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Ethics of Mental Health

Among all of the subdisciplines under modern medicine, psychiatry is most profoundly distinguished by both its material of study and method of application.

Medical science is, in general, a field with evidently inadequate foundational reflection regarding the definition of concepts such as health, illness, disease, life and death, among many others; yet these definitions are radically important to the nature of the science itself.

The difficulties become even more profound in the field of psychiatry, since it examines what is largely posited in a theoretical way, as opposed to that which can be empirically examined with relative ease (for instance the heart with respect to cardiology).

The definitions of mental illnesses are much less reliant on material circumstance than all other medical illnesses, but the science of psychiatry is currently pursued by the majority of clinicians and researchers with a materialistic disposition. This field's emphasis on the behavioral context of description, along with the unsettled argument regarding the extent and comprehensiveness of a material foundation of the human psyche, provides unparalleled depth and richness for ethical discussion.

In this specialization, students may examine the definition of mental health (and mental illness), the connection between human conciousness and neurophysiology, free will, the use of psychoactive drugs for therapy (and the implications of the industry of psychopharmacology itself) along with legal and political issues regarding the treatment of mentally ill people in society.

All of these topics will be addressed with an ethical interest.

The foundational course for this stream is Philosophy 2552, a course in the contemporary issues series which discusses the ethics of mental health.