Philosophy, Psychiatry and Mental Health

Course summary

Philosophy, Psychiatry and Mental Health


Psychiatry and related areas of mental health practice pose particular ethical challenges arising from the conceptually problematic nature of the concept of mental disorder.

It is only in psychiatry for example that involuntary treatment of a capacitous adult in their own interests may be ethically acceptable: the justification for this is essentially that although capacitous the person concerned is suffering from a mental disorder and as such is not behaving rationally; but this justification depends on a whole series of deeply problematic concepts – rationality, of course, together with embedded concepts, such as agency, intention, responsibility, personal identity, freedom and determinism, not to mention a whole series of issues around power relationships and the distinction between medical treatment and social control.

Programme details

In this module we explore a selection of these and related issues through a series of case studies covering such areas as delusion and hallucination, personality disorder, disorders of mood, dissociative disorders, obsession, addiction and dementia.

The module will draw throughout on recent interdisciplinary work in philosophy and psychiatry providing a three-way bridge between, respectively, conceptual challenges, advances in the cognitive and neurosciences, and innovations in policy and practice in mental health. 


Accommodation is available at the Rewley House Residential Centre, within the Department for Continuing Education, in central Oxford. The comfortable, en-suite, study-bedrooms have been rated as 4-Star Campus accommodation under the Quality In Tourism scheme, and come with tea- and coffee-making facilities, free Wi-Fi access and Freeview TV. Guests can take advantage of the excellent dining facilities and common room bar, where they may relax and network with others on the programme

Bed and breakfast accommodation at other University colleges can also be booked on the Oxford Rooms website.

IT requirements

Please ensure that you have access to a computer that meets the specification detailed here:


Short course fee: £1900.00
Students enrolled on MSt in Practical Ethics: £1480.00


Dr Edward Harcourt

Module lead

Edward Harcourt has been a Fellow of Keble since 2005. From 1998 to 2005 he was Lecturer and then Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Kent, and from 1993 to 1998 Domus Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. He has been a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, a Visiting Lecturer at the Institut für Philosophie, University of Leipzig, and a Mind Association Research Fellow. Before taking the BPhil and DPhil in Oxford he was an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read Philosophy (Part I) and History (Part II). He is currently Principal Investigator of the Wellcome ISSF project ‘Therapeutic Conflicts: Co-Producing Meaning in Mental Health’, a director of the biennial Oxford Summer Schools in Philosophy and Psychiatry, a convener of the seminar series Meaning and Mindedness: Encounters between Philosophy and Psychoanalysis at the Tavistock Clinic (London), and Chair of the Board of the Faculty of Philosophy.

Teaching staff and presenters

Teaching staff and associates of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics will present on the week-long intensive sessions.

Teaching methods

This course consists of an intensive teaching week in Oxford to include lectures, seminars, discussion groups and student presentations.

The teaching week will be fully supported online via a Virtual Learning Environment to include essential readings, texts and online lectures. Students can continue discussions when away from Oxford using the online forums.

Students will also have access to:

  • Oxford's Libraries online learning resources
  • Facilities available at the Department for Continuing Education:
    • Graduate Room with study space, printing facilities, lockers and refreshments
    • Library 
    • Computer resource room
    • Common room and bar
    • Dining room

Assessment methods

Assessment for each module will be based on a written assignment, which shall not be of more than 3,500 words.

This course can be taken with or without academic credit. All participants who satisfy the course requirements will receive a Certificate of Attendance. Those opting to take the course for credit and successfully complete an assignment will also receive 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 7 (postgraduate). Credit points are recognised by many employers and universities in the UK and internationally.


This module can be taken as part of the MSt in Practical Ethics, or as a stand-alone short course. 

Short course applications

We strongly recommend that you download and save files before completing to ensure that all your changes are saved.

This course requires you to complete the application form and submit along with a copy of your CV. If you are applying to take this course for academic credit you will also need to complete section two of the reference form and forward it to your referee for completion. Please note that if you are not applying to take the course for academic credit then you do not need to submit a reference.

Please ensure you read the guidance notes before completing the application form, as any errors resulting from failure to do so may delay your application.


The short course application panel will convene at certain times in the year to assess all short course applications received by that date. These dates are to be finalised, but are likely to be at the end of January, March and August (further dates may become available depending on numbers).

MSt in Practical Ethics applications

Please follow the application guidelines on the MSt in Practical Ethics page.

Selection criteria

  • Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in any subject.
  • However, in the absence of an appropriate undergraduate degree, sufficient relevant professional experience and/or other educational attainment may be considered as evidence of suitability in some circumstances.
  • For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA normally sought is 3.6 out of 4.0.
  • Applicants will need to have a good working knowledge of email, internet, word processing and Windows applications (for communications with course members, course team and administration).
  • Where applicable, applicants will need to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).