argumentative purpose). But it is hard to answer directly at the level of a given paragraph because all depends what that paragraph is for.

So here is a top down answer based on an analogy. Sadly this is an analogy that does nothing to explain how fascinating and mind blowing philosophy can be. Sorry.

A philosophy essay is like a report written by a civil servant making a recommendation to a minister or to a committee. The essay as a whole has a purpose: to persuade the reader of the case for something (thinking that something is true or something is right). And hence a critical style of writing is there for that purpose.

(So the analogy gives a ‘top down’ account of why philosophical writing is both critical and descriptive because this follows from the point or purpose of the essay as a whole which shapes the need for individual bits of critical writing.)

Here is an example. Near where I live, there is a proposal to build new, higher capacity connection using very tall electricity pylons to link Sellafield nuclear power station (actually a new power station nearby called Moorside) to centres of population more efficiently. The proposal is contested because the pylons will be visually intrusive and they will be very close to and thus visible from with the Lake District National Park.

In the main, the protesters don’t, however, say that there is no need for the new power connection. They generally accept the force of the arguments for one. (Some, of course, disagree to this whole way of getting power but that opens up a whole new argument so I will stick to those who accept the need but not the means.) So the protesters argue that
a) all or some of it could be underground;
b) it could take a longer route further from the Park
c) it could be submerged under Morecambe Bay
d) the pylons could be smaller.

Each of these counter-proposals (to the original idea) is opposed by counter-counter arguments. Burying is expensive. Longer routes cost more. In some countries the bigger pylons are regarded as works of sculptural art and hence are not visually intrusive anyway. Etc etc.

So imagine that you were writing a report for the minister or a planning committee, what would you do?

First, I suggest, you need to understand all the arguments, counter-arguments, counter-counter-arguments etc. as their proposers understand them. To describe the lie of the land, you have to have a descriptive understanding of the arguments put forward.

Next, you will need to think about how the various ‘battles’ between opposing views stack up. For example, defenders of using pylons argue that burying the cable instead would cost too much money: 20 miles of buried lines would cost about £450m more than using pylons. ( But assessing this point will also involve seeing what one side makes of the argument. Eg., with respect to the cost of burying the cable, opponents of pylons have argued that this would add only about 40p a year to the average electricity bill in England and Wales. As you do this, you yourself will begin to assess what you think of these arguments. That is an exercise of critical assessment. Some reasons will turn out to be stronger than other reasons when you think them through in context. Some will probably be irrelevant, rhetorical red herrings.

Once you have this global view of – descriptively – what everyone says for and against the main position and supporting arguments and – critically – your own assessment of which arguments work out which way, which reasons are stronger, you will have taken some view of the overall issue.

In a committee paper, there are then various possible outcomes:
  • One view may be obviously the best. Still, to show why it is the best, you will need to show why the arguments in favour of the other view fail. And that requires saying – descriptively – what those arguments or reasons or factors are and – critically – how strong they are.
  • That one view is better than another may depend on a tricky issue to resolve. For example, one reason for not building the pylons is economic: it will undermine tourism. But another is aesthetic: it will spoil the beauty of the country. Weighing the financial cost of burying the cable against the aesthetic loss of beauty isn’t straightforward and a civil servant might try to describe both cases and then leave this up to the minister / planning committee to judge.
  • The opposing views may both be flawed because of other factors (the sudden discovery that one cannot, after all, build the power-station that needs all the pylons). So both sides may have made assumptions that frame their case but both turn out to be wrong.
Once one has taken a view about what can be rationally concluded, there is need to be imaginative in working out a rational way to present the arguments to the minister/committee. One good way to do this might be to start by saying what the recommendation is (“This report will argue for limited burying of cables across some of the distance of the power line”) and then saying how that conclusion will be arrived at (“The report will describe the facts for and against including the relative costs. The argument that tall pylons are actually beautiful will be considered and rejected.” Etc etc)

The analogy may be plodding but a philosophy essay works in the same argumentative way. It needs a balance of descriptive and critical writing because it needs to present and to assess competing arguments to arrive at some sort of conclusion (even if that is that there is no clear answer). That isn’t a feature of the style of philosophy in the way that poetry may have a particular metre or rhyming structure. Rather it stems from what philosophy is for. And that is deciding what is true and what is good.

