History & Philosophy of Psychiatry

Subject PSYT90088 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 6.25
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2016:

June, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 27-Jun-2016 to 01-Aug-2016
Assessment Period End 22-Aug-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 04-Jul-2016
Census Date 08-Jul-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 05-Aug-2016

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 21
Total Time Commitment:

85 hours

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering requests for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Objectives, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/disability/


Assoc Prof Michael Salzberg



Administrative Contact

Victoria Kingsley


Subject Overview:

Philosophical and ethical issues pervade psychiatric thinking and everyday practice, as well as mental health policy. Key questions concern:

  • the nature of mental health and illness, which in turn leads to questions about the nature of mind, brain and their connections (this takes in philosophy of mind and philosophical approaches to descriptive psychopathology)
  • the causation, prevention and treatment of mental illness - types of psychological and neurobiological forms of thinking about these; issues raised by the rapid developments in neuroscience, including the emergence of neuroethics
  • the ethics of psychiatric work, including confidentiality and involuntary treatment; codes of ethics
  • the ethics of psychiatric care – resource allocation, mental health policy
  • the ethics of psychiatric relations with business, notably the pharmaceutical industry
  • the ethics of international mental health and transcultural psychiatric work in an era of globalisation
  • psychiatry and science: is psychiatry a form of science? And, if so, in what ways, is psychiatry like other sciences, in what ways different?

The unit aims to provide an overview of this field, oriented particularly to the needs of psychiatrists- in-training, undertaking the training programme of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), but the content will be relevant and of interest to non-trainee and non-medical participants involved in the mental health sector. The subject title includes the word ‘history’ as, wherever possible, the content will be taught with an historical emphasis, using case studies from the history of psychiatry (as well as from the present) to complement the more philosophical teaching.

A strong theme in the course will be the many implications of neuroscience, including social neuroscience, for psychiatry, including implications for concepts of self and human identity, for psychological enhancement, for surveillance and ‘mind-reading’ and for prediction and management of socially undesired traits. An emerging issue is the potential use of digital media and technologies (the web, apps), employing social neuroscience techniques in psychiatric care, eg, programs that assess facial movement and voice features to diagnose depression. The concept of ‘neurodiversity’ will be discussed as will some attempted integrations of psychological and neurobiological ways of thinking, such as neuropsychoanalysis.

An important topic will be the ethical and effective communication of psychiatric science to patients and to the general community.

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this unit students will be able to:

  • Identify philosophical questions relevant to a diverse range of psychiatric scenarios, i.e. they will be able to see the relevance of philosophical inquiry and concepts to those scenarios.
  • Formulate questions and issues in a philosophical way, i.e. they will be able to mobilise some core concepts from the course to begin their own inquiry into those scenarios
  • Effectively locate resources relevant to philosophical thinking about a range of psychiatric scenarios, i.e. relevant people (philosophers, ethicists, social scientists), or publications and other scholarly media.
  • Class participation, during term (10%)
  • Oral presentation, during term (30%)
  • Written essay, 2000 words, due within 3 weeks of teaching period end date (60%)
  • Attendance: 75% of sessions (for face-to-face students) OR 75% completion of online modules (for online students) (Hurdle requirement)
Prescribed Texts:
  • Graham G (2013) ‘The Disordered Mind: An Introduction to Philosophy of Mind and Mental Illness.’ Routledge
  • Bloch S, Green S (2009) ‘Psychiatric Ethics.’ Oxford University Press

Recommended Texts:
  • Nikolas Rose, Joelle M. Abi-Rached (2013) ‘Neuro: The New Brain Sciences and the Management of the Mind.’ Princeton University Press
  • Ghaemi, SN (2003) ‘The concepts of psychiatry’. Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Fulford KWM, Thronton T, Graham G (eds) (2006) ‘Oxford textbook of philosophy and psychiatry’. Oxford University Press
  • Broome MR, Bortolotti L (eds) (2009) ‘Psychiatry as cognitive neuroscience: philosophical perspectives’ Oxford University Press
  • Choudhury S, Slaby J (eds) (2012) ‘Critical neuroscience: a handbook of the social and cultural contexts of neuroscience’ Wiley-Blackwell
Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

On successful completion of the unit the student will have acquired the capacity to:

1. Describe basic concepts of main present-day theories of mind/brain relations
2. Demonstrate basic knowledge of the field of descriptive psychopathology and its history, including its linkages to various schools of philosophy and psychology, such as faculty psychology, associationism, and cognitive neuroscience
3. Discuss philosophical concepts of value and ethics and their relevance to aspects of psychiatry, including clinical work, mental health services and policy and communication with the general community
4. Demonstrate knowledge of the potential implications of neuroscience for psychiatry, including ideas about what – if anything – is philosophically different, or challenging, about current developments
5. Discuss basic concepts about the nature of science and how such concepts apply to the field of psychiatry.

Related Course(s): Master of Psychiatry
Master of Psychiatry

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