My major research interests lie within the philosophy of science and medicine, especially philosophy of psychiatry. My first monograph Classifying Madness (Springer, 2005) concerns philosophical problems with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, more commonly known as the D.S.M. I still spend much time thinking about philosophical issues surrounding classification in psychiatry, and am currently writing a book on issues specifically related to the D.S.M.-5, the latest version of the classification. I am also very interested in problems having to do with the concept of disorder. I am trying to work out what makes a condition count as a disorder, as opposed to a moral failing, or normal variation. I have written widely on this problem, and hope to finish off a book on the issue in the next couple of years. My other major publications include Psychiatry and the Philosophy of Science (2007, Acumen) which examines the ways in which psychiatric science is like and unlike more established sciences, and “Why Hacking is wrong about human kinds.” (2004) British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
Philosophy of science and medicine.
Especially philosophy of psychiatry; the nature of disease; metaphysics and epistemology of medicine; classification in science.
2000-2003: Lecturer in Philosophy, Bradford University.
1999-2000: Temporary Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Bristol.
My major research interests lie within the philosophy of science and medicine. My research to date has culminated in two books, and a third is underway. My first monograph Classifying Madness (Springer, 2005) concerns philosophical problems with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, more commonly known as the D.S.M. The D.S.M. is published by the American Psychiatric Association and aims to list and describe all mental disorders. The first half of Classifying Madness asks whether the project of constructing a classification of mental disorders that reflects natural distinctions makes sense. Chapters examine the nature of mental illness, and also consider whether mental disorders fall into natural kinds. The second half of the book addresses epistemic worries. Even supposing a natural classification system to be possible in principle, there may be reasons to be suspicious of the categories included in the D.S.M. I examine the extent to which the D.S.M. depends on psychiatric theory, and look at how it has been shaped by social and financial factors. I aim to be critical of the D.S.M. without being antagonistic towards it. Ultimately, however, I am forced to conclude that although the D.S.M. is of immense practical importance, it is unlikely to come to reflect the natural structure of mental disorders.
My second book is called Psychiatry and the Philosophy of Science and came out in Acumen's Philosophy of Science series in 2007. This book examines the ways in which psychiatric science is like and unlike more established sciences. The book is structured around five features that distinguish psychiatric science from many other sciences. These are that a) The subject matter of psychiatry is contested, b) Psychiatry employs particular modes of explanation, c) Mental health professionals work within different paradigms, d) Psychiatry is problematically value-laden, and e) Psychiatry is essentially action-guiding. Chapters of the book examine these features, and seek to show how philosophers of science can benefit by looking at psychiatry, and how psychiatry can learn much from the philosophy of science.
Over the next couple of years I plan to write a book on the concept of disease. This book will develop the account of disease that I proposed in my 2002 paper "Disease". On this account, by "disease" we mean a condition that it is a bad thing to have, that is such that we consider the afflicted person to be unlucky, and that can potentially be appropriately medically treated. The book will develop this account through three case studies, examining Deafness, Female Sexual Dysfunction, and ADHD. Together these illustrate how it becomes unclear whether a condition is pathological in cases where it is uncertain whether all of my three criteria for disorder are met. Thus, Deafness is problematic because it may not be bad, Female Sexual Dysfunction is arguably too common to be a disorder, and many question whether the symptoms of ADHD are an appropriate object of medical, as opposed to disciplinary or educational, concern. The final chapters of the book will consider issues particularly related to long-term illness and disability, and mental illness. A proposal for this book is currently under review by MIT Press.
In 2008 I was awarded an AHRC Research Network Grant (along with Havi Carel, UWE) for a project examining Concepts of Health, Illness and Disease.
British Society for the Philosophy of Science - Hon Secretary 2007-2010, committee member 2004-7
Aristotelian Society - Commitee member 2005-8