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Magdalene College Cambridge

Dr Cecily Whiteley

Dr Cecily Whiteley is a Fellow and Director of Studies in Philosophy, and an Issac Newton Trust Academic Career Development Research Fellow in the Faculty of Philosophy.

Before coming to Cambridge as an Issac Newton Trust Fellow, I completed my doctoral research in the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method at the London School of Economics and Political Science. During my PhD I spent a year as a visiting scholar at the Centre for Mind, Brain and Consciousness at New York University. In my doctoral research, I explored how many scientific and philosophical puzzles about consciousness – such as the question of how it is possible to study an essentially subjective phenomenon like consciousness using third person, empirical methods used in neuroscience -- can be overcome using the tools of history and philosophy of science. In opposition to orthodox scientific approaches which treat consciousness as a ‘special’ phenomenon to be studied using non-standard methods and paradigms, I developed a new approach which asserts that consciousness science ought to be modelled on previous scientific explanations of other natural phenomena or ‘natural kinds’.

My current research project aims at understanding the explanatory significance of what philosophers and neuroscientists have recently coined ''global states of consciousness'' – a family of mental phenomena which includes states such as dreaming, wakefulness and psychedelic states - for ongoing research in clinical psychiatry. As part of this, I am developing a novel empirical model of depression, according to which Major Depressive Disorder involves a change to a subject's global state of consciousness, akin to a dream or psychedelic state. The central idea behind this hypothesis is explained in my recent paper ‘Depression as a Disorder of Consciousness’ in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.

More broadly, I am interested in what we can learn about the mind via an understanding of this as comprised of as natural kinds as discussed by philosophers of science, and how such a 'natural kind approach' to the mind relates to the philosophical project(s) explored and articulated in the works of Thomas Nagel, Wilfred Sellars, Rudolph Carnap John McDowell, and Immanuel Kant.

Research Interests

Philosophy of mind, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Psychiatry, Mental Illness and Depression.


2018-2022: PhD in Philosophy, Department of Philosophy Logic and Scientific Method at the London School of Economics and Political Science

2016-2022: MPhil in Philosophy, King's College London

2012-2016: BA in Philosophy, University of York, First Class

Career/Research Highlights

2022, Karl Popper Memorial Prize, London School of Economics and Political Science

2022, Society of Fellows Fellowship, Dartmouth College

2018, King's College London Master of Philosophical Studies Prize

2016, New Directions in the Study of Mind Award, University of Cambridge

Selected Publications

Whiteley, C.M.K. Aphantasia, imagination and dreaming. Philosophical Studies. 178, 2111–2132 (2021).

Whiteley, C.M.K Depression as a Disorder of Consciousness. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. forthcoming.

Whiteley, C.M.K, & Birch, J. 'Depression is More than a Low Mood: It's a Change in Consciousness'. Psyche and Aeon Magazine.