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Members' Weekend Saturday 2nd & Sunday 3rd September 2017


Links in the below time-table activate MP3 audio recordings of the corresponding talks. Talk recordings and supporting material are (or will soon be) also linked from talk summaries further below.

Health raises a number of interesting philosophical questions connected with function, explanation, causation, the nature of evidence, the mind/body relation, realism versus anti-realism, holism versus reductionism, rationalism versus empiricism, and theories of well-being in ethics. Furthermore, advancements in biomedicine, computer science and robotics are changing, and have changed, the way we think about the nature of what it is to be healthy. A person considered previously to be disadvantaged because of some physical condition (for example lack of limbs) can now, aided by prosthetics, be at a greater advantage. Conditions which were once believed to be debilitating, or even fatal, have turned out not to be so. Do these changes mean that we must revise how we understand the nature of health?

Six speakers will explore some of these questions and invite you to contribute to the debate.

Saturday 02 September

1.30 pm Registration
1.45 pm Fauzia Rahman-Greasley: Introduction
2.00 pm Brendan Hurley: A sense of Health; meaning and model
2.45 pm Judith Stares: Does Illness have Meaning?
3.30 pm Tea/Coffee in the Common Room
4.00 pm Marianne Talbot: Philosophical Problems that arise when caring for someone with dementia
4.45 pm Alexander Papadopoulos: Metaphysics and morality in mental health
5.30 pm Panel discussion
6.30 pm Bar
7.00 pm Annual Dinner and presentation of Chadwick & Boethius prizes
9.00 pm General discussion to be continued in the bar
Bar open till 10:30 pm

Sunday 03 September

8.00 am Breakfast (RH residents only)
9.30 am David Burridge: Healthy Society: Mental Health and Habit
10.15 am Fauzia Rahman-Greasley: Artificial Intelligence in Medicine: Could machines replace clinicians?
11.00 am Tea/Coffee in the Common Room
11.30 am Panel Discussion
12.30 pm Bar, then Lunch
2.00 pm Course disperses

The Talks in chronological order.

Fauzia Rahnam-Greasley: Introduction

Audio recording (MP3 format)

Brendan Hurley: A sense of Health; meaning and model

If the word 'Health' does not have an ostensive definition, is it a substantive to which 'meaning' has to be attached? 'Sense' is that which various academic disciplines can bring to the word. Two published articles from the reading list by D Murphy and M Govedarica on contrasting views of Health and Disease are examined, for the 'sense', 'meaning' and 'model' each provides.

Audio recording (MP3 format)

Govedarica, M (2012): Realism and Anti-Realism in The Philosophy Of Psychiatry, Theoria p. 13–20. http://www.doiserbia.nb.rs/img/doi/0351-2274/2012/0351-22741202013G.pdf

Brendan is a retired medical practitioner with a keen interest in history and philosophy. He graduated from the Medical School of the University of Cork and subsequently worked in NHS general and psychiatric hospitals, H.M.Prisons, and NHS general practice, as well as doing private medico-legal work. He holds a BA (hons) degree in History.

Judith Stares: Does Illness have Meaning?

Evidence demonstrates that ill-health can have a purpose, and sometimes symptoms can be easier to manage than the existential problems they mask. Is it possible that in our search for ‘wellness’ we are approaching the subject in entirely the wrong way?

This talk will give examples of illness or disease in our own and other cultures, raising particular questions concerning the mind/body relationship. It will suggest that perhaps a new vocabulary is needed to describe dis-ease and its effects on a person’s well-being

Audio recording (MP3 format)

Judith is a freelance journalist and editor of a national news agency. After a career which included time as a foreign correspondent in various world trouble-spots, from the Falklands War to Tiananmen Square, she began to specialize in health and medicine, investigating illness and treatments in other cultures, including China, Russia and the USA. Philosophy has been a life-long preoccupation, encouraged by extra-mural courses at Oxford and membership of several philosophical discussion groups. Exploring the power of the mind has informed much of her thoughts and writings.

Marianne Talbot: Philosophical Problems that arise when caring for someone with dementia

In dementia the mind fragments. It fragments in different ways, to different programmes, depending on what sort of dementia you have. But all dementias are characterised by cognitive decline, confusion and loss of memory. In caring for a person for whom this is true this must be taken into account. It cannot be taken into account once and for all, because the fragmentation is different at different times. This prompts many philosophical problems, including many moral problems. I shall discuss some of these during this talk.

Audio recording (MP3 format)


  • Marianne Talbot, Keeping Mum: Caring for Someone with Dementia, Hay House UK, 2011
  • Marianne Talbot, Bioethics: An Introduction, Cambridge University Press, 2012
  • Marianne Talbot has been Director of Studies in Philosophy at OUDCE since 2001. In 2017 she will have lectured for the colleges of the University of Oxford for 30 years. She is delighted to find herself President of the Philosophical Society, probably the largest (and certainly the best!) amateur philosophy society in the UK.

    Alexander Papadopoulos: Metaphysics and morality in mental health

    Psychiatry is at the intersection of natural sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. Therefore, one cannot discuss mental health without discussing issues arising in all of these domains. I will explore issues like normativity, psychopathology, identity, and agency from a mental health-inspired, philosophical perspective. Am I normal? Does depression exist? Is realism the way to go in psychiatry? Is Platonic Justice relevant to mental public health?

    Audio recording (MP3 format)

    Alex is a post-graduate medical trainee in psychiatry at the University of Lorraine, France. He also studies Public Health at graduate level at the University of Liverpool. His dissertation is a qualitative study that explores stigma in psychiatry from the perspective of family members of individuals with schizophrenia. He is also studying Philosophy at undergraduate level at the University of London, Birkbeck College. He is interested in metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and political philosophy among others.

    David Burridge: Healthy Society: Mental Health and Habit

    It was Hume’s idea that we predict that something will occur in the future if we have the experience of it happening in the past. I will argue that the survival of human beings, just like with any other species of animals, lies in the recognition that we operate our lives essentially through habit and that the survival of the species depends on the quality and nature of those habits.

    Audio recording (MP3 format)

    Reading: Eric Fromm, The Sane Society, Routledge Classics

    David has been immersing himself in philosophy over the last 4 years since he retired. Prior to that he had been an advocate in employment tribunals and before that a Personal Director for the UK Operation of an international company. David picked on philosophy because he says he likes to be adversarial (in a Socratic sort of way). A recent brush with cancer taught David a lot about the Philosophy of Health. David is a published poet and a passionate European, being a fluent German speaker.

    Fauzia Rahman-Greasley: Artificial Intelligence in Medicine: Could machines replace clinicians?

    Modern computers have more memory capacity than human brains and, therefore, can process more information faster. Does this mean that a computer could be better at clinical judgement than expert health-care professionals? I will argue that the answer is to be found by understanding the relation between facts, values and the concept of health alongside the practical implications of patient consent.

    Audio recording (MP3 format)
    Talk slides (PDF format)


    Fauzia is a retired medical practitioner (qualified from St Barts, London) with an MA in Philosophy (from Birkbeck, London). She is chairman of The Philosophical Society and course director and regular lecturer of the Gerrards Cross Philosophy group. She also enjoys play-writing (her farce ‘The Philosopher’s Tale’ received critical acclaim following its premiere in Covent Garden in 2013).