, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 165-178
Date: 26 Jul 2012

Treating Yourself as an Object: Self-Objectification and the Ethical Dimensions of Antidepressant Use

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In this paper, I offer one moral reason to eschew antidepressant medication in favor of cognitive therapy, all other things being equal: taking antidepressants can be a form of self-objectification. This means that, by taking antidepressants, one treats oneself, in some sense and some cases, like a mere object. I contend that, morally, this amounts to a specific form of devaluing oneself. I argue this as follows. First, I offer a detailed definition of “objectification” and argue for the possibility of self-objectification on this definition. I then explain why this form of self-objectification is morally problematic. (Morally problematic does not mean morally impermissible. It means, instead, that there is a moral reason opposing the activity in question). After, I describe how taking antidepressants can count as self-objectifying. Finally, I defend my thesis against a key objection offered by Levy. Thus, assuming that antidepressants and cognitive therapy are equally efficacious, and that all other things are equal, the self-objectifying character of antidepressants is a compelling reason to regard cognitive therapy as a first-choice treatment for depression.