Causation in psychiatry 

Causation in psychiatry

Workshop, Journal Club, Distinguished Lecture, Meet the Speaker
19–21 April 2017

Studying mental illness offers us a window into the minds and brains of clinical patients; comparison and contrasts with healthy controls allow us to learn about “normal” minds and brains. While research in psychiatry has successfully advanced our understanding of mental as well as neural processes, the methodologies used in this context are particularly challenged by traditional philosophical questions. For instance, how does a given mental process relate to the neural processes it is correlated with? Or, more generally, how are we to best conceive of the relation between mind and brain? And what does the answer to this question imply for how we study mental phenomena and brain processes, respectively?

These questions become ever more pressing in the context of modern debates in philosophy of science. A widely shared assumption is that explanations of mental phenomena are supposed to describe neural mechanisms operating in the brain that underlie the mental phenomena in question. While it seems that “mental” and “neural” refer to two different levels in this context, the status and relation of these levels remains unclear. Moreover, brain mechanisms seem to be targeted by pharmacological as well as cognitive interventions in therapeutic treatments of mental disorders. But should we actually consider both kinds of interventions as causes? How does this square with the levels picture? And how should we think of the relation between mental/cognitive and neural in light of this?

These are core questions in the philosophy of psychiatry. Throughout this workshop we will focus especially on the concept of causation applied in the context of psychiatric research.

John Campbell ( is an internationally renowned expert in the philosophy of psychiatry. The workshop will be followed by John Campbell’s Distinguished Lecture on 20 April 2017 and by a Journal Club. If you would like to participate in the workshop or journal club, please register by e-mailing to:

You do not need to register for the Distinguished Lecture.


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Room 220

9.00–10.30     Lena Kästner (Berlin), Approaching causation in psychiatry: interventions and difference making

Coffee break

11.00–12.30    Lise Marie Andersen (Aarhus), Causation and constitution in psychiatry

Lunch (on your own)

14.00–15.30    Sanneke de Haan (Berlin), Gaps and levels: overcoming dualism and reductionism in psychiatry

Coffee break

16.30–17.30    Henrik Walter (Berlin), Reasons and causes in depression

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Room 220

10.00–12.30     Journal Club

Reading: TBA


18.15–19.45    Distinguished Lecture Series: John Campbell, Mental causation and the philosophy of psychiatry (working title)

Friday, 21 April 2017

Room 220

10.00–12.00    Meet the Speaker (M&B doctoral student event)

This page last updated on: 12 October 2018