Philosophy of health and happiness

A number of staff in the Philosophy department have research interests in the philosophy of health and happiness. 


Lisa BortolottiIain Law and Heather Widdows all actively engage in research in the area, as well as David CheethamYujin Nagasawa, Stephen Pattison and Jussi Suikkanen. The School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion has also developed a new  MA in Health and Happiness

Relevant areas include: competing accounts of health and disease/illness; the distinction between therapy and enhancement; phenomenological and cognitive-neuropsychological accounts of mental illness; the relationship between the pathological and the irrational; philosophical theories of well-being; the relationship between health and well-being or happiness; the distinction between subjective and objective well-being; the relationship between a meaningful life and a happy life; heath and perfection (plastic surgery; genetic enhancement; body image); medicalisation; good death and bad death; the problem of ‘evil pleasures’; modalities and effects of interreligious communication.

Current research projects

Heather Widdows (co-applicant): TISS.EU Project on Evaluation of Legislation and Related Guidelines on the Procurement, Storage and Transfer of Human Tissues and Cells in the European Union – an Evidence-Based Impact Analysis. EC-funded, (March 2008 – 2011). The project is lead by the Department for Ethics and History of Medicine, University of Goettingen, Germany.

Lisa Bortolotti (main applicant): Wellcome Trust Research Expenses Grant on Rationality and Sanity: Implications of a Diagnosis of Mental Illness for Autonomy as Self-Governance (Jan-June 2010).

Lisa Bortolotti (collaborator): Wellcome Trust Project on Autonomy and Mental Health led by Lubomira Radoilska, University of Cambridge; AHRC-funded project entitled Emotions and Feelings in Psychiatric Ill-ness, coordinated by Matthew Ratcliffe and Tony Atkinson, University of Durham; AHRC Network on The Concept of Health, Illness and Disease, managed by Havi Carel, University of the West of England and Rachel Cooper, University of Lancaster.

Lisa Bortolotti and Heather Widdows are both Members of the International Consortium on Bioethics, Sexuality, and Gender Identity Project.

Selected publications

  • Bortolotti, L 2009: Delusions and Other Irrational Beliefs, Oxford University Press.
  • Broome, M., Mameli, M. and Bortolotti, L. 2010: 'Moral responsibility and mental illness: a case study'. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 19(2): 179-187.
  • Bortolotti, L. 2010: Agency, life extension, and the meaning of life. The Monist 93 (1): 38-56.
  • Bortolotti, L. and Cutas, D. 2009: 'Reproductive and parental autonomy: an argument for compulsory parental education',Reproductive Biomedicine Online 19: 5-14.
  • Bortolotti, L. (ed.) 2009: Philosophy and Happiness, Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Bortolotti, L. and Harris, J. 2006: 'Embryos and eagles: symbolic value in research and reproduction' , Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 15(1): 22-34.
  • Cheetham, D What makes a Good City? (ed), University of Birmingham, 2007. [Edited collection of six papers - surveying the scriptural resources in six religions - for the Midlands Faiths for the City event held in the Great Hall, University of Birmingham, Sept. 11th 2007.]
  • Cheetham, D ‘John Hick, Authentic Relationships and Hell’, Sophia, Vol.33, No.1, March, 1994
  • Cheetham, D ‘Pulp Fiction, the Love of God and an Authentic World’,Modern Believing, Vol. XXXVII, No.3, July, 1996
  • Cheetham, D ‘The Role of Theology and Religion in Public Discourse’, in V. Mortensen, ed., Religion and Society:  Crossdisciplinary European Perspectives, Aarhus: Univers, 2006
  • Cheetham, D ‘Liberal Pluralism, Radical Orthodoxy and the Right Tone of Voice’ for Sophia 45/2, October, 2006.
  • Cheetham, D ‘The Encounter between faiths and an “Aesthetic Attitude”’ for The Heythrop Journal XLVIII, January, 2007
  • Cheetham, D ‘The Global Ethic:  Critique and Contribution of Post-secular Theology’ Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, 18/1, January, 2007.
  • Law, I. 2003. 'Autonomy, Sanity and Moral Theory'. Res Publica 9: 39–56.
  • Law, I. 2008. 'Evil Pleasure is Good for You!', Ethic@, vol. 17 no. 1.
  • Law, I. 2009.  ‘Happiness and Preference-Satisfaction’, Philosophy and Happiness, Lisa Bortolotti, ed. Palgrave.
  • Law, I. 2009. ‘Motivation, Depression and Character’ Psychiatry as Cognitive Neuroscience: Philosophical Perspectives, Matthew Broome & Lisa Bortolotti, eds. OUP.
  • Widdows, H. and Mullen, C. (eds.) 2009. The Governance of Genetic Information : Who Decides?, London: Cambridge University Press.
  • Widdows, H. et al. (eds.) 2006. Women’s Reproductive Rights. London: Palgrave.
  • Widdows, H. 2009. ‘Between the individual and the community: The impact of genetics on ethical models’  for special issue of New Genetics and Society 28, 2, pp.173-188.
  • Widdows, H. and Law, I. 2008. Conceptualising Health: Insights from the Capability Approach’, with Iain Law, Health Care Analysis 16, 4, pp. 303-314