The groundwork for the 1990s resurgence of cross-disciplinary work in philosophy and mental health was laid by a number of clinicians and by philosophers working in both the analytic and phenomenological traditions

This page sets these developments in context and provides a searchable index that we hope will be helpful to established researchers and to those coming new to the field

On this page
  1. Groundwork
    • Phenomenology
    • Analytic Philosophy
  2. The Contemporary Scene
    • A Burgeoning Field
    • A Searchable Index of Research and Researchers ​
  3. Future Trends

1. Groundwork

Following the foundational work of Karl Jaspers , the principal ‘culture carrier’ for philosophy and psychiatry through much of the Twentieth Century was phenomenology.

Analytic philosophers however also made important contributions and the contemporary field comprises a rich partnership between analytic philosophy and phenomenology, together with, increasingly, other philosophical traditions such as those of Africa and South East Asia.

*Karl Jaspers pictured in the University Department of Psychiatry, Heidelberg University , in about 1913 (when he published General Psychiopathology).  We are grateful to Professors Christoph Mundt and Thomas Fuchs for this picture.

Karl Jaspers 1913*
Legend: Maudsley Reader in Phenomenological Psychiatry (CUP, 2012) Edited by Matthew Broome, Robert Harland, Gareth Owen and Argyris Stringaris


Key figures in Twentieth Century phenomenology concerned with issues relevant to mental health came mainly from Continental Europe, notably from Germany (e.g., Martin Heidegger) and France (e.g., Maurice Merleau-Ponty). This was true also of those working in the closely related fields of existentialism (e.g., Jean Paul Sartre, Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida, all in France) and hermeneutics (e.g., Paul Ricoeur in France; Hans-Georg Gadamer in Germany).

Some of these being (like Jaspers) clinicians as well as philosophers, it was natural that they should apply their philosophical insights to issues arising in mental health. Ludwig Binswanger (Switzerland), for example, was a leading figure in the development of existential psychology. Jacques Lacan and Paul Ricoeur both developed philosophical critiques of psychoanalysis.


Later Twentieth Century work in phenomenology was more international in scope and included a number of those who contributed directly to the birth of the contemporary field: for example, Alec Jenner (UK), Juan Lopez-Ibor (Spain), Arnaldo Ballerini (Italy), Kimura Bin (Japan), and Otto Döerr-Zeger (Chile).


Analytic Philosophy

As with phenomenology so with analytic philosophy, the Twentieth Century witnessed philosophical interest in psychoanalysis (mainly critical interest, from Karl Popper, for example, and Brian Farrell).

Less well-known, though more significant for the subsequent emergence of contemporary philosophy and psychiatry, was the post-World War II partnership between the philosopher, Carl Hempel, and the psychiatrist, Aubrey Lewis, that, supported by the the (later to become) Head of the Mental Health Division of the World Health Organization, Norman Sartorius, led to the descriptive move in psychiatric classification.

We owe the descriptive basis of contemporary psychiatric classifications (see The Oxford Textbook of Philosophy and Psychiatry, Chapter 13, pages 330 – 333) to partnership-working between philosophy and psychiatry.

Norman Sartorius, Former Head of the WHO Division of Mental Health
Aubrey Lewis, Psychiatrist
Carl Hempel, Philosopher of Science

The principal pathfinder however for analytic philosophy’s current engagement with issues in mental health was the mid-twentieth century Oxford philosopher, JL Austin, whose ideas about the role of ordinary language in philosophy offers many points of contact with the conceptual challenges presented by research and practice in mental health.

In his mid-century article, ‘A Plea for Excuses’, Austin presciently pointed philosophers to the resources for their work offered by case studies in what he called ‘abnormal psychology’.


JL Austin, White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy (1952 – 1960), University of Oxford
Kathleen V Wilkes –, 1946 – 2003, St Hilda’s College Oxford

This lead was picked up in the second half of the century by a number of philosophers working predominantly in the analytic tradition. Oxford philosophers from this period who contributed particularly strongly to contemporary philosophy and psychiatry included Kathleen Wilkes, Jonathan Glover, Mary Warnock, Anthony Quinton, Brian Farrell and Rom Harré. 

Kathleen Wilkes’ book Real People directly anticipated the methodological shift from thought experiments to close attention to people’s experiences by which much of Oxford philosophy’s early contributions to the new field was characterised (see below, The Contemporary Scene.)

