This is part of a series of interviews with academics. Find out more about Woolf and the academics who are driving research forward at woolf.university.
Christer, your research brings together philosophy and law to explore notions of legal insanity and mental disorder. Could you develop on the central questions that your research currently investigate?
The concepts in focus in my research, in the branch of philosophy of law dealing with criminal law, are those of legal insanity, and the specifically Swedish concept of severe mental disorder. The latter is what might be called a “successor” concept to that of legal insanity applied in the Swedish penal law until 1965. Though severe mental disorder is officially declared to be a legal concept, not a medical one, it is in fact thought of falling under the scope of psychiatry. Not least, this is manifested in the way compulsory psychiatric care is decided on. A requisite for being subjected to such care is suffering under a severe mental disorder, where the applied concept of severe mental disorder is supposed to be the same as that applied in criminal law. The decision is made by a psychiatrist without any court being involved. Within the scope of the criminal law, whether a perpetrator is/was suffering from a severe mental disorder is a decision formally made by a court. The psychiatrist officially has only a consultative role, though his/her opinion is almost always respected. Among the questions I investigate is how the division of labour between the psychiatrist and the court should best be elaborated. The former question is intimately connected with that of how the concept of severe mental disorder should be determined.
My doctoral thesis dealt with issues belonging to analytic ontology, more specifically with so-called trope theories. Among the questions investigated are whether universals can be dispensed with and how resemblance is to be understood. My research in social ontology primarily deals with the legal sphere of reality. The legal ontologies of Jeremy Bentham and John Austin are also in focus.
Could you comment on the challenges now facing institutions of higher learning, and how you think the Woolf project has the potential to address them?
As the number of people demanding higher education tends to increase, and higher education is developing in the direction of being increasingly international, the need for diversified education methods is accentuated. The need for legally secure frameworks for the educational development is accentuated as well. Regarding both these needs, I see the Woolf project as contributing.
What interests you most in the Woolf project as a researcher and teacher?
During my career as a university teacher, I have met and lectured for students of many nationalities. It has always been very stimulating. The Woolf project gives me the possibility to tailor courses with very specific contents, for interested students of various nationalities. This, independently of what used to be geographical constraints. The degree of control over my own work is also very appealing.
As a researcher, I have worked interdisciplinarily, but mostly on my own. I look forward to developing interdisciplinary projects within the framework supplied at Woolf.