Thursday 3 December 2015

The 17th International Conference on Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology - INPP 2015

The 17th International Conference on Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology – International Network for Philosophy and Psychiatry INPP 2015 – with the topic ‘Why do humans become mentally ill? Anthropological, biological and cultural vulnerabilities of mental illness' - was held in Frutillar, Chile, on October 29th, 30th and 31th, 2015. The Conference has been organised by the Centro de Estudios de Fenomenología y Psiquiatría, Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile, in coordination with the International Network for Philosophy and Psychiatry, INPP, to promote and share cross-disciplinary research from the field of Philosophy and Mental Health. 

All the lectures and seminars were housed in Teatro del Lago (picture above) located on the lake in Chilean Patagonia, with an inspiring natural setting and stunning architecture. The programme consisted of 23 plenary conferences, 54 oral presentations, 6 panel discussions, and more than 30 posters of researchers coming from all over the world.

Here I summarize only a small sample of talks from this super interesting event.

Bill Fulford, (Oxford), pictured above, the President and Founding Officer of the International Network for Philosophy and Psychiatry INPP, opened the event with his talk entitled ‘Philosophy and Psychiatry: Past, Present and a Challenge for the Future’. Fulford explored some of the drivers of recent progress in Philosophy of Psychiatry and suggested the lessons they offer. Fulford looked at the debt modern philosophy and psychiatry owes to the work of a number of key twentieth century figures, including Karl Jaspers, he next reviewed some of the main themes in contemporary philosophy and psychiatry. Finally, the author identified a key challenge for philosophy and psychiatry arising from its very success, the challenge of what the Oxford philosopher, Isaiah Berlin, called ‘values pluralism’.

Michael Schwartz (Texas) and Osborne Wiggins (Kentucky), in their interesting talk ‘Mental illness is an inevitable consequence of the singular diversity of human beings’ argued that despite apparent Western acceptance for human diversity, there is, at the same time, an increasingly narrow tolerance for a variety of behavioral and experiential differences among people. The authors proposed that the phenomenon of mental illness arises as a consequence of the phenomenon of human diversity coming up against constraints and limitations in expressed and experienced mental and behavioral realms. While diversities of physique, race, region and society are affirmed and applauded, decorum, temperaments and conduct arguably must conform to ever narrower norms. Schwartz and Wiggins illustrated their thesis – that mental illness is an inevitable consequence of the singular diversity of the human species – through the examples of mental disorders such as attention deficit disorder, melancholia, schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorder.

Thomas Fuchs’ (Heidelberg) talk ‘Existential Vulnerability. Toward a psychopathology of limit situations’ embraced Karl Jaspers’ concept of limit situations, putting particular emphasis on basic preconditions for the occurrence of mental disorders. The concept relates to an ‘existential vulnerability’ of mentally ill persons which makes them experience even inconspicuous events as distressing limit situations. In such situations an otherwise hidden fundamental condition of existence becomes a manifest for them, for example, the fragility of one’s own body, the inevitability of freedom, or the finiteness of life. This fundamental condition is found unbearable and, as a reaction, gives rise to mental illness.

I, Magdalena Antrobus (Birmingham), represented Project PERFECT with the talk ‘Good grief! Epistemic and psychological benefits of depressive mood’. I asked I ask whether depressive mood has epistemic and psychological benefits for the subject, and what is a character of the relation between such benefits. Based on empirical evidence I argued that that by making a contribution to the acquisition of more accurate beliefs, depressive mood can be seen as epistemically beneficial. Furthermore I argued that by contributing to better accuracy of beliefs with regards to self, depressive mood carries also potential psychological benefits for the subject. Empirical evidence and real life observations show that accurate judgments of own capabilities can increase efficiency of self-defensive psychological strategy in a situation of experienced anxiety (defensive pessimism). I concluded that re-considering the phenomenon of depressive mood in terms of its potential epistemic and psychological benefits may lead to a more balanced view of the role of depressive symptoms in a person’s cognitive and emotional life.

Michelle Maiese (Boston) presented talk ‘Dissociative Identity Disorder and Ambivalence’. The author challenged the claim that dissociative identity disorder (DID) literally is an instance in which multiple selves inhabit a single human body. Instead, DID should be understood as involving a single self who suffers from significant disruptions to self-consciousness; and these disruptions, in turn, can be understood as the result of extreme emotional ambivalence. A single subject turns to different alter personalities as a way to cope with pervasive inner conflict while at the same time hiding these contradictions from herself. Maiese concluded that alter-formation can be viewed as an attempt to cope with extreme ambivalence without actually resolving inner conflict, and involves what might be described as a single, though “internally divided,” self.

The 17th International Conference on Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology was a wonderful event, offering a space for dialogue and networking, as well as enriched with a high quality entertainment. I am grateful I could be part of it.

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