CFP Extended Deadline: «Synthese Topical Collection: The normativity of mental health conditions»


Synthese Topical Collection: The normativity of mental health conditions

Extended Deadline (February 15, 2024)

Guest Editors

Víctor Fernández Castro, Universidad de Granada | FiloLab; 

Miguel Nuñez de Prado, Utrecht University 

Topical Collection Description

Determining whether we classify, diagnose, and treat different mental conditions as mental disorders by virtue of their pathological nature or simply because they are socially deviant has been a central issue in philosophy since the anti-psychiatry movement challenged the scientific status of psychiatry in the 1960s (Szasz 1961; Kendell 1975; Boorse 1976; Wakefield 1992; Fulford 1989). The stark opposition between those assuming that the concept of mental disorder is purely assimilable by biological descriptions and those who point out how it is permeated by social norms and values has long been superseded; nowadays, the role of normativity in both mental (and somatic) healthcare is almost uncontroversial (Kingma 2014; Varga 2017). The conceptual tools of disciplines such as metaphysics (Glackin 2019), epistemology (Marková & Berrios 2012; Chrichton et al. 2017), and the philosophy of mind (Graham 2010; De Haan 2020), language (Simon 2007) and science (Cooper 2002, Murphy 2006) have undoubtedly benefited the debate, deepening our understanding of normativity in our conceptions of mental disorder.

However, a much less explored terrain is the normative dimension of specific disorders such as delusion or depression; of important phenomena for mental health such as self-illness ambiguity, cultural syndromes or neurodivergence; of the concept of psychological or biological functionality; or of the social and political consequences of psychiatric diagnosis. Do social norms and values alone exhaust what is ‘disordered’ in at least some mental disorders, or are there ‘natural’ norms necessarily involved? How to tell psychopathology from neurodivergence? Relatedly, are there ‘culture-relative’ (vs. culture-independent) psychiatric conditions and related experiences of psychopathology? In fact, might there be culturally ‘extended’ or collective (rather than individual) disorders, which might just ‘fade’ with the right changes in the socio-normative background? And, in any case, what is the relation between normativity and the biological, psychological, and social mechanisms that give rise to and maintain psychopathology?

At the same time, it is worth asking whether recent developments in the understanding of normativity in areas such as philosophy of language, epistemology, or philosophy of mind and psychology might help to shed light on these and other related phenomena and concepts. Present-day discussions and conceptual tools from contemporary philosophy can greatly contribute to clarifying the different roles of normativity in mental health, which is crucial for securing therapeutic and ethical progress in mental health research, practice, and policymaking. Exploring these potential contributions becomes even more necessary when we see the advances made in the aforementioned philosophical disciplines on how social norms permeate our recognition of other agents as knowers, our evaluative judgments, the nature of our socio-cognitive practices, or crucial cognitive and metacognitive abilities.

The main aim of this topical collection is to bring together different contributions on how different philosophical frameworks and their related views of normativity can shed light on central topics of the philosophy of mental health.

Appropriate Topics for Submission include, among others: 


Boorse, C. (1975). On the distinction between disease and illness. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 5(1): 49–68. 

Catala, A., Faucher, L. & Poirier, P. (2021). Autism, epistemic injustice, and epistemic disablement: A relational account of epistemic agency. Synthese, 199: 9013–9039.

Cooper, R. (2014). Psychiatry and Philosophy of Science. London: Routledge. 

Crichton, P., Carel, H. & Kidd, I. J. (2017). Epistemic injustice in psychiatry. BJPsych Bulletin, 41(2): 65–70. 

De Haan, S. (2020). Enactive Psychiatry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Fulford KWM. (1989). Moral Theory and Medical Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Glackin, S. (2019). Grounded disease: Constructing the social from the biological in medicine. The Philosophical Quarterly, 69 (275): 258–76. 

Graham, G. (2010). The Disordered Mind: An Introduction to Philosophy of Mind and Mental Illness. London: Routledge. 

Kingma, E. (2014,). Naturalism about health and disease: Adding nuance for progress. The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy: A Forum for Bioethics and Philosophy of Medicine, 39(6): 590–608.  

Marková, I. S. & Berrios, G.E. (2012). Epistemology of psychiatry. Psychopathology, 45(4): 220–7.  

Murphy, D. (2006). Psychiatry in the Scientific Image. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Varga, S. (2017). Mental disorder between naturalism and normativism. Philosophy Compass,12:e12422.

Wakefield JC. (1992). The concept of mental disorder. On the boundary between biological facts and social values. American Psychologist, 47(3): 373-88.  

For further information, please contact the guest editors:  

Extended Deadline: February 15, 2024.

Submissions via: (Please select the topical collection «The Normativity of Mental Health Conditions from the drop-down menu “Select Article Type”)

Víctor Fernández Castro,  

Miguel Nuñez de Prado Gordillo,   

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