Dr. Ron Morstyn (1955-2020) was an Australian psychiatrist who spent much of his professional career seeking a deeper understanding of the human condition. Though trained as a neurologist, Ron ultimately was convinced that schizophrenia and mental illness were best addressed in terms of their personal meanings for patients, and through one-on-one psychotherapy. He had notable successes treating patients in this way. This, together with his own experience of a bone marrow transplant for myelofibrosis, led him to existentialism and phenomenology, particularly Merleau-Ponty, who Ron discovered through the work of Martin Dillon. He published his reflections on his illness in a paper titled “Merleau-Ponty and Me: Some Phenomenological Reflections Upon my Recent Bone Marrow Transplant,” which offered an alternative view to the separation of body and mind which continues to inform the practice of medicine and psychiatry. In later publications he argued that Merleau-Ponty’s “phenomenological positivism” was a better ethical and clinical foundation for psychiatric practice than “evidence-based” prescribing.
He presented his findings at the International Merleau-Ponty conference in 2014. Ron, together with his wife Gaye, then became regular attendees at the Circle, well known for their extensive travels to and around Circle meetings, and for Ron’s dedication and advocacy for phenomenological challenges to dominant clinical approaches to health and wellbeing. Duane Davis remembers Ron for his “always cheery presence at our meetings” and as making “important contributions to bringing Merleau-Ponty’s style of phenomenology to psychology and psychiatry.”
The Ron Morstyn Memorial Prize was established, through a generous donation from Gaye Morstyn, to honour Ron’s dedication to phenomenology and its potential for bettering our understanding of the human condition. It is awarded annually, to a graduate student, junior scholar, or independent scholar, for the best interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary paper engaging Merleau-Ponty’s work at the Circle. (To be eligible as a junior scholar, your PhD must have been earned within the last five calendar years.) The prize is presented as both an honor and a monetary award of $1000 USD.
If you are eligible for the prize and wish to be considered for it, indicate this in your cover letter when submitting your paper for consideration for the conference. Graduate students with interdisciplinary papers may ask to have their paper considered for both the Morstyn and Dillon prizes.