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Professor Tim Thornton

Professor of Philosophy and Mental Health
School of Medicine
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Tim Thornton's research concerns conceptual issues at the heart of mental health care. The philosophy of mental health and psychiatry is a rapidly developing area of collaboration by philosophers, clinicians (e.g. psychiatrists and mental health nurses) and mental health service users. Tim is a widely published international expert in this expanding field. He supervises PhD students in this and related areas of mental health and, with Gloria Ayob, he runs a Philosophy and Mental Health distance learning graduate programme at the University of Central Lancashire.

Tim has published research papers on clinical judgement, idiographic and narrative understanding, the interpretation of psychopathology and reductionism and social constructionism in psychiatry. He is author of Essential Philosophy of Psychiatry (OUP 2007), Wittgenstein on Language and Thought (EUP 1998), John McDowell (Acumen 2004) and co-author of the Oxford Textbook of Philosophy and Psychiatry (OUP 2006) and Tacit Knowledge (Acumen 2013) co-authored with Neil Gascoigne. The Oxford Textbook was described as a landmark publication in the British Journal of Psychiatry. He is an editor of the Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Psychiatry (OUP 2014) and Senior Editor of the journal Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology.

Tim gained an open scholarship to study Natural Science at the University of Cambridge but was increasingly drawn first to the philosophical underpinnings of science and then more abstractly to the nature and objectivity of judgement itself. His PhD – Judgement, Objectivity and Practice – addressed these issues through the work of the greatest twentieth century philosopher: Ludwig Wittgenstein. As a research fellow, then lecturer, then senior lecturer at the University of Warwick he researched the connection between thought and language and the world, again drawing on the work of Wittgenstein and the contemporary philosopher John McDowell. This yielded books and papers on Wittgenstein and McDowell. While at Warwick, he met Bill Fulford, a psychiatrist and philosopher and main instigator of the resurgence of the philosophy and psychiatry in the UK and together they wrote the Oxford Textbook of Philosophy and Psychiatry. Philosophy of mental health is Tim’s main research focus at the University of Central Lancashire. In 2019 he was awarded a higher doctorate, UCLan's first Doctor of Letters, for a career of research gathered together under the title ‘Judgement and normativity in the philosophy of mental healthcare: an anti-reductionist approach to philosophy and psychiatry’.

  • Doctor of Letters, Philosophy and Psychiatry, University of Central Lancashire, 2019
  • PhD, Philosophy, University of Cambridge, 1994
  • MPhil, History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, 1988
  • BA, Natural Science, University of Cambridge, 1987
  • Philosophy
  • philosophy of mental health
  • philosophy of thought and language
  • Wittgenstein, McDowell
  • Senior Editor Philosophy, Psychiatry & Psychology
  • Royal College of Psychiatry Philosophy Special Interest Group committee member