RS: Many people have said that over the last 20 years, philosophy of psychiatry has grown, as has the interaction between philosophers and psychiatrists. Do you agree? Do you think this interaction will increase, and what should the role of philosophers be in psychiatry, and vice versa?
DM: I suppose it has grown. When I started thinking about psychiatry in the mid-90’s (I started my PhD in 1994), back then there very few philosophers of psychiatry. Reznek had just written his book , Jennifer Radden and Stephen Braude had written, and Ian Hacking was about to start his writing. The field was very small and it has certainly grown. I think probably psychiatrists are interacting with philosophy. There has always been conceptual literature in psychiatry and there have always been some psychiatrists that have been interested in these sorts of issues.
So yes, I guess it’s been growing. I think it will probably continue, I think in some sense philosophy of psychiatry has started to become entrenched a little bit more now. I don’t think it really counts as a specialisation exactly, but I guess that more and more people are thinking of it as one of the things that they are interested in, and who knows maybe it will be like philosophy of biology in the 70’s and it will really take hold. I suppose the interaction will continue, I mean at the recent Copenhagen conference there were psychiatrists that had never been to a philosophy conference before. And it was very interesting and I hope more and more psychiatrists will get into it, though I don’t suppose it will be more than a very minor interest in psychiatry.
As far as the role of philosophy is psychiatry, I’m not sure. The way that I got into it was as a philosopher of mind and a philosopher of psychology. I was interested in psychiatry because people were talking about mental illness as evidence for certain hypotheses in the philosophy of mind. So people looked at Autism, or the contrast between Autism and Williams Syndrome, and they wondered if that meant that the theory of mind was modular in some way. Dennett and Humphrey found support for Dennett’s view of the self in the multiple personality literature. So I think there is always going to be an interest in looking at psychiatric diagnoses in the light of concerns that philosophers of psychology have, and there is always going to be an interest looking at philosophy of psychology in the light of some of the mental illnesses. Then I guess, you can also see a sort of philosophy of science wing in philosophy of psychiatry interested in much of the things philosophers of science have always cared about in explanation and so on and reduction. And I think as there’s been more nuanced philosophy of neuroscience the last 10 to 15 years, I think some of that has been lining up with the philosophy of psychiatry, such as the people looking at explanation and reduction. So I guess there will be these two sorts of tracks.