Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 615–635 | Cite as

Depression and motivation



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 



Research for this paper was supported by funding from the AHRC and DFG for the project ‘Emotional Experience in Depression: A Philosophical Study’. I would like to thank my colleagues on this project for numerous helpful conversations, particularly Matthew Ratcliffe, Hannah Shand and Angela Woods. Earlier presentations of this paper also received very helpful feedback from Lisa Bortolotti, Jonathan Cole, Jonathan Lowe, Donnchadh O’Conaill, Jennifer Radden, Fredrik Svenaeus and Tim Thornton, and it has been improved by the insightful comments and suggestions from two anonymous referees. Also many thanks to those people who took the time to complete the depression questionnaire.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyDurham UniversityDurhamUK

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