Monday 29 October 2007

The new philosophy of psychiatry

Natalie Banner and I published a review of 7 of the books in the OUP book series, International Perspectives in Philosophy and Psychiatry, in the South Africa based free access electronic journal Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine a few months ago. We've had a reply, I see. The main focus of disagreement seems to be that whilst we saw grounds for optimism in the various new developments in the field (including the book series, the journal PPP, the internal conference series, my own institute at Uclan etc), the reply sees only grounds for pessimism in the thought that philosophy has 'left the building' of psychiatry.

Having had some experience of teaching medical students at Warwick (one of whom once said: "Your course is hard because we're not used to thinking; in a year's time we can be GPs following NICE guidelines and we'll never need to think again") I can see how a philosophical sensitivity may not be high on many young psychiatrists' agendas trying to pass exams and get on. In truth, this is part of what the WPA programme on psychiatry for the person is reacting to /against. But I still prefer to see some good in a popular reaction amongst other psychiatrists against the absence of philosophy in practice. Perhaps the growth of interest in philosophy by psychiatrists in the UK at least (note the rapid growth of the RCP philosophy group) is a grass roots reaction against the pressures towards scientism in some areas of clinical practice.