Philosophy ETDs

Publication Date

Winter 12-17-2018


This project is an attempt to apply certain of the insights of phenomenological philosophy to the analysis of the lived experience of depression. I argue that the centering of experience in phenomenology can, and should, motivate its use in the context of the philosophical analysis of mental health, and may contribute to therapeutic aims as well. While this has been remarked upon in recent and current literature, this project motivates, engages with, augments, and challenges existing philosophical approaches to mental health and depression. I begin by surveying the existing literature, and bringing the critiques of classical phenomenology suggested by Guenther’s “critical phenomenology” to bear on the phenomenological analysis of mental health and illness, and depression in particular. Having proposed a shift in emphasis to the intersubjective dimensions of depressive experience, I give an account of aspects of depressive experience in terms of a lived breakdown of “faith” (as the concept functions in Merleau-Ponty and Kristeva). I then proceed, in a more critical vein, to draw attention to the linguistic dimensions of phenomenological reporting that the current literature neglects. I argue that a responsible and robust phenomenology of depression must reckon with the linguistic situation of accounts of depression (from which such a phenomenology necessarily proceeds), complicated as they are by the linguistic symptoms of depression and laden as they are with the gravity and dynamics of the diagnostic and clinical setting. Such an approach can augment and challenge existing literature on depression (phenomenological and otherwise), and its trenchancy is supported by numerous case studies and patient testimonials cited herein.

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Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Ann Murphy

Second Committee Member

Adrian Johnston

Third Committee Member

Cynthia Willett

Fourth Committee Member

Iain Thomson

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Philosophy Commons