Autonomy and Depression

In K. W. M. Fulford, Martin Davis, George Graham, John Sadler, Giovanni Stanghellini & Tim Thornton (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Psychiatry. Oxford University Press. pp. 1155-1170 (2013)
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In this paper, I address two related challenges the phenomenon of depression raises for conceptions according to which autonomy is an agency concept and an independent source of justification. The first challenge is directed at the claim that autonomous agency involves intending under the guise of the good: the robust though not always direct link between evaluation and motivation implied here seems to be severed in some instances of depression; yet, this does not seem to affect the possibility of autonomous action. The second challenge targets the feasibility of a reliable distinction between autonomous and non-autonomous choices in the context of depression: value-neutral and value-laden ways of drawing the distinction seem both open to decisive objections. I develop an account of paradoxical identification which supports a revised value-neutral distinction between autonomous and non-autonomous choices in the context of depression (my response to challenge 2), and shows that depression is inconsistent with autonomy to the extent that it involves an agent’s (paradoxical) identification with projects she implicitly loathes, that is, to the extent that depression thwarts intending under the guise of the good (my response to challenge 1).

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Lubomira Radoilska
University of Kent


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