Philosophical Issues in Psychiatry V

The Problems of Multiple Levels, Explanatory Pluralism, Reduction and Emergence

For the fifth conference in this series, we are exploring how the field of psychiatry incorporates more viable explanatory approaches than almost any other discipline in a modern university. Serious scholars have attempted to understand the causes of psychiatric illness from the perspective of molecular neurobiology, molecular genetics, cellular neurophysiology, systems neuroscience, neuropsychology, and clinical psychology (including a wide diversity of theories incorporating an array of mental constructs such as personality, cognition, and unconscious processes), epidemiology, genetic-epidemiology, sociology, and anthropology. The last decades have seen increasingly sophisticated scientific paradigms that have suggested that many of these levels can indeed yield useful and empirically verifiable risk factors for psychiatric illness. A central conundrum of the field is how to integrate this cacophony of scientific perspectives into a meaningful whole. 

Major Conference Themes

  1. The importance of reduction – under what circumstances are lower levels of explanation to be preferred? Is wholescale reduction possible or is it more realistic to pursue “small” or “patchy” reductive approaches?
  2. How is it best to conceive of the multiple “levels” at which psychiatric illness can be understood? Is “levels” even a useful term here?
  3. What are the advantages and problems of explanatory pluralism versus explanatory monism – when can we truly integrate results across “levels”?
  4. Given that levels of explanation in psychiatric cross the mind-body divide -- the subjective and objective worlds -- how can we best span these widely divergent perspectives on reality?
  5. A recent survey has shown that truly cross-level research in psychiatry is rare. Why is this and what scientific, cultural and financial barriers exist to more integrative approaches?
  6. Individual researchers and research groups often bring strong commitments to their perspective on psychiatric illness that derives from extra-scientific personal beliefs. Such approaches have often fueled ideological disputes in the field. How can we better understand and reduce such often wasteful debates?







William Bechtel 

Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy; faculty member in the Center for Circadian Biology and the Interdisciplinary Program in Cognitive Science

University of California, San Diego 

Robert Bilder

Michael E. Tennenbaum Family Professor of Psychiatry & Biobehavioural Sciences and Psychology

University of California, Los Angeles

John Campbell 

Willis S. and Marion Slusser Professor of Philosophy

University of California at Berkeley

Shaun Gallagher

Lillian and Morrie Moss Professor of Philosophy

University of Memphis

Stephan Heckers

Chair of the Department of Psychiatry; William P. and Henry B. Test Chair in Schizophrenia Research; Professor of Psychiatry; Professor of Psychology; Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
Kenneth S. Kendler Rachel Brown Banks Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry; Professor of Human Genetics; Director, Psychiatric Genetics Research Program; Director, Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics Virginia Commonwealth University

Gregory A. Miller

Distinguished Professor; Department Chair, Department of Psychology University of California, Los Angeles 
Georg Northoff Canada Research Chair in Mind, Brain Imaging and Neuroethics; ELJB-CIHR Michael Smith Chair in Neurosciences and Mental Health;  Research Unit Director Institute of Mental Health Research, University of Ottawa
Josef Parnas Professor, Department of Neurology, Psychiatry and Sensory Sciences University of Copenhagen

Daniel Pine

Chief, Section on Development and Affective Neuroscience National Institute of Mental Health

Jan-Willem Romeijn

Professor of Philosophy of Science University of Groningen
Kenneth Schaffner
Distinguished University Professor of History and Philosophy of Science Emeritus
University of Pittsburgh
Kathryn Tabb Assistant Professor of Philosophy Columbia University 
Eric Turkheimer  Professor, Clinical Psychology University of Virginia
James Woodward Distinguished Professor of History and Philosophy of Science University of Pittsburgh
Peter Zachar Professor of Psychology, Department of Philosophy Auburn University at Montgomery 







The conference takes place at the University of Copenhagen, South Campus, on Amager in Copenhagen.

University of Copenhagen
Njalsgade 134 (and entrance at Emil Holms Kanal 2)
Building 22, Auditorium 22.0.11

Getting there: Nearest Metro station is Islands Brygge. Line M1 takes you to Islands Brygge from which there is a 5-7 min. walk to the University campus. After ascending the stairs, turn right on Njalsgade. Walk for about 7-8 minutes till you reach the campus area with a number of large sand-coloured building.