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Summary of the first year of activities of the Open Seminars on Philosophy and Psychiatry in 2015-2016

The aim of the OSF-P is to organize conferences, talks, seminars and workshops focusing on issues in mental health, as well as creating networks between academics from the fields of medicine, psychiatry as well as the social sciences and humanities who are working on material relevant to mental health issues.

The OSF-P seminars are open to all and deal with current issues such as philosophy of psychiatry, modern philosophy of culture, anthropology of culture, education, preventive action and environmental psychiatry. The issues are discussed within a context of positive traditions of Polish psychiatry and psychological education and international expertise in the areas of scientific research and therapeutics. It is the role of philosophy is to encourage critical thinking and to engage with issues which may be seen as controversial or uncomfortable. The motivation behind the OSF-P is the conviction that issues in psychiatry are not only limited to the relationship between doctor and patient but that they touch upon basic questions about health, society and human nature. Thus they require careful and thorough theoretical consideration.

The Open Seminars on Philosophy and Psychiatry have been initiated by Andrzej Kapusta and Jakub Tercz, based on the two-year seminar ‘Philosophy of Experience’ led by professor Zofia Rosińska from the Philosophy Department at the University of Warsaw between 2011-2013. The seminars were then continued independently in 2013-2014. Initially the focus of the seminars was aesthetic, mystical, narcotic and psychotic experience. However, gradually psychotic experience became the main focus of the meetings. One of the activities undertake during the seminars was interpreting literary and poetic writing, which was often closer to the experience of psychopathology that the highly theoretical language of philosophy. Many of the people who attended the ‘Philosophy of Experience’ seminars were later active members of the Open Seminars on Philosophy and Psychiatry.

At the same time the Marie Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin started an initiative to engage philosophers and others working in the humanities to help with spreading knowledge and understanding of issues in psychopathology and psychology. The cooperation between the Institute of Philosophy at UMCS and the Organization for Students with Disabilities resulted in the initiation of a project called: The Friendly University which aims to popularize knowledge about mental illness, to help raise awareness about the issues and difficulties faced by students suffering from mental illness within the academic circle and helping students in overcoming these difficulties. Participants of the seminars also took part in the organizing of the Open Seminars.

The first Open Seminar on Philosophy and Psychiatry ‘Psychiatry and Philosophy: Searching for a Common Language’ took place on the 18th of April, 2015 in the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw. Since then there have been four OSF-P conferences: II OSF-P ‘Norm and Pathology’ (20th June, 2015, Warsaw), III OSF-P ‘The diagnoses of modernity’ (12-13 November, 2015, University of Marie Curie-Skłodowska in Lublin) and IV OSF-P ‘Relations’ (23-24 April, 2016, University of Warsaw). Furthermore, the OSF-P group organized two symposiums: the first one focusing on the film Asylum attended by Academy Award winner, Richard Ware Adams (25th July, 2015) and the second one entitled ‘Philosophy and Psychiatry. A Challenge for the Future’ focusing on a talk by professor Bill Kenneth Fulford from Oxford University who is the creator of the Value Based Practice approach. The symposium took place on the 10th of May, 2016. Finally the OSF-P organized a discussion panel between professor Jacek Wciórka, and Jerzy Zadęcki (himself a former student of Antoni Kępiński) which took place on the 18th of January 2015. The sessions were attended by researchers from the fields of psychiatry (Bogdan de Barbaro, Andrzej Kokoszka and Andrzej Cechnicki), philosophy (Zofia Rosińska, Jacek Migasiński, Paweł Łuków) and psychology and psychotherapy (Mira Marcinów, Wojciech Eicherberger, Ireneusz Kaczmarczyk, and finally the visual arts (Katarzyna Kozyra, Richard Ware Adams). Overall the number of speakers who took part in the events during first year of OSF-P activity reached 50.

Among the board of honorary fellows are Richard Ware Adams (Filmmaker, Yale University), professor Bogdan de Barbaro (Department of Psychiatry, Jagiellonian University), Katarzyna Boguszewska (Warsaw Fountain House), professor Andrzej Czernikiewicz (School of Humanities, University of Marie Curie-Skłodowska in Lublin), dr. Jarosław Fazan (Department of Polish, Jagiellonian University), professor Bill Kenneth Fulford (Oxford University, University of Warwick), Dr. Andrzej Kapusta (Department of Philosophy, University of Marie Curie-Skłodowska in Lublin), dr. Joanna Krzyżanwska-Zbucka (Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology, eFkropka Foundation), professor Andrzej Leder (Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences), professor Paweł Łuków (Institute of Philosophy, University of Warsaw), professor Robert Piłat (the Institute of Philosophy, Uniwersytet Kardynała Stefana Wyszyńskiego), professor Zofia Rosińska (Institute of Philosophy, University of Warsaw), and professor Jacek Wciórka (Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology).

After a year of activities the combined Warsaw-Lublin OSF-P team includes: Jakub Tercz (philosopher, Institute of Philosophy at the University of Warsaw), Jan Molina (philosopher, Institute of Philosophy at the University of Warsaw), Agnieszka Brejwo (psychotherapist, currently at the Institute of Philosophy at the University of Warsaw), Karolina Jasser (philosopher, University of Reading) from the Warsaw side, and Andrzej Kapusta (philosopher, Institute of Philosophy, Maria Curie-Sklodowska University in Lublin),Justyna Rynkiewicz (philosopher and psychologist Institute of Philosophy at Maria Curie-Sklodowska University in Lublin), and Katarzyna Skalska (manager of Disabled Students Office Maria Curie-Sklodowska University in Lublin) from the Lublin side. 

The material from the events organized by the OSF-P includes over 40 hours of audio versions of the discussions, all of which are available on the webpage of the journal ETYKA. Dissemination of the activities of the OSF-P is carried out through social platforms like Facebook and Youtube. Thanks to cooperation with the station TOK FM, four discussions were broadcasted. Each conference features its own webpage and newsletter which you can receive by emailing filozofiaipsychiatria@gmail.com.

Historically, The Open Seminars on Philosophy and Psychiatry find inspiration in the initiative undertaken by psychiatrists of the Warsaw Medical Society in the years 1865-1872. These 19th century seminars lasted for 7 years. It was cut short by the decision to view mental illness as a purely biological issue, thus one not to be analyzed by philosophy or the humanities. Apparently 7 years was not enough for an idea to take hold with success and help shape the discourse between experts as well as the wider public. The discussions regarding mental health must be constantly continued and revisited. Integration of different people dealing with mental health and psychiatry is extremely important and we hope that the OSF-P can will help achieve such a goal.

Currently the OSF-P team aims to organize two large conferences a year, one to take place in Warsaw in spring, the other in Lublin in the autumn. Furthermore, the aim is to also organize numerous smaller events such as discussion panels and workshops which will help popularize knowledge about mental health, maintain dialogue between different disciplines related to issues of mental illness and psychiatry, and help fight discrimination and build an inclusive society.

Jakub Tercz and the OSF-P team

translation Karolina Jasser

La Folia - Antonio Vivaldi
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