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Department of Philosophy

Applied Phenomenology

Phenomenology is a systematic first-person approach to the study of experience. It has its roots in the works of twentieth-century thinkers such as Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Jean-Paul Sartre. Our main aim in this research cluster is not, however, to interpret the works of such thinkers, but to bring phenomenological approaches to bear upon real-world problems in fields such as psychiatry, ethics and environmental philosophy.


Dr Owen Earnshaw - Philosophy of Psychiatry, Phenomenology, Philosophy of Mind, Heidegger and Wittgenstein

Dr. Simon James - Heidegger, phenomenology and ethics, Merleau-Ponty.

Dr Clare Mac Cumhaill - Aesthetics and perception, especially the nature of visual representation, aesthetic emotion and metacognitive feeling.

Dr. Benedict Smith - Phenomenology of depression, phenomenology and moral particularism

View our Post-Graduate Members here

Recent Research Projects


Principle Investigator: Charles Fernyhough

Usually associated with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia and psychosis, hearing voices can also be an important aspect of many ordinary people’s lives. We seek to examine this phenomenon from as many different relevant perspectives as possible.

Our international research team includes academics from cognitive neuroscience, cultural studies, English literature, medical humanities, linguistics, philosophy, psychiatry, psychology and theology. We also work closely with mental health professionals, voice-hearers and other experts by experience.

This project is funded by a Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award in Humanities and Social Science.

Recent and Forthcoming Books

Sam Wilkinson, Philosophy of Psychiatry: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge, 2017)

Philosophical inquiry that has taken an interest in the treatment of and theorizing about mental illness has become increasingly popular among students and researchers. One reason for this is that philosophy is less frequently viewed as a subject matter in its own right, absorbed in its own problems. Instead it is increasingly seen as a discipline, a mental training, which can be applied to important issues that stand beyond philosophy as traditionally practiced.

Philosophy of psychiatry is one area where philosophy is applied in this way, but is perhaps unique in its degree of engagement with both science and society. It is concerned not merely with theoretical issues about what a given mental illness, or mental illness in general, is, but also with what we should do about it.

Philosophy of Psychiatry: A Contemporary Introduction will be the first systematic textbook in philosophy of psychiatry. It will also function as an accessible introduction to philosophical issues that are of direct concern to psychiatry, and hence should interest students in psychiatry and clinical psychology, as well as fully trained clinical practitioners.

Simon James, Environmental Philosophy (Cambridge: Polity)

Climate change, habitat loss, rising extinction rates - such problems call for more than just new policies and practices. They raise fundamental questions about the world and our place in it. What, for instance, is the natural world? Do we humans belong to it? Which parts of it are we morally obliged to protect?

Drawing on an exceptionally wide range of sources, from virtue ethics to Buddhism, leading environmental philosopher Simon P. James sets out to answer these vitally important questions. The book begins with a discussion of animal minds, before moving on to explore our moral relations with non-human organisms, ecosystems and the earth as a whole. James then considers environmental aesthetics, humanity's place in the natural world and the question of what it means to be wild. In the concluding chapter, he applies his findings to the topic of global climate change, building a strong moral case for urgent action.

This accessible, entertainingly written book will be essential reading for students of the environment across the humanities and social sciences. It will, moreover, be an ideal guide for anyone keen to deepen their understanding of environmental issues.

Matthew Ratcliffe - Experiences of Depression: a Philosophical Study

Experiences of Depression is a philosophical exploration of what it is like to be depressed. In this important new book, Matthew Ratcliffe develops a detailed account of depression experiences by drawing on work in phenomenology, philosophy of mind, and several other disciplines. In so doing, he makes clear how phenomenological research can contribute to psychiatry, by helping us to better understand patients' experiences, as well as informing classification, diagnosis, and treatment.

Throughout the book, Ratcliffe also emphasizes the relevance of depression to philosophical enquiry. He proposes that, by reflecting on how experiences of depression differ from 'healthy' forms of experience, we can refine our understanding of both. Hence phenomenological research of this kind has much wider applicability. He further shows how the study of depression experiences can inform philosophical approaches to a range of topics, including interpersonal understanding and empathy, free will, the experience of time, the nature of emotion and feeling, what it is to believe something, and what it is to hope.

This book will be of interest to anyone seeking to understand and relate to experiences of depression, including philosophers, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, therapists, and those who have been directly or indirectly affected by depression.

Matthew Ratcliffe (with A. Stephan) - Depression, Emotion and the Self: Philosophical and Interdisciplinary Perspectives

This volume addresses the question of what it is like to be depressed. Despite the vast amount of research that has been conducted into the causes and treatment of depression, the experience of depression remains poorly understood. Indeed, many depression memoirs state that the experience is impossible for others to understand. However, it is at least clear that changes in emotion, mood, and bodily feeling are central to all forms of depression, and these are the book's principal focus. In recent years, there has been a great deal of valuable philosophical and interdisciplinary research on the emotions, complemented by new developments in philosophy of psychiatry and scientifically-informed phenomenology. The book draws on all these areas, in order to offer a range of novel insights into the nature of depression experiences. To do so, it brings together a distinguished group of philosophers, psychiatrists, anthropologists, clinical psychologists and neuroscientists, all of whom have made important contributions to current research on emotion and/or psychiatric illness.