Philosophy of Mental Health

Course content

Mental illness is an increasing problem involving dramatic personal and socioeconomic costs. Developments in genetics, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience over the last two decades have made it obvious for psychiatrists and psychologists alike that the question ‘what is mental illness?’ is still an open question that requires interdisciplinary resources. Philosophy of mental health is an attempt to develop a solid conceptual framework for the interdisciplinary exploration of mental illness. This course is an introduction to the burgeoning field of philosophy of psychiatry. Against a solid historical background, the course sets out to present, examine, and discuss concepts fundamental to our understanding of mental illness (mind, body, self, person, rationality, emotion, normality/disorder), the meaning of psychopathology, the relationship between biology (genetics, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience in particular) and subjectivity, and the question of therapy (the values and norms of well-being).

Learning outcome

This course will introduce you to some of basic philosophical dimensions of mental health. This introduction will enable the student to understand and evaluate critically the problems involved in the growing challenges to mental health. Besides getting a solid understanding of the historical background of contemporary philosophy of mental health, you will learn about the virtues and limit of scientific explanations of mental illness; the complex relationship of biological, psychological, and social factors involved in mental illness; the question of psychopathology and phenomenology in a scientific culture; the problem of health care; the issue of medicalization; and the scope and aim of therapy.


Teaching and learning methods

The sessions are structured as a combination of lecture and discussion with a focus on engaging the student. Each session is framed by a systematic PowerPoint presentation of the themes and readings in question. The presentation will encourage and guide the discussion in the class. The student can expect a lively and systematically oriented teacher who will attempt to make the issues both interesting and relevant to a contemporary setting while maintaining a substantial theoretical level and the necessary historical perspective.


Course ECTS credits 15


                                                            Please note: First lesson will take place 29 August.


1. Graham, George. The Disordered Mind: An Introduction to Philosophy of Mind and Mental Illness, 2nd edition London: Routledge 2013.

2. Richard J. McNally. What is Mental Illness? Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 2011.

3. Roy Porter. Madness: A Brief History of Mental Illness. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2002.

Type of assessment
Written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28