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Phenomenology & Psychiatry (MA) - PHI00064M

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  • Department: Philosophy
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Matthew Ratcliffe
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

This module explores the mutually illuminating interaction between psychiatry and phenomenological philosophy, focusing on both historical and contemporary work.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

Students will acquire an understanding of (a) phenomenological philosophy, (b) philosophical issues in contemporary psychiatry, and (c) how the work of phenomenologists (past and present) can be brought to bear in order to cast light on forms of experiences associated with various psychiatric diagnoses.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students should:

  • know about a diverse body of philosophical and interdisciplinary research, concerning the mutually illuminating interaction between phenomenological philosophy and psychiatry.
  • understand some central and consistent themes of the phenomenological tradition and how those themes can be related to the experiences of people with psychiatric diagnoses.
  • pursue autonomous research that goes beyond the content of lectures and seminars, to produce an essay that (a) identifies and explains a core theme of the phenomenological tradition and (b) critically discusses its application in the context of psychiatry.

Module content

Dialogue between phenomenological philosophy and psychiatry has a long history, dating back to Karl Jaspers’ 1912 adoption of ideas drawn from Edmund Husserl’s work. This module will explore the historical and ongoing relationships between phenomenology and psychiatry, focusing on how these relationships might facilitate mutual illumination.

Lectures will address forms of experience associated with psychiatric diagnoses such as schizophrenia, major depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In so doing, they will also address the following core themes: bodily experience; emotions, feelings, and moods; interpersonal relations; the sense of time; and the experience of possibility; the nature of delusions and hallucinations.

Lectures will be complemented by seminars, where there will be an emphasis on how one can do phenomenological research and make original phenomenological discoveries by studying experiences of psychiatric illness.


Task Length % of module mark
Summative Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Formative Work

The 400-word essay proposal is to be submitted in Week 7 of Spring Term.

The 4,000-word summative essay is due for submission in Week 2 of Summer Term.


Task Length % of module mark
Summative Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Verbal feedback on essay proposal and plans will be provided within two weeks of submission.

Written feedback on the summative essay will be provided within four weeks of submission.

Indicative reading

J. H. Van den Berg, J. H. 1972. A Different Existence: Principles of Phenomenological Psychopathology. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.

R. D. Laing. 1960. The Divided Self: A Study of Sanity and Madness. London: Tavistock Publications.

M. Ratcliffe. 2008. Feelings of Being: Phenomenology, Psychiatry and the Sense of Reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

M. Ratcliffe. 2015. Experiences of Depression: A Study in Phenomenology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

L. A. Sass. 1994. The Paradoxes of Delusion: Wittgenstein, Schreber, and the Schizophrenic Mind. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.