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Is Depression Pathological Sadness?

Boissard Elodie
Language of the article : French
DOI: n/a
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Horwitz and Wakefield (2007) formulated an explanatory model of depression as pathological sadness in order to distinguish between normal depressive episodes which would be normal sadness, and pathological depressive episodes which would be pathological sadness. They rely on evolutionism: sadness is pathological when, besides being harmful, it is dysfunctional in the sense that it does not fulfill its adaptive function namely allowing the reparation of a loss. But it is not obvious how we can interpret objectively such a dysfunction of sadness that is how we can characterize a sadness that does not fulfill its function of allowing the reparation of a loss: Is it a sadness that erroneously informs us that we lost something or about the significance of what we lost? Is it a sadness that motivates us to a behavior that does not manage to repair this loss? I’m relying on philosophy of emotions to make an original critique of the “pathological sadness” model that is a critique about the possibility of characterizing objectively the dysfunction of this emotion, rather than a critique about the ability of evolutionism to determine an adaptive function of depression. I try to show that there is no sense in which we can interpret sadness as dysfunctional in an objective way that would be without referring to the harm whose evaluation is subjective. I also cast doubt on the possibility to interpret any depressive episode as sadness. I conclude that the notion of “pathological sadness” is neither sufficient nor necessary to define depression.

Pour citer cet article :

Boissard Elodie (2022/2). Is Depression Pathological Sadness? In Regular papers (Eds), Intellectica: Issue 77, Intellectica, 77, (pp.31