Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 615-635

First online:

Depression and motivation

  • Benedict SmithAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Durham University Email author 

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Among the characteristic features of depression is a diminishment in or lack of action and motivation. In this paper, I consider a dominant philosophical account which purports to explain this lack of action or motivation. This approach comes in different versions but a common theme is, I argue, an over reliance on psychologistic assumptions about action–explanation and the nature of motivation. As a corrective I consider an alternative view that gives a prominent place to the body in motivation. Central to the experience of depression are changes to how a person is motivated to act and, also as central, are changes to bodily feelings and capacities. I argue that broadly characterizing motivation in terms of bodily capacities can, in particular, provide a more compelling account of depressive motivational pathology.


Action Belief–desire psychology Body Depression Motivation