Video Archive (List)

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


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?


2019 Annual Sowerby Lecture
7 November 2019 – 18:30-20:00

Are you your Brain?  Neuroscience and Neuromania

Lecture: Professor Raymond Tallis FMedSci FRCP FRSA

Theatre 2, New Hunt’s House, KCL Guy’s Campus

Introduced by Lord Turnberg FRCP FMedSci, past president of the Royal College of Physicians.

See this event also on Facebook.

Video Recording


About the Speaker:

Raymond Tallis is a philosopher, poet, novelist and cultural critic, and a retired physician and clinical neuroscientist. He ran a large clinical service in Hope Hospital Salford and an academic department in the University of Manchester. His research focussed on epilepsy, stroke, and neurological rehabilitation.

He trained in medicine at Oxford University and at St Thomas’s in London before going on to become Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Manchester and a consultant physician. He was an editor and major contributor to two key textbooks in the field, The Clinical Neurology of Old Age and Textbook of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology and author of over 200 original scientific articles, mainly in clinical neuroscience, including papers in Nature Medicine, Brain, Lancet. In 2000, he was elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in recognition of his contribution to medical research. Among many prizes, he was awarded the Lord Cohen Gold Medal for Research into Ageing. He played a key part in developing guidelines for the care of stroke patients in the UK. From 2011-14 he was Chair, Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD). He has been a member of the Council of Royal College of Physicians since June 2016. He is a member of the criteria-setting group for the UK Research Excellence Framework 2021 in philosophy.

He has published fiction, poetry, and 25 books on the philosophy of mind, philosophical anthropology, literary and cultural criticism. Aping Mankind (2010) was reissued in 2016 as a Routledge Classic. Of Time and Lamentation. Reflections on Transience (2017)– is an inquiry into the nature of time. NHS SOS (2012), co-edited with Jacky Davis, examined the destructive impact of Tory policies on the NHS. Logos. An Essay on the Mystery of the Sense-Making Animal was published in Spring 2018. A series of 8 seminars on Humanism given in the philosophy department of Charles University Prague, is the basis of his next book, due out in autumn 2019, Seeing Ourselves. Reclaiming Humanity from God and Science . His next volume of verse – Sunburst – is also due out in 2019.

In 2009, the Economist Intelligent Life Magazine describe him as one of the world’s leading polymaths. He has been a member of the Council of Royal College of Physicians since June 2016. He has 4 honorary degrees: DLitt (Hull, 1997) and Litt.D. (Manchester, 2001) for contributions to the humanities; and DSc (St George’s Hospital Medical School, 2015; University of East Anglia, 2017) for contributions to research in medicine.


Sharing Personal Stories in Mental Health Debates
29 November 2018 – 17:00-18:30

Lecture: Lisa Bortolotti, University of Birmingham

Classroom 12, Hodgkin Building at Guy’s Campus

Those not holding a valid King’s ID card can register by emailing Harriet Fagerberg their name prior to the 28th of Nov.

(See this event also on Facebook)

Video Recording


In this paper I consider the use of personally significant stories in public debates about mental health. I offer one example: the debate whether the biomedical model or the trauma-informed approach provides the best account of distress, revived by the launch of the Power Threat Meaning framework. First, I observe how personally significant stories are used and claim that they do not merely offer insight into a first-person experience or illustrate some aspects of distress and autism in a vivid and memorable way, but often constitute arguments for a given viewpoint in the context of heated and polarised debates. Then, I ask what it would take for stories to be good arguments for the viewpoint they support. In the end, I suggest that participants in a public debate have a responsibility to maintain some critical distance from the personally significant stories that are shared within that debate, as such stories can have a powerful influence on the development and outcome of the debate.


A Plurality During Pregnancy?
22 November 2018 – 17:00-18:30

Lecture: Jonathan Grose, University of Southampton

Strand Campus, Somerset House East Wing, Room SW-2.17

Those not holding a valid King’s ID card can register by emailing Harriet Fagerberg their name prior to the 21st of Nov.

(See this event also on Facebook)

Video Recording


I argue that the case of mammalian, placental pregnancy is a neglected and significant example of what Clarke calls “the problem of biological individuality”. This example is much closer to home than those typically discussed in the literature. I apply both evolutionary and immunological accounts of individuality to the “counting question”, how many individuals are present during a placental pregnancy? I conclude that evolutionary approaches yield the answer “two”, due to bottlenecking, germ-soma sequestration and sexual recombination. By contrast, an immunological approach answers “one”, due to pervasive interactions during pregnancy. Consequently, pregnancy provides a clear, novel example of the need for a pluralist approach to biological individuality.



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