Works in Progress

Moral Treatment and the Passions. (Monograph in progress).


Statement of Research

My research focuses primarily on two areas in the philosophy of science: (A) the history and philosophy of the affective sciences; (B) the history and philosophy of psychiatry. In bioethics, I have especially been interested in (C) the nature of decision-making capacity in the process of informed consent in both medical treatment and research contexts.

(A) Affective Sciences. My work in the affective sciences has been dominated by an overarching concern with the theoretical nature and integrity of affectivity as a scientific domain, the purported validity of its primary theoretical posits (‘emotions’, ‘feelings’, passions’ sentiments’), as well as the relationship between affectivity and value. On the historical front, I have been very interested in the interplay between fact and value in affectivity, which I trace back to the ancient physiological doctrine of ‘irritability’. My guiding hypothesis in this area is that affectivity is both the source of all normativity and value in human and animal experience, and both primordial and primary with respect to cognition and the intellectual functions.

(B) Philosophy of Psychiatry . In the history and philosophy of psychiatry, I have published widely on the history of early 19th moral treatment, focusing especially on the tension between medically-based and ethically-based approaches to psychopathology and psychotherapy. This historical research has led me to a critique of the contemporary construct of Borderline Personality Disorder, which I have argued is primarily an ethical, and not a medical, condition. Current work on contemporary issues also includes a collaborative venture  on anorexia nervosa, based on the hypothesis that anorexia is very much like a passion in the sense defended by French medical writers like Théodule Ribot and Pierre Pichot. Finally, I have also published on the manner in which new social media contribute to the ‘looping’ effect in virtue of which psychiatric labels and categories impact on personal identity, and medicalisation more generally. 

(C) Decision-Making Capacity. Decision–making capacity is one of the pillars of the doctrine of informed consent. I have argued that contemporary theoretical models and psychometric instruments used to assess decision-making capacity suffer from a pernicious cognitive bias that renders the underlying construct of capacity theoretically invalid. In a lengthy review article for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and other publications, I explore this general line of argument in various clinical contexts, such as: consent to injectable heroin in medically-sanctioned heroin prescription clinical trials; treatment refusals in anorexia, and consent to participate in clinical research in major depressive disorder.