Research Interests

Philosophy

I am primarily interested in the philosophy of psychiatric diagnoses. I believe many philosophers of psychiatry have conceptualised diagnoses in a very specific way, one with many problematic philosophical connotations. I believe philosophy of science provides a rich diversity of approaches that provide alternative accounts of what psychiatric diagnoses are, including how psychiatric diagnoses relate to causes, how they function as explanations and how they work inductively. I am especially interested in Kantian philosophy of science. I believe that reformulating psychiatric diagnoses using various notions found in the philosophy of science typically leaves psychiatry diagnoses looking much more credible than most people typically consider them. Additionally, philosophy of science provides many different approaches for what belief in scientific concepts entails and under what situations we should believe in scientific concepts. Employing these can go far to reduce much pessimism over psychiatric diagnoses and provide guidance over how we should go about modifying psychiatric diagnoses to improve them.

History

I am interested in the classificatory history of autism, analysing how the symptomatology changed over time, especially in 1950s America and 1970s Britain. I believe current focus on  Kanner’s 1943 autism, without placing 1943 autism into a wider context of how notions of autism underwent rapid development and how autism related to other classifications, creates a distorted image of the role autism played in a wider classificatory schema. This distorted image is then sometimes inappropriately used in comparison with modern autism. I hope to redress this distortion by exploring how and why the symptomatology of autism changed over time. Also, I believe that the history of ‘autism’, at least until the start of the 1980s, primarily should focus on diagnoses other than autism, specifically childhood schizophrenia. This diagnosis has more similarity to modern notions that the historical diagnosis of autism did.

PhD

My PhD argues, through history and philosophy, that autism merits belief. New projects like RDoC hope to eventually replace existing psychiatric diagnoses with new diagnoses intended to be superior to existing ones. I accept that most diagnoses probably should be replaced but I argue autism already merits belief and so does not require replacing.

Philosophically, I argued against a natural kind approach, providing an alternative notion based upon autism as a high level idealised model. I also explored how diagnoses can be used to model symptoms, rejecting typical images of diagnoses passively grouping symptoms. I argued autism merits belief, though only a moderate Kantian notion of belief, showing autism exhibits many theoretical virtues worthy of belief and that autism (symptoms, classification, but not causes) generally involve good epistemic conditions. 

I employed history to counter to negative arguments against belief. Historical evidence show that autism has substantial historical  continuity, thus escaping the pessimistic meta induction. Historical evidence shows most symptoms were described under both psychoanalysts and cognitive psychologists, thus the symptoms (though not causal claims) escape theory laden nature of evidence.