I specialize in the philosophy of mind and psychiatry and clinical ethics, exploring philosophical questions that arise out of clinical practice and related science, law and policy. My central current research project involves articulating the concepts of responsibility and blame that are used within clinical contexts and their relevance to philosophy and criminal justice. I also work on the nature of addiction.
As well as being a philosopher, I work in a therapeutic community for patients with personality disorder and complex needs, and I develop and deliver training for mental health professionals and prison officers. I will be joining the Philosophy Department in January 2015.
You can find more information about me from my personal webpage.
DPhil, University of Oxford, 2001
BPhil, University of Oxford, 1997
BA, Queen's University, Canada, 1995
After completing my DPhil, I started to work in a therapeutic community for patients with personality disorder and complex needs, and have divided my time between philosophy and the clinic ever since. More recently, I have started working as an independent consultant, developing and delivering training based on my research as part of a Department of Health and Ministry of Justice initiative to increase knowledge and skills working with personality disorder and promote a more enabling and rehabilitative environment in prisons. Although I am at core an analytic philosopher, my research is inter-disciplinary and I am deeply committed to using philosophy to make a difference to people’s lives.
I am currently a Wellcome Trust Biomedical Ethics Clinical Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics, and a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford.
Philosophy of mind and psychiatry
Philosophy and mental health law
From 2010 I have held a Wellcome Trust Biomedical Ethics Clinical Research Fellowship to pursue a project investigating the clinical stance adopted towards patients who do wrong or behave in problematic, difficult ways that I call ‘Responsibility without Blame’. This stance involves holding patients responsible and accountable for their behaviour, but not blaming them, in order to facilitate learning and change. At first glance, this stance can seem conceptually incoherent, let alone impossible to achieve in practice. I have developed a conceptual framework that articulates the concepts of responsibility and blame implicit in this stance, and explored how this separation can in practice be achieved. This research is the basis for a training I have developed for the Department of Health and Ministry of Justice.
My research on addiction focuses on using philosophical analysis and clinical practice to redress the standard conception of addiction as a neurobiological disease of compulsion. I argue that drug and alcohol use is a choice that, within the clinical population of chronic addicts, is both purposive and to some extent rational given a realistic picture of the social and economic environment and co-morbid mental health problems that most addicts face. I believe we need to radically reform our common attitudes towards addiction and transform drug law and policy.
I also work on self-harm and violence towards others, theories of punishment and criminal law, the moral emotions, decision-making capacity; and I am interested in cognitive and social psychology, feminist philosophy, and placebos.
‘Irrational blame’ Analysis, 73 (4): 613-626, 2014.
‘Psychopathology and the ability to do otherwise’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, early on-line 8 April 2013.
‘From the consulting room to the court room: taking the clinical model of responsibility without blame into the legal realm’ (with N. Lacey) Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 33(1): 1-29, 2013.
‘The purpose in chronic addiction’ American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience 3(2): 30-39, 2012
‘Responsibility without blame: empathy and the effective treatment of personality disorder’ Philosophy, Psychiatry, Psychology 18(3): 209-224, 2011.
‘Finding the will to recover: philosophical perspectives on agency and the sick role’ (with S. Pearce) Journal of Medical Ethics 36(12):831-3, 2010.
‘Schizophrenia and the epistemology of self-knowledge’ European Journal of Analytic Philosophy Special Issue in Classification and Explanation in Psychiatry, L. Bortolotti and L. Mucatesi, eds 6(1): 55-74, 2010.
For a full list of publications, please see my personal webpage.