Too mad to be true
International Conference on the Philosophy of Madness and the Madness of Philosophy
 September, 23-24, 2021, Ghent, Dr. Guislain Museum + Online
Final Program 
Program+abstracts (pdf)

What can philosophy do for madness? And is there something madness can do for philosophy? Is philosophy more than a mere intellectual activity? Does it ever leave its armchair and effectively transgress the limit with madness? And if so, when and where could the two possibly meet? 

Such questions form the broad scope of the conference on philosophy and madness that will take place in September 2021 in Ghent, Belgium. In recent years, international interest for similar questions has grown considerably, as is demonstrated by the flourishing of journals like Philosophy, Psychiatry, Psychology, and the book series International Perspectives on Philosophy and Psychiatry by Oxford University Press. Central themes within this momentum are the current renaissance of phenomenological psychopathology, the renewed value and meaning of the first-person perspective in philosophy and psychiatry, the growing contributions to this subject from the analytic philosophical tradition, neo-psychoanalytic thought, and the philosophically-oriented cognitive neurosciences. 

Moreover, in December 2020 Wouter Kusters' seminal work A Philosophy of Madness. The Experience of Psychotic Thinking (MIT Press) was published, which was the direct occasion to organize this event. In addition to more strictly academic and clinical questions, this work also provokes discussion about where philosophy and madness interfere. This discussion may be expressed in the following more general considerations: what is the meaning, source and purpose of (human) life? How do the ineffable, the void and infinity relate in religious and psychotic experience? How and when do language and experience intertwine and part from each other? What role do concepts like time, space, reality and modality play in assessments of variations in (human) experience? How are normative presuppositions built in into psychiatric practice and philosophical theory?

The conference sets out to develop these questions by inviting several renowned key note speakers and papers in parallel sessions, aimed at providing high-level discussions of conceptual, clinical, philosophical and psychological issues related to the overall themes of our conference. Our objective is to enhance the development of the cross-field between philosophy, madness and psychiatry and to demonstrate how this can contribute to deepening our understanding of both psychopathological and so-called ‘normal’ experience – including the central and aberrant experiences and practices of religious life and metaphysical speculation. By explicitly encouraging to bring forward the meaning of lived experience with psychosis, we aim to take madness out of its status as a silenced and passive object of philosophical and psychopathological inquiry, and to bring it back into the communal space of shared philosophical discussion as a subject that speaks for itself, a living voice, and a meaningful experience.

The conference consists of two days of invited key note lectures, followed by parallel paper sessions, as well as a mini-symposium within the conference in which the invited key notes will offer discussions of Wouter Kusters’ A Philosophy of Madness.

To that end, we invite 20 minutes’ paper presentations and contributions on the following main subjects: 

(i) the different ways in which philosophy can contribute to the clarification and understanding of psychopathology; e.g., its role in the description, explanation, logical analysis and normative determination of psychopathology – both in general, as well as with respect to particular forms of psychopathology: e.g., psychosis, delusions, dissociative consciousness, hallucinations and obsessions.
(ii) the status and role of subjectivity and first-person experience in the analysis of psychopathology. 
(iii) the ways in which madness can contribute in clarifying the nature of philosophical activity: e.g., the analysis of alienation, philosophical detachment, wonder, astonishment, phenomenological epoché, natural attitude and repression;
(iv) the ways in which philosophy and madness resemble each other and how they differ: e.g., with respect to themes like hyper-reflexivity, evidentiality, certainty, transcendental arguments, radical skepticism, and detached contemplation.
(v)  the way notions and concepts from religious discourse, like revelation, epiphany, rebirth, eternity, sacrifice and the sacred play a role in psychotic experience, and accounts of these notions from cross-disciplinary perspectives of both philosophy, theology, psychiatry and psychology.

The conference will be held in real life in Ghent. However, both speakers and visitors, that for any reason whatsoever are not able to travel to Ghent, can join the program and participate online.

Organising Committee 
Jasper Feyaerts (Ghent University/KU Leuven), Zeno van Duppen (UPC Kortenberg/KU Leuven & Stichting Psychiatrie en Filosofie), Inez Germeys (KU Leuven), Gerben Meynen (VU Amsterdam).

Confirmed Keynote Speakers 
Borut Skodlar, Clara Humpston, Louis Sass, Maria Balaska, Nev Jones, Stijn Vanheule, Wouter Kusters.

Register and pay via our webshop:
There are four tickets: regular price (80 euro); reduced price for students a.o. (40 euro); price for psychiatrists (including credits, 120 euro); online only (20 euro).

All sessions will be recorded and be made accessible to the participants afterwards.

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