Dr Neil Pickering
Bioethics Centre, University of Otago
CMH Visiting Fellow
Wednesday 16 November, 5.15 pm
St Chad’s Chapel and SCR
Followed by wine and canapés
How should we understand mental illness? The question is fundamental and puzzling. An example brings this out: In the winter of 1826-27, the young John Stuart Mill fell into a state of depression, and on several occasions wondered whether he had any obligation to live on. His experiences probably meet the criteria for a diagnosis of Major Depressive Episode. But Mill’s account in his autobiography is not univocal. He is inclined to talk of the experience as a cloud – something (a disease?) visited upon him from outside. Famously, he believed reading Wordsworth lifted this cloud from him forever – Wordsworth’s poems were, says Mill, ‘a medicine for my state of mind’. At the same time, Mill says it was a crisis in his ‘mental life’: it was a time at which his most fundamental beliefs were challenged, and found wanting – it was an intellectual not a medical crisis. In this seminar I am to bring out what light my research in Durham has thrown on such cases.
Dr Neil Pickering is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Otago Bioethics Centre. His research interests include the philosophy and ethics of mental health, medical humanities, alternative medicine, and cultural and environmental issues in bioethics. He is a visiting fellow in the Centre for Medical Humanities during Michaelmas term.