Events Overview

Past Events

2020 Annual Sowerby Lecture: Robyn Bluhm
16 December 2020 – 18:30-20:00

What does it mean to be healthy?

Portrait of Robyn Bluhm

Lecture: Professor Robyn Bluhm
Online Videoconference (Zoom). Please register via eventbrite before 17:00 on the 16th of December.

Video Recording

The Sowerby Philosophy and Medicine Project at King’s College London invites attendees to our 2020 Annual Lecture in Philosophy and Medicine. This year, our lecture will take place online on the 16th of December and will be given by Professor Robyn Bluhm of Michigan State University. The winner of the 2020 Peter Sowerby Essay Contest will be announced at the annual lecture.



Philosophers of medicine have written extensively about the nature of health, with different approaches to the question resulting in very different answers. Health has been defined as the absence of disease, as a state of effortlessness or transparency in one’s experience of one’s body in the world, and as the ability to achieve one’s goals in life. In this talk, I defend a slightly modified version of the World Health Organization’s controversial definition of health as “a complete state of physical, mental, and social well-being.” Drawing on work in disability studies and in public health, I argue that the controversy over this definition arises from thinking of health primarily in medical terms.

About the Speaker:

Robyn Bluhm is an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Lyman Briggs College at Michigan State University. Her research examines the relationship between epistemological and ethical issues in medicine and neuroscience. She is a co-editor of The Bloomsbury Companion to Philosophy of Psychiatry as well as of the journal IJFAB: International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics.

2nd Peter Sowerby Interdisciplinary Workshop
15 December 2020 – 11:45-20:00

Philosophy in Medical Education: Race, Gender and Bias

The Sowerby Philosophy and Medicine Project invites attendees to an online one-day workshop on philosophical issues surrounding race, gender and bias and how these might best be incorporated into the medical curriculum. This event concludes the event series on ‘Philosophy in Medical Education’.

Time: 11:45 – 20:00 (UK), 15th of December

Place: Online Videoconference (Zoom)

Registration: Please register via Eventbrite by 10:30 on the 15th of December

Timetable (all times UK):

  • 11:45 – 12:00 Welcome
  • 12:00 – 13:05 Katherine Puddifoot (Durham) “The importance of being particular: avoiding generalisations about generalisations in medical education”
    Video recording
  • 13:05 – 13:15 Break
  • 13:15 – 14:00 Astrid Oredsson (Cambridge) “Reducing inequalities in healthcare: the importance of educating medical personnel on testimonial injustice”
    Video recording
  • 14:00 – 14:30 Lunch Break
  • 14:30 – 15:35 Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen (Aarhus) “The Disability and Old Age Trilemma”
    Video recording
  • 15:35 – 15:45 Break
  • 15:45 – 16:30 Nivethitha Ganapathiram (KCL) “Epistemic Injustice and Post-Pandemic Medical Education: how can anthropological perspectives move us towards a fairer future?”
    Video recording
  • 16:30 – 16:40 Break
  • 16:40 – 17:45 Sean Valles (MSU) “For an Anti-Racist Medical Education, Students Must Learn About the Full Range of Racism Varieties, Not Just Interpersonal Bias”
    Video recording
  • 17:45 – 17:55 Break
  • 17:55 – 18:40 Eleanor Byrne (York) “Striking the Balance with Epistemic Injustice”
    Video recording
  • 18:40 – 18:50 Break
  • 18:50 – 19:55 Sherrilyn Roush (UCLA) “Healthy Suspicion: Causes, Correlations, and Proxy Variables”
    Video recording
  • 19:55 – 20:00 Closing Remarks

Colloquium on Psychiatry: Benjamin Wilck, Ivan Nenchev and Tania Gergel (online)
26 November 2020 – 17:00-18:15

Benjamin Wilck (Humboldt) and Ivan Nenchev (Charité): The Value of Philosophy of Language for Psychiatric Diagnostics
Tania Gergel (KCL): Teaching philosophy to psychiatrists: a paradigm case of interdisciplinary education?

Place: Online Videoconference
Registration: via eventbrite (by 14 00 on the 26th November)
See also: the event on facebook

Ivan Nenchev is Resident Physician and Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, and Benjamin Wilck is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Philosophy at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin.

Tania Gergel is a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Psychological Medicine at King’s College London. Her research focuses on applying conceptual analysis to mental health, psychiatry and law.

Colloquium on Phenomenology: Anthony Vincent Fernandez and Samantha Gallivan (online)
12 November 2020 – 17:00-18:15

Anthony Vincent Fernandez (KSU): Teaching Phenomenology in Clinical Practice: A Conceptual Approach
Samantha Gallivan (Imperial): Using Phenomenologically Informed Qualitative Methods to Explore Surgical Practice

Place: Online Videoconference
Registration: via eventbrite (by 14 00 on the 22th November)
See also: the event on facebook

Anthony Vincent Fernandez is Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Kent State University. His current research concerns the challenges of applying phenomenology to domains for which it was not intended such as psychology, medicine, race and gender.

Samantha Gallivan is an orthopaedic surgeon with St George’s Hospital and Deputy Academic Lead for Collaborative Projects at Imperial College London. Her research focuses on understanding tacit and embodied knowing in the expert practice of surgeons, stone carvers and sculptors.

Colloquium on Ethics: Riana Betzler and David Fajardo Chica (online)
22 October 2020 – 17:00-18:15

Riana Betzler (WUSTL): Ethics as a Practice in Medical Education
David Fajardo Chica (UNAM): Pain, suffering and death: A proposal for philosophy in palliative care education

Place: Online Videoconference
Registration: via eventbrite (by 14 00 on the 22nd October)
See also: the event on facebook

Riana Betzler is McDonnell Postdoctoral Fellow in Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology in the Department of Philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis. Her research spans the philosophy of biology, psychology and medicine including the ethics of empathy.

