2018 Annual Uehiro Lectures (3/3)

We are pleased to announce that the 2018 Annual Uehiro Lectures in Practical Ethics will be delivered in May 2018 by Professor Richard Holton of University of Cambridge.

Series title:  Illness and the Social Self

Who we are depends in part on the social world in which we live. In these lectures I look at some consequences for three mental health problems, broadly construed: dementia, addiction, and psychosomatic illness.

Lecture 3 of 3: Thursday 24 May,5.00 - 7.00 pm

Venue: Magdalen College, Grove Auditorium, Longwall Street, Oxford, OX1 4AU

Illness And Attitude

Many illnesses have been thought—controversially—to have a psychosomatic component. How should we understand this? Sometimes a contrast is made between organic illness and mental illness: psychosomatic illnesses are the latter masquerading as the former. But if the mental is physical, and hence organic, this will not help. An alternative approach distinguishes between symptoms that are influenced by the patient’s attitudes, and those that are not; psychosomatic illnesses are marked by the former. Does this make the class too wide? Suppose I aggravate a bad back by refusing to exercise, falsely expecting the exercise to be dangerous. My symptoms are influenced by my attitude: are they therefore psychosomatic? I suggest that there is no sharp cut-off. I examine the role of attitudes in various illnesses, including addiction, focussing on the ways that social factors affect the relevant attitudes. I ask whether recognition of a continuum might help lessen the stigma that psychosomatic illness has tended to attract, and suggest other ways that treatment might be more attuned to these issues.

Professor Richard Holton

Richard Holton is professor of philosophy at the University of Cambridge, and a fellow of Peterhouse. Before that he taught at MIT, Monash, the ANU, Sheffield and Edinburgh. I  obtained a BA in PPE at University College, Oxford,before completing a PhD at Princeton. His areas of research are moral psychology and related areas, but also in ethics, philosophy of law and philosophy of language.

Audio: http://www.podcasts.ox.ac.uk/2018-annual-uehiro-lectures-33-illness-and-attitude