Events Overview

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)

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.

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)

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 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)

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.

Past Events

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.

Layperson's Guide to Epidemiological Modelling
6 April 2020 – 12:00-12:00

Online presentations by Prof Alexander Bird.

Episode 1: Epidemiological models have been frequently mentioned in the media lately. What are they? And how do they work? In this I will focus today on the model that is the simplest and most frequently used model in epidemiology, the SIR model. This model was developed by Kermack and McKendrick in 1927 and has its origins in the work of Sir Ronald Ross, who won a Nobel prize for his research on the transmission of malaria.

Ep. 1 – Video Recording
Ep. 1 -Text
Ep. 1 -PDF Slides
Ep. 1 -PowerPoint Slides

Episode 2: Herd Immunity explained.

Ep. 2 – Video Recording
Ep. 2 – PowerPoint Slides

Episode 3: What is the UK government’s COVID-19 strategy?

Ep. 3 – Video Recording
Ep. 3 – Text

Mental Illness and Creativity - Online
24 March 2020 – 17:00-18:30

Lecture: Alexander Bird, King’s College London

Online Videoconference

Video Recording


Romantic authors saw creative genius as close to madness, since madness frees the mind from constraints and convention and allows truly original thought to flourish. I look at the evidence for the frequently remarked on correlation between madness and creativity. Is there such a correlation? And if so does it confirm the romanticist view of the relationship between the two?

Re-valuing Death - Postponed until further notice
17 March 2020 – 17:00-18:30

Lecture: Robin Durie, University of Exeter (Member of the Lancet Commission on the Value of Death)

Large Committee Room, Hodgkin Building, Guy’s Campus

If you do not have a KCL ID, please register (free) at this Link.

(See this event also on Facebook)


The Lancet Commission on The Value of Death argues that contemporary society has developed an unhealthy relationship with death due in part to the over-medicalisation of death and dying. Amongst the signs of this unhealthy relationship are the ever increasing amounts of healthcare budgets that are spent on prolonging the lives of those who are dying, with seemingly little or no regard for the quality of the life being prolonged; the investment in the search for immortality amongst the very richest in society, at the same time as the poorest are denied access to even the most basic provision of palliative care; and the gradual shift of the experience of dying from communities and families to hospitals. The core problem of this Lancet Commission is one to which philosophy can make a unique contribution, not least because philosophy has, from its very inception in the work of Plato, understood itself as a “practice for death”. And yet, philosophers such as Spinoza have also argued that “philosophy thinks of death least of all things”. In the first part of this discussion, I will explore this tension in philosophy’s approach towards death; then, I will draw on some more contemporary thinkers, such as Georges Canguilhem, in order to develop a philosophical position from which it may be possible to begin valuing death anew.

Philosophy of Medicine Reading Group
27 February 2020 – 16:00-17:00


  • Paul E Griffiths, John Matthewson, Evolution, Dysfunction, and Disease: A Reappraisal, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Volume 69, Issue 2, June 2018, Pages 301–327,

Convener: Harriet Fagerberg

Location: Room 508, Philosophy Building

Some ‘naturalist’ accounts of disease employ a biostatistical account of dysfunction, whilst others use a ‘selected effect’ account. Several recent authors have argued that the biostatistical account offers the best hope for a naturalist account of disease. We show that the selected effect account survives the criticisms levelled by these authors relatively unscathed, and has significant advantages over the BST. Moreover, unlike the BST, it has a strong theoretical rationale and can provide substantive reasons to decide difficult cases. This is illustrated by showing how life-history theory clarifies the status of so-called diseases of old age. The selected effect account of function deserves amore prominent place in the philosophy of medicine than it currently occupies.

Philosophy of Medicine Reading Group
13 February 2020 – 16:00-17:00


Convener: Harriet Fagerberg

Location: Room 508, Philosophy Building

Similarly to other accounts of disease, Christopher Boorse’s Biostatistical Theory (BST) is generally presented and considered as conceptual analysis, that is, as making claims about the meaning of currently used concepts. But conceptual analysis has been convincingly critiqued as relying on problematic assumptions about the existence, meaning, and use of concepts. Because of these problems, accounts of disease and health should be evaluated not as claims about current meaning, I argue, but instead as proposals about how to define and use these terms in the future, a methodology suggested by Quine and Carnap. I begin this article by describing problems with conceptual analysis and advantages of “philosophical explication,” my favored approach. I then describe two attacks on the BST that also question the entire project of defining “disease.” Finally, I defend the BST as a philosophical explication by showing how it could define useful terms for medical science and ethics.

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