Moody Minds Distempered: Essays on Melancholy and Depression

Moody Minds Distempered: Essays on Melancholy and Depression

Moody Minds Distempered: Essays on Melancholy and Depression

Moody Minds Distempered: Essays on Melancholy and Depression

Synopsis

In Moody Minds Distempered philosopher Jennifer Radden assembles several decades of her research on melancholy and depression. The chapters are ordered into three categories: those about intellectual and medical history of melancholy and depression; those that emphasize aspects of the moral,psychological and medical features of these concepts; and finally, those that explore the sad and apprehensive mood states long associated with melancholy and depressive subjectivity. A newly written introduction maps the conceptual landscape, and draws out the analytic and thematic interconnectionsbetween the chapters. Radden emphasizes and develops several new themes: the implications, theoretical phenomenological and moral, of recognizing melancholy and depressive states as mood states; questions of method, as they affect how we understand and characterize claims about melancholy and depression; and thepersistence and force of cultural tropes linking such states to brilliance, creativity, and sagacity. Insights from literature and the history of medicine, psychology, and psychiatry are woven together with those from the more recent disciplines of feminist theory and cultural studies. This isinterdisciplinary writing at its best-part analytic philosophy, and part history of ideas.

Excerpt

The essays and discussions in this volume comprise a selection of my writing about melancholy and depression. Some of this work is historically oriented. I have attempted to place states of melancholy and depression within Western medical and cultural traditions that began with Hippocrates and Aristotle, and to uncover the theoretical implications of equating states of melancholy as we learn of them in these earlier, classical accounts with states of depression as they are characterized in our own time. Depictions of melancholic and depressive conditions in the classification and theories underpinning psychoanalysis, contemporary psychology, and psychiatry are also explored. Other writing analyzes concepts such as disease, disorder, and illness as they cast light on what we understand of melancholy and depression, and examines the phenomenology of the suffering so prominent in these conditions.

This writing forms part of a broader body of my work inquiring into the concepts and categories associated with mental disorder. Consciousness and mental processes, the self, agency, the emotions, and rationality are central themes for every philosopher interested in the field of the mental and psychological. Unlike many researchers within that field, however, I regard mental illness and psychopathology as natural, obvious, and even indispensable extensions and examples for such inquiries. (Any account of consciousness and self-identity must explain dissociated states, for example, and, in my opinion, theories of responsibility and agency need to accommodate disorders of impulse control.)

My particular interest in disordered affect traces to two research projects undertaken during my graduate training in the philosophy of mind. One concerned emotions. The intricate norms governing appropriate and warranted response as captured in “intentional” definitions of particular emotions (such as those in Descartes’s Passions of the Soul and Spinoza’s Ethics) directed my attention to the aberrant and incomplete responses found, for example, in the disordered affect of depression. In addition, thinking about feelings this way made me aware of what might distinguish affective from other psychopathology, a difference lost from sight when attention is . . .

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