Philosophy & Ethics of Mental Health

Welcome to the website of UP’s Centre for Ethics and Philosophy of Health Sciences (CEPHS)

The CEPHS is situated in the Faculty of Health Sciences but hosts associates from several faculties at the University of Pretoria. It focusses on the scholarly domains of ethics and philosophy in relation to health theory, practice and research. The conceptual sophistication afforded by philosophy is taken as being crucial in health ethics as well as professional practice and theoretical engagements of all health sciences. The CEPHS fulfills an important need in South Africa, Africa and internationally by building scholarly knowledge and skills capacity across various academic and professional disciplines. The Centre’s focus on health ethics and the philosophy of health sciences is connected to the international burgeoning interest in medical humanities.

The acronym CEPHS resembles the Latin word “cephala” meaning “heads”, which may be interpreted as a metaphor for the Centre’s associates and students as well as its interest in matters of the head (e.g., philosophy, thinking and mental health).



The vision of the Centre for Ethics and Philosophy of Health Sciences is to develop academic capacity and produce scholarly output that builds on international developments in the field and responds to professional regulatory requirements, niche opportunities and needs for ethics and conceptual sophistication that are pertinent to the professional practice and theoretical engagements of all health sciences. To this end, the Centre provides a synergistic research platform for its associates and students.


1. Development of research capacity in ethics and philosophy of health sciences

  • To undertake and advance rigorous conceptual and empirical research in this field, drawing on the African ethic of ubuntu.
  • To enhance capabilities in conceptual and empirical research in this field
  • To build capacity and capabilities for scholarly input in the Faculty regarding ethics in health research, health practice and health education 
  • To bring philosophical sophistication to the conceptual challenges in health sciences
  • To help build excellence in health practice through research on the concepts and values guiding health practice
  • To advance philosophical theory by making the phenomena of health sciences more accessible to philosophers.
  • To build logistical capacity for substantial, high quality conceptual and empirical research in this field
  • To enhance and facilitate collaborative learning through exchange of ideas, experience, knowledge and skills relevant to health practice, ethics and philosophy.
  • To obtain significant fellowships and grants for research in the field
  • To participate in national and international developments, publications, conferences, organisations and events that are related to health ethics, philosophy of health sciences and medical humanities.

2. Development of training and teaching capacity through research in ethics and philosophy of health sciences

  • To develop and maintain dynamic, sustainable, and practically relevant post graduate training through participation in research in this field, which are person-centred and relevant to the needs of Africa and South Africa.
  • To build intellectual and practical skills capacity in this field as an important contribution to the transformation of South Africa as a uniquely diverse community.
  • To enhance teaching and learning opportunities and research studentships
  • To provide opportunities for continued professional development (CPD) in health ethics for health practitioners

3. Influence practice, services, policies & management in the health sector

  • To promote the ethical soundness of health practice, services, policies and management
  • To enhance the effectiveness of health practitioners, teachers, and researchers by illuminating the ethical and conceptual issues embedded in these activities
  • To help strengthen health scientists and practitioners in the conceptual aspects of their work, in particular mobilising the theoretical and practical affordances of an ubuntu ethic.
  • To contribute to health practitioners in South Arica who are ethically informed and sound in their professional practice
  • To influence health practice, service development, policies and education guided by an appreciation for individual differences and respect for diversity among health care users, societies, and health practitioners and managers
  • To advance responsible debates on contentious issues in health practices, services, policies and education in South Africa and on issues of international importance
  • To collaborate with international, African and South African tertiary institutions to advance the educational, research, and clinical interests in health ethics and philosophy of health sciences.


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