Academic journal article South African Journal of Psychiatry

Hypotheses, Neuroscience and Real Persons: The Theme of the 10th International Conference on Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology

Academic journal article South African Journal of Psychiatry

Hypotheses, Neuroscience and Real Persons: The Theme of the 10th International Conference on Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology

Article excerpt

Psychiatry faces three exciting developments as we enter the 21st century. First, and best recognised, are the dramatic advances in the neurosciences, notably in functional brain imaging and behavioural genetics, and the unique new insights that these are giving us into the causes of mental disorder. (1) Second, less dramatic but no less significant, are the innovative developments in person-centred psychiatric services in many parts of the world: drawing on multidisciplinary and multi-agency approaches, new models of service delivery are emerging that aim to put the real needs of real people, as individual service users and carers with unique needs and expectations, at the heart of mental health and social care (confer with the work of the US Presidential Commission, (2) the World Health Organization, (3) the World Psychiatric Association, (4) and the UK Department of Health (5)). Third, least well recognised perhaps and certainly least expected, has been the emergence and rapid expansion of a new philosophy of psychiatry, not as an academic add-on to the subject, but as a close partner to the practice of psychiatry in both its research and service delivery aspects. (6)

It is these three developments in psychiatry that are reflected in the title of the 10th Annual Conference of the International Network for Philosophy and Psychiatry (INPP) that is being generously co-hosted by the South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP) in Sun City this year, namely 'Hypotheses, neuroscience and real persons'. This combination of themes underlines the ways in which hypotheses generated by the new philosophy of psychiatry are supporting developments both in the neurosciences and in person-centred psychiatric services. The fact that the conference is being held in South Africa furthermore reflects the leading role that SASOP has played in the new philosophy of psychiatry in general and in the International Network for Philosophy and Psychiatry in particular. The International Network was launched from Cape Town in 2002, on Heritage Day at the biennial meeting of SASOP. This event also coincided with the launch of SASOP's own Special Interest Group in Philosophy of Psychiatry (POP-SIG), which by the end of the meeting had already grown to be the second-largest special interest group in SASOP.

The new philosophy of psychiatry has shown similar rapid growth in many other countries around the world. There are now over 40 new national academic and professional organisations with large groups in North America (see editorial by Potter in this issue), the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and France. Like POP-SIG in SASOP, the Philosophy Special Interest Group in the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK has grown well beyond a 'special interest' group, being the second largest of all the sections of the College. There are also new sections for philosophy in both the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) and the Association of European Psychiatrists. The INPP was set up specifically to co-ordinate and support all these individual organisations.

Other important developments in building the academic infrastructure of the subject include the establishment of a quarterly international peer-reviewed journal, Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology, published by the Johns Hopkins University Press in the USA (now in its 14th year); new book series from the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Oxford University Press in the UK; and the establishment of several new professorial Chairs for the discipline, with corresponding research and teaching programmes, in a number of universities in the UK and Continental Europe. A notable recent addition to these has been the establishment of a doctoral scholarship in the Faculty of Philosophy of Oxford University (www.philosophy.ox.ac.uk), and the philosophy of psychiatry is now included in the Faculty's Development Plan. The significance of the contributions of South Africa to these academic developments resulted in the Oxford University Press book series, which is on International Perspectives in Philosophy and Psychiatry, being 'badged' with a South African multi-colour motif. …

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