Autonomy and Mental Health

7 January 2010 - 8 January 2010

CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane, Cambridge

Registration for this event is now closed. Please note, on-the-day registration is not permitted.


Dr Lubomira Radoilska (Wellcome Trust Research Fellow, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Cambridge)

Conference summary

This conference aims to identify and explore some underlying connections between the concepts of autonomy, decisional capacity, and mental disorder. It will provide a forum for philosophers, psychiatrists, legal experts, and other professionals whose work builds on these challenging concepts. The questions, we shall address include:

•    Does the notion of capacity necessarily involve some evaluative components? How does it relate to the notion of autonomy?

•    What are the defining features of mental disorder? Should they comprise distress and diminished control over one’s actions?

•    Is the focus on patient autonomy helpful in the context of mental healthcare? Does it unwittingly undermine both considerations of privacy and the rationale for practical assistance?

•    Could philosophical conceptions of autonomy account for psychiatric cases, in which autonomy is deemed to be compromised? Would the standard distinction between moral and personal autonomy be applicable?

Further information

This event builds on a series of research seminars on “Autonomy and Mental Health” convened since 2008 by Dr Lubomira Radoilska at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Cambridge. A link to the Seminars’ page is available at the top right of this website.

Abstracts and further conference materials will be e-mailed to registered participants one month in advance. Each session will consist of three 20-minute talks and a follow-up discussion, with a 15-minute coffee break in-between. If you would like to attend the Conference Dinner, please contact Mr Sam Mather. 

We are unable to arrange accommodation, however, the following websites may be of help.

NB. CRASSH is not able to help with the booking of delegate accommodation.

Conference sponsors

The conference is jointly sponsored by the Wellcome Trust and the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH).

Administrative assistance: Anna Malinowska (Conference Programme Manager, CRASSH)

Thursday 7 January


9.45 - 10.15

Registration and refreshments
10.15 - 10.30
Welcome and introduction: Dr Lubomira Radoilska

10.30 - 13.00
Session 1: Conceptions of Autonomy

Chair: Prof. Nigel Eastman (St. George’s Hospital Medical School)

Prof. Bill Fulford (Fellow of St Cross College, University of Oxford, and Professor of Philosophy and Mental Health, University of Warwick)
Delusion and Spiritual Experience: the Challenge from Psychopathology for Philosophical Theories of Autonomy

Dr Jules Holroyd (Lecturer, School of English, Communication & Philosophy, Cardiff University)
Clarifying Capacity: Autonomy and Value

Dr Jens Timmermann (Senior Lecturer in Moral Philosophy, University of St. Andrews)
The Benefits of Kantian Autonomy

13.00 - 14.30

14.30 - 17.00
Session 2: Autonomy in Context

Prof. Chris Heginbotham (International School for Communities, Rights, and Inclusion, University of Central Lancashire)

Prof. Jennifer Radden (Professor and Chair, Philosophy Department, University of Massachusetts)
Privacy  and Patient Autonomy in Mental Health Care

Prof. Guy Widdershoven (Professor of Medical Philosophy and Ethics and Chair, Department of Medical Humanities, University of Amsterdam)
Autonomy, Dialogue, and Practical Rationality

Dr Lubomira Radoilska (Wellcome Trust Research Fellow, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Cambridge)
Autonomy avant la lettre: Self-Rule and the Capacity for Friendship

17.00 - 18.00
Welcome reception

Conference dinner: Trinity Hall, Cambridge
Open to all conference participants - advance payment necessary

Friday 8 January


09:30 - 10:00
Coffee and tea

10.00 - 12.30
Session 3: Rational Agency and Mental Disorder

Chair: Rev. Mark Bratton (Medical Law and Ethics, University of Warwick)

Prof. Derek Bolton (Professor of Philosophy & Psychopathology, King’s College London and Hon. Consultant Clinical Psychologist,& Associate Director, Clinical Governance, South London & Maudsley NHS Trust)
Defining the Disorder in Mental Disorder

Prof. Jane Heal (Professor in Philosophy, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Cambridge)
The value(s) of ‘Autonomy’ and Their Implications for Mental Disorder

Dr Lisa Bortolotti (Senior Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, University of Birmingham)
Rationality and Self-Knowledge in Delusions and Confabulations

12.30 - 14.00

14.00 - 16.30
Session 4: Boundaries of Autonomy

Ulrich Müller (University Lecturer, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge and Hon. Consultant Psychiatrist, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust)

Prof. Agnieszka Jaworska (Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of California Riverside)
Caring and Autonomy: Self-Government without Evaluation or Motivational Hierarchy

Dr Hallvard Lillehammer (Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Cambridge)
Autonomy, Value,  and the First Person

Dr Elizabeth Fistein (Cambridge Intellectual & Development Disabilities Research Group, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge)
Constructing ‘Best Interests’: How Conceptions of the Good Shift the Boundaries of Autonomy

16.30 - 17.30
General discussion and closing remarks