Rafael Ambríz González

Photo of Rafael Ambríz González

Department of Philosophy
Doctoral researcher

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PhD title: Philosophy of Psychiatry; Philosophy of Medicine
Supervisors: Dr Lisa Bortolotti, Dr Ema Sullivan-Bissett, and Dr Henry Taylor
PhD Philosophy


  • BA in Philosophy, Universidad de Guadalajara
  • MSc in Philosophy of Science, The London School of Economics and Political Science


I did my undergraduate studies in my home country, Mexico, at the Universidad de Guadalajara. As an undergraduate student, I was the president of the Mexican Association of Philosophy Students, and I organised several national undergraduate conferences. Two of them were national conferences on philosophy of science, and my working team and I got the support from the Instituto de Investigaciones Filosóficas (Institute for Philosophical Research) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) to carry out these conferences.

During my undergraduate studies I was also a paid assistant of doctor Nalliely Hernandez Cornejo, on a research project she led about American pragmatism.

After finishing my BA, I did the MSc in Philosophy of Science at The London School of Economics and Political Science, and I graduated with a dissertation concerning thought experiments in science.

When I finished my master’s degree, I realised I was very interested in the philosophy of psychiatry, and devoted some time to get familiarised with the literature in this field. I finally concluded that I wanted to do research in this area, and developed a research proposal related to the role of biological factors in psychiatric conditions.


  • In 2019, before coming to Birmingham, I taught an introductory seminar to the philosophy of music, open to the general public at the Instituto de Filosofía in my hometown, Guadalajara. I also taught an online seminar on relativism in the philosophy of science at an online Mexican institution, also open to the general public.
  • At the University of Birmingham, I taught the seminar of the Philosophers’ Toolkit course at the Department of Philosophy in the autumn semester 2020.


It is widely acknowledged that the diagnostic categories of mental disorders, classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), are not biologically validated. That is, there is no well-established biological factor reliably associated with any of these conditions. Nonetheless, researchers persistently attempt to find reliable associations between DSM conditions and biological factors. This situation in psychiatric research poses interesting questions both for psychiatry and for the philosophy of psychiatry. One of them concerns the exact role biological factors play with regard to psychiatric conditions. Most researchers in psychiatry are inclined to define psychiatric conditions in terms of the biological factors that could be reliably associated with them, and attempt to provide definitions of the form “psychiatric condition C is biological dysfunction X”. From a philosophical point of view, this has significant consequences. In particular, thus defining psychiatric conditions would imply that biological factors are necessary and sufficient for them. My research focuses on evaluating this consequence. Contrary to it, I claim that biological factors are neither necessary nor sufficient for psychiatric conditions. This means that the latter are not biological entities, and I explore alternative ways to philosophically account for them. In particular, I propose that psychiatric conditions are just patterns of thought and behaviour that have certain characteristics.

Very recently I became interested in the philosophy of medicine, and I am currently working on a piece about the concept of “disease”, broadly conceived. One of the views regarding disease available in the philosophy of medicine is naturalism, i.e., the view that biological dysfunction is necessary and sufficient for a disease. The most influential naturalist account is the biostatistical theory, and it has been seriously criticised in the literature. I make a novel, defeating objection to it -namely, that a contradiction can be derived from the theory. Consequently, I argue that said theory should be definitively rejected, and that new naturalist alternatives should be pursued by those favouring naturalism.

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