Philosophers are God’s civil servants!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Values-Based Practice Theory Network Spring Conference, Oxford 3-4 May 2016

The second meeting of the Values-Based Practice Theory Network will be a two-day conference held at St Catherine’s College Oxford on 3rd and 4th May 2016. The conference is run in partnership with the Collaborating Centre for Values-Practice in Health and Social Care ( and Anna Bergqvist’s established Particularism in Bioethics, Professional Ethics and Medicine Network at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Venue: The Collaborating Centre for Values-based Practice, St Catherine’s College Oxford.

Theme: Value, Context and Narrative in Medical Epistemology and Health Care Practice.

The theme of this interdisciplinary conference is focused on the theoretical underpinnings of values-based practice, and explores the implications of illness narrative and contextualism for debates about objectivity and value in philosophy of medicine and medical epistemology more generally. It builds on our first conference on Values-Based Practice and Moral Particularism in October 2015, with special attention to philosophy of psychiatry, clinical practice and scientific methodology. By bringing together theorists and practitioners from the disciplines of Philosophy and Psychology our aim is to explore the ways in which normative critical perspectives challenge the implicit or assumed reductive theoretical paradigm of many current models and measures of ‘value’ in health care contexts in developing new integrative and holistic approaches. We hope that the event will open up a dialogue about the ways we might think and argue differently about the benefit of conceptual and evaluative thought in these contexts.


Tuesday 3rd May
09:00 – 09:15. Registration and Welcome
09:15 – 09:45. Benedict Smith (Durham University), ‘Values Based Practice and Context’.
09:45 – 10:30. Ulrik Kihlbom (Uppsala University), ‘Narrative Understanding in Clinical Decision Making and Serious Games Interventions’.
10:30 – 11:00. Tea & Coffee.
11:30 – 12:15. Lubomira Radoilska (University of Kent), ‘Ignorance of What One is Doing’.
12:15 – 13:00. Ian J. Kidd (University of Nottingham), ‘Illness, Ethics and Exemplarism’.
13:00 – 14:00. Lunch
14:00 – 14:45. Richard Gipps (University of Oxford), ‘Psychotherapy as Moral Practice’.
14:45 – 15:30. Anna Bergqvist (MMU), ‘Value, Perspective and Integration: Reassessing Narrative Selfhood in Borderline Personality Disorder’.
15:30 – 16:00. Tea & Coffee
16:00 – 16:45. Mark Haydon-Laurelut (University of Portsmouth/NHS). ‘Systemic Psychotherapy, Narrative and Autistic Spectrum Conditions’.
16:45 – 17:00. Concluding Remarks.
18:00 – Dinner (at own expense).

Wednesday 4th May
09:00 – 09:45. Anna Zielinska (Sorbonne), ‘The Normativity of Empirical Enquires: The Case of Genetics’.
09:45 – 09:45. Dieneke Hubbeling (Royal College of Psychiatrists, Philosophy Special Interest Group), ‘Outcome Bias, Values, and Moral Luck’.
10:30 – 11:00. Tea & Coffee
11:30 – 12:15. Alan Thomas (Tilburg University), ‘Particularism and Group Agency’.
12:15 – 13:00. Tim Thornton (University of Central Lancashire), ‘Who Are We? Subjectivity in Objective Values-Based Practice’.
13:00 – 14:00. Lunch
14:00 – 14:45. Caroline Vass (University of Manchester/Uppsala University), ‘What is Health Economics? Problematising Value in Stratified Medicine’.
14:45 – 15:30 Jens Erik Paulsen (Norwegian Police College University), ‘Policing as a Values-Based Practice: Challenges and Prospects’.
15:30 – 16:00 Tea & Coffee
16:00 – 17:00 Roundtable Discussion
17:00 Close

The event is free and open to all but places are limited, for which reason registration is necessary. To register, please send an email to the conference organiser and director of the VBP Theory Network Anna Bergqvist at no later than Thursday 28 April 2016.
Please state any dietary or disability restrictions as appropriate, all of which will be fully catered for.