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Contact Details

64 3 471 6126
Associate Professor
Bioethics Centre
BA(Gen Hons)(Exe) MPhil(CNAA) MA PhD(Wales)
Research summary
Philosophy, concepts, and ethics of health and disease

Undergraduate and postgraduate bioethics

  • Member International Network for Philosophy and Psychiatry (INPP) 14th International Conference Academic Advisory Committee
  • Member National Ethics Advisory Committee (NEAC)


The philosophy of mental health considers fundamental questions about some of our most profound concerns and ideas. When the human being suffers either in the body or in the mind, how are we to understand what is going on? What are the limits of the scientific biologically based understanding offered by medicine? How are the foundational concepts of professional health carers—disease, illness, health—to be understood? Are they truly scientific concepts? Do they have essences, or can they be described in terms of neat definitive criteria?

There are lively and divisive debates about all these issues. To these debates I bring a focus on the extension of concepts of disease from the physical to the mental; and on the ideas about concepts which those engaged in such debates presume. In particular, I am interested in what resources Wittgenstein's philosophy might offer the debate. Is his notion of 'family resemblance' helpful?

Additional details

I offer supervision in health concepts (e.g. health, disease and illness), including reality and nature of mental illness, classical vs non-classical health concepts, evaluative vs non-evaluative health concepts.


Newton-Howes, G., Walker, S., & Pickering, N. J. (2023). Epistemic problems with mental health legislation in the doctor–patient relationship. Journal of Medical Ethics. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1136/jme-2022-108610 Journal - Research Article

Walker, S., Williams, O., Newton-Howes, G., & Pickering, N. (2022). Reformulating decision-making capacity. American Journal of Bioethics, 22(11), 92-94. doi: 10.1080/15265161.2022.2123995 Journal - Research Other

Penfield Winters, J., Pickering, N., & Jaye, C. (2022). Winging it: A qualitative study of knowledge-acquisition experiences for early adopting providers of medical assistance in dying. Palliative Care & Social Practice, 16, 1-12. doi: 10.1177/26323524221103889 Journal - Research Article

Pickering, N. J., Newton-Howes, G., & Walker, S. (2022). Risk-relativity is still a nonsense. Journal of Medical Ethics, 48(12), 1056-1057. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2022-108379 Journal - Research Other

Pickering, N. J., Newton-Howes, G., & Walker, S. (2022). Risk-related standards of competence are a nonsense. Journal of Medical Ethics, 48, 893-898. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2021-108107 Journal - Research Article

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