Austin’s work led directly to the development of values-based practice (VBP) and continues to inspire the current expansion of the theoretical basis of VBP to other areas of value philosophy.

Nature and Narrative

2. The Contemporary Scene

In line with wider trends in philosophy, analytic and phenomenological approaches have become increasingly intertwined in the contemporary field. Austin (once again) anticipated this development, describing his use of ordinary language in analytic philosophy as ‘a kind of linguistic phenomenology’.

JL Austin - Ordinary language analytic philosophy is ‘… a kind of linguistic phenomenology.

A Burgeoning Field

The rapid expansion of work in philosophy and mental health since the 1990s makes it impossible to summarise (let alone do justice to) the wide range of significant contributions to the contemporary scene that have been made not only by philosophers but also by those with expertise in the many different areas of mental health practice, including those with expertise by experience.

Will Davies Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy, St Anne’s College, Oxford

So far as we are aware there has been no comprehensive review of the literature since Will Davies (pictured) carried out a wide-ranging search in 2010/11 as a contribution to the preparatory work for the Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Psychiatry (published in 2013). Will was at the time a philosophy DPhil student in Oxford with a Faculty Scholarship for philosophy and psychiatry.

The contributors to the Handbook include many (though not all) of those active in the field at the time and subsequent Handbooks have added those contributing to specific areas of the contemporary field.


A Searchable Index of Research and Researchers

INPP monitors developments in the field and maintains an index of the research programmes that are brought to the attention of the website editor.

The current entries in the index are given below. These illustrate the breadth and diversity of the contemporary field but even so are just a sample and we welcome new entries.

The index is described further in the Resources section of the website where you will find guidance on how to retrieve literature and other resources to support work in philosophy and mental health.

Konrad Banicki Poland, UKAssistant Professor, Institute of Applied Psychology, Jagiellonian University in Kraków, and Convenor of the Understanding Personality Disorders Network, Collaborating Centre for Values-based Practice, University of Oxford, UKA philosopher and psychologist working on projects in philosophy and psychiatry. Example project: Understanding Personality Disorders Network
Anna Bergqvist UK, SwedenSenior Lecturer, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK and Convenor of the Theory Network, Collaborating Centre for Values-based Practice, University of Oxford, UKAn analytic philosopher working on aspects of the philosophy of values particularly as they impact on issues in mental health. Example Project: Particularism in Bioethics, Professional Ethics and Medicine – a transnational research consortium (between MMU, Tilburg University, University of Oslo, Diakonhjemmet University College and Uppsala University).
Lisa Bortolotti UKProfessor of Philosophy, University of Birmingham, UKA philosopher of the cognitive sciences, focusing on the philosophy of psychology and psychiatry. Example project: Epistemic Benefits of Imperfect Cognitions exploring the role of factually erroneous cognitions and thoughts including delusions
Rachel Cooper UKProfessor of Philosophy, University of Lancaster, UKA philosopher working on issues in the philosophy of science and mental health – see for example her Psychiatry and the Philosophy of Science (Acumen 2007)
Thomas Fuchs GermanyKarl Jaspers Professor for Philosophy and Psychiatry at the Department of General Psychiatry, Universität HeidelbergA psychiatrist and philosopher whose research areas lie at the intersection of phenomenology, psychopathology and cognitive neuroscience. His interests include embodiment, enactivism, temporality and intersubjectivity. Example Projects: TESIS: Towards an Embodied Science of InterSubjectivity, and DISCOS: Disorders and Coherence of the Embodied Self (latter with the Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, Technical University of Munich)
KWM (Bill) Fulford UKFellow, St Catherine’s College, and Director of the Collaborating Centre for Values-based Practice, University of Oxford, UKA philosopher and psychiatrist whose particular research interests are in the applications of philosophical value theory to psychiatry and other areas of medicine. Example Project: The Collaborating Centre for Values-based Practice at St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford, that he directs with Professor Ashok Handa (Tutor for Surgery in the Medical School). His recent publications include, The Oxford Textbook of Philosophy and Psychiatry
George Graham USAProfessor of Philosophy and Adjunct Faculty Neuroscience Institute, Georgia State UniversityA philosopher who has brought together work in the philosophy of mind with cognitive neuroscience across a range of projects including the nature of delusion and its links with religious and spiritual beliefs
Sik Hin Hung ChinaAssistant Professor and Director of the Centre of Buddhist Studies, The University of Hong Kong A Buddhist monk ordained under the Mahayana tradition who is applying Buddhist philosophy to issues in mental health ranging from counselling and psychotherapy to the neuroscience of meditation. His current research projects include a form of mindfulness enriched with Buddhist philosophy called ‘Dharma Therapy’
Colin King UKResearcher and Activist, Convenor of the Black and Asian Coaches Association and of the Whiteness and Race Equality Network in the Collaborating Centre for Values-based Practice, University of Oxford, UKWorking with Anna Bergqvist and others on the insights from critical race theory (for example in the work of the philosopher-psychiatrist Franz Fanon) for mental health issues in black and minority ethnic communities
Philipp Koralus UKFulford Clarendon Associate Professor in Philosophy of Mind, Faculty of philosophy, University of Oxford, and Fulford Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science, St Catherine’s College A philosopher and cognitive scientist developing and empirically testing erotetic theory, a formal model (based on semantic logic) of rationality and decision-making. His Laboratory for the Philosophy and Psychology of Rationality and Decision (LPPRD) has led to the discovery of new framing effects in moral judgment, models of distraction and of delusional thinking.
Guilherme Messas BrazilProfessor and Head of the Postgraduate Program on Phenomenological Psychopathology at Santa Casa de São Paulo School of Medical Sciences.A psychiatrist and phenomenologist who is applying a phenomenologically-informed version of values-based practice to the development of alcohol and drugs policy in the State of Sao Paolo
Marcin Moskalewicz PolandAssociate Professor, Poznan University of Medical SciencesA phenomenologist who has established a joint programme of work on philosophy and mental health between the Universities of Oxford (Phenomenology and Mental Health Network) and as part of a wider programme of work in the interdisciplinary field (including projects on the clinical diagnosis of schizophrenia, on temporal experience in mental disorders, and on the role of expert knowledge in the diagnosis of autism).
Michael Musalek AustriaClinical Director, Anton Proksch Institute, and Professor of Psychiatry in the Institute of Social Aesthetics and Mental Health of the Sigmund Freud Private University, ViennaA psychiatrist and phenomenologist whose Orpheus Programmeat the Anton Proksch Institute applies insights from aesthetics to the management of addictive disorders
Jean Naudin FranceProfessor of Psychiatry, University of the Mediterranean, MarseilleA philosopher and doctor whose model of health and illness takes its inspiration from the existential psychology of Ludwig Binswanger. He has published both phenomenological and neuroscientific studies of schizophrenia
Josef Parnas DenmarkClinical Professor, Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Copenhagen Combines phenomenological, conceptual and neuroscientific research on schizophrenia with a particular focus on identifying anomalies of self-experience that might serve as diagnostic markers of at-risk subjects among spectrum patients.
Hannah Pickard USABloomberg Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Bioethics, Johns Hopkins UniversityA philosopher and bioethicist who has used insights from the philosophy of mind to develop a novel approach to the management of offenders. With the support of the Welcome Trust (in London) Hanna has developed an e-learning resource to support those using her programme of Responsibility without Blame
Nancy Potter USAEmeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of LouisvilleA philosopher who brings insights to issues in mental health from a range of areas including feminist ethics. political philosophy and theory of knowledge. She is currently working with the Collaborating Centre for Values-based practice in Oxford on a project exploring the relationship between voice, silence, and uptake, in particular for patients living with mental illness.
Lubomira RadoilskaUK and RomaniaSenior Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Kent, UKA philosopher whose research interests include ethics, philosophy of action and epistemology. Her current projects include: Epistemic Injustice, Reasons and Agency (with Veli Mitova, University of Johannesburg) and Norms of Action and Belief in the Clinic Network (NABC)(with Regent Lee, Collaborating Centre for Values-based Practice, St Catherine’s College, Oxford)
Matthew Ratcliffe UKProfessor of philosophy, University of YorkA philosopher and phenomenologist who has worked on a variety of areas of abnormal mental experience, for example, Emotional Experience in Depression: A Philosophical Study(with Achim Stephan, University of Osnabruck), and the first phase of Hearing the Voice, a Wellcome Trust funded interdisciplinary and international study of voice-hearing (based at Durham University).
Louis Sass USADistinguished Professor, Clinical Core Faculty, California (Berkeley)A psychologist and philosopher who works at the intersection of clinical psychology with philosophy, the arts, and literary studies. His wide range of projects include critical analyses of psychoanalytic theory; phenomenological studies of schizophrenia; and articles on notions of truth and of the self in psychoanalysis, hermeneutic philosophy, and postmodernism
Julian Savulescu UK and AustraliaUehiro Professor of Practical Ethics and Fellow of St Cross College, University of Oxford A philosopher who trained in medicine and now directs the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics in Oxford. The Centre’s programmes include work on neuroethics and other projects at the boundary between conceptual and practical issues in mental health
Giovanni Stanghellini ItalyProfessor of Dynamic Psychology and Psychopathology, Chieti UniversityA psychiatrist, philosopher and psychologist whose programme of research on anorexia and other feeding and eating disorders combines phenomenological insights (notably from Sartre’s phenomenology of the body) with quantitative empirical methods to develop novel psychotherapeutic approaches to management
Tim Thornton UKProfessor of Philosophy and Mental Health, School of Nursing, University of Central LancashireA philosopher who draws on the work of John McDowell and others to provide critical insights into many of the conceptual issues at the heart of mental health care, including clinical judgement, idiographic and narrative understanding, the recovery model and understanding psychopathology.
CW (Werdie) Van Staden South AfricaNelson Mandela Professor of Philosophy and Psychiatry and Head of the Philosohy and Ethics of Mental Health Programme, University of Pretoria A philosopher and psychiatrist who is drawing on concepts from African philosophy to develop a distinctively African form of values-based Practice (Batho Pele). He has previously published research applying variables derived from Frege’s logic of relations to predict recovery in psychotherapy
Dan Zahavi Denmark and UKProfessor of Philosophy, University of Copenhagen and Senior Research Fellow, St Hilda’s College, Oxford A philosopher who directs the Centre for Subjectivity Research at Copenhagen University
working on a variety of research projects involving collaboration between different philosophical traditions and between philosophy and empirical science, in particular psychiatry.

3. Future Trends

Predictions are hazardous, especially about the future.

Variously attributed to Niels Bohr, Samuel Goldwyn, and many others, this aphorism neatly sums up the need for caution in looking to the future.

Undaunted, the editors of the Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Psychiatry had a stab at prediction in their introductory chapter. Noting that the publication date of the Handbook (2013) coincided with celebrations of the centenary of Karl Jaspers’ General Psychopathology, they looked in their crystal ball at The Next Hundred Years. What did they see? And how a few years on do we score?

Giovanni Stanghellini and Thomas Fuchs (2013) (Eds) One Century of Karl Jaspers’ General Psychopathology. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Drawing lessons from Jaspers’ failure to sustain his work in philosophy and psychiatry (he became ‘just’ a philosopher), the editors of the Oxford Handbook outlined what they called four ‘conditions for flourishing’, the four ‘Ps’ of Problems, Products, Partnership and Process.
  • Problems – the new field should focus on well-defined conceptual problems at the interface between philosophy and mental health rather than indulging in ‘grand theory building’.
  • Products – in focusing on problems of this kind the field should remain ‘responsibly product-oriented’ – this meant being prepared to make the effort to ‘go deep’ into each other’s disciplines
  • Partnership – ‘going deep’ requires in one form or another close working partnerships (because so much of what is to be learned from philosophy as well as from mental health is tacit)
  • Process – partnership in turn requires disciplined attention to (the sometimes very different) norms of good process of each discipline (a ‘Highest Common Factor rather than Lowest Common Denominator’ approach)
A quick glance at the index of research (above) or indeed any of the other indexes on this website, suggests the contemporary scene scores well on these four Ps: there has been no grand theory building, the projects in play are all ‘responsibly product-oriented’, they all involve partnerships of one kind or another, and there is ample evidence of disciplined attention to good process. Small wonder then that the field continues to flourish. Yet there are perils, too, the editors of the Oxford Handbook went on to point out, with success, notably the emergence of ‘a new orthodoxy, inward looking and ossified’. As well as watching our Ps, therefore, they argued, we should keep an eye on ‘Q’, a empirically-derived measure of the level of group openness required to support creativity: too closed a group ossifies for lack of innovation; but too open a group fails to provide the necessary checks and balances that drive creativity.
The Companion website for The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Psychiatry

This is where the twin challenges – of Internationalism and of the Next Generation  – we have set ourselves for the journal, PPP, come into play. If the field is to continue to evolve creatively it must retain the checks and balances provided by disciplined attention to the norms of good process, while, at the same time, avoiding any one group becoming the arbiter of what the norms of good process should be. This means that INPP must continue to be – in essence as well as in name – an international organisation. It is for the next generation to determine how this is to be done.