David Fajardo Chica is a postdoctoral researcher in philosophy based in the Faculty of Medicine at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. His research concerns pain and suffering in palliative care.

We Should Not Use Randomization Procedures to Allocate Scarce Life-Saving Resources (online)
15 October 2020 – 17:00-18:15

Roberto Fumagalli (King’s College London): We Should Not Use Randomization Procedures to Allocate Scarce Life-Saving Resources

Place: Online Videoconference
Registration: via eventbrite (by 14 00 on the 15th October)
See this event on facebook

In the recent literature across philosophy, medicine and public policy, many influential arguments have been put forward to support the use of randomization procedures to allocate scarce life-saving resources. In this paper, I provide a systematic categorization and a critical evaluation of these arguments. I shall argue that none of those arguments justifies using randomization procedures to allocate scarce life-saving resources and that the relevant decision makers should directly allocate scarce life-saving resources to the individuals with the strongest claims to these resources rather than use randomization procedures to allocate such resources.

Externalism and the limits of biological psychiatry (online)
24 September 2020 – 17:00-18:15

Anneli Jefferson (Cardiff University): Externalism and the Limits of Biological Psychiatry

Place: Online Videoconference
Registration: via eventbrite (by 14 00 on the 24th of September)
Facebook Event Page

Externalist theories of mind claim that cognitive states and activities are not purely ‘inside the head’. Rather, they are said to depend on or be constituted by factors outside the individual’s brain. It has recently been claimed that psychiatry is externalist in important ways, and that this fact discredits brain focused approaches to mental health which characterise mental disorders as brain disorders. In my talk, I show that externalism is compatible with these approaches to mental disorder but puts important constraints on them.

Conference: Philosophy in Medical Education
15 September 2020 – 10:00-17:00

Conference: Philosophy in Medical Education

15th September 2020

Place: Online, registration via eventbrite

The Sowerby Philosophy of Medicine Project at King’s College London invite attendees to a one-day online conference exploring theory and practice of teaching philosophy as part of the medical curriculum. This event is free, open to the public and all are welcome! Registered attendees will receive an access link shortly prior to the event’s scheduled start time. Please register by 8:30 AM on the 15th of September.


10:00 – 11:15 Juliette Ferry-Danini (Paris) – “Considerations from the French experience: Why teaching philosophy should not mean humanising doctors.”
Video recording
11:15 – 11:30 Break
11:30 – 12:45 Alexander Broadbent (Johannesburg) – “‘Either philosophy can make the difference between life and death, or it has no place in medical education.’ Discuss.”
Video Recording
12:45 – 13:45 Lunch
13:45 – 15:00 Raffaela Campaner (Bologna) – “What philosophical approaches in medical education? Theoretical and empirical issues.”
Video Recording
15:00 – 15:15 Break
15:15 – 16:30 Jonathan Fuller (Pittsburgh) – “Philosophy of medicine as a core discipline for learning the theory of medicine.”
Video Recording
16:30 – 17:00 Concluding remarks: Alexander Bird (King’s/Cambridge)

General inquires can be directed to Harriet Fagerberg at

Mad by design: Rethinking psychiatry outside dysfunction - Online
11 June 2020 – 17:00-18:15

Lecture: Justin Garson, Hunter College and the Graduate Center City University of New York

Online Videoconference (Zoom)

Registration: Please register at this link by 12pm on the 11th of June, to gain an access link. (All times are London BST / GMT+1)

(See this event also on Facebook)

Video Recording


We often think of the history of psychiatry as involving little more than a clash between two opposing “paradigms,” a biological (brain-based) and a psychological (mind-based) one. Here, I present a very different framework for thinking about psychiatry’s history; this is in terms of a clash between what I call “madness-as-dysfunction” and “madness-as-strategy” paradigms. According to the madness-as-dysfunction paradigm, when someone has a mental disorder it is because something in that person’s mind or brain cannot perform its function, goal, or job. Madness-as-strategy, on the contrary, sees at least some mental disorders as having a purpose or function for the individual: madness, here, is not the failure of a function, but its fulfillment. After elaborating this distinction, I sketch a way of rewriting psychiatry’s history in terms of this clash, from Renaissance thinkers such as Robert Burton to the evolutionary psychologists of today. Finally, I draw out some implications for current philosophical theorizing about psychiatry, and in particular, with respect to Wakefield’s influential evolutionary account of disorder.

What is Medicine if Not Precise? - Online
28 May 2020 – 17:00-18:15

Lecture: Kathryn Tabb, Bard College

Online Videoconference (Zoom)

(See this event also on Facebook)

Video Recording


Precision (or personalized) medicine is often described as a “paradigm shift” or “revolution” in modern medical research and, increasingly, clinical practice. It is broadly understood to refer to the use of biomarkers (often genetic signatures) to match patients up with effective treatments, along with the biomedical research that makes such clinical innovations possible. In this talk I offer a conceptual analysis of “precision” as a term meant to unite a set of medical ideals: big data, reduction, and taxonomic revision. Through a comparison of two fields to which the term has been enthusiastically applied — oncology and psychiatry — I show how the presumption that these ideals are concomitantly realizable in contemporary medicine is rhetorically powerful but not, ultimately, convincing. Determining that “precision” should be seen an ideal for medicine rather than a new paradigm, I go on to consider what ideal it intends to replace. While advocates of precision medicine often characterize it in opposition to traditional practices and methods that are vague, careless or nonspecific, I argue that the true opponent of precision medicine — that is, the sort of medicine that stands to lose the most by its ascendency — is general. And this, I conclude, should concern us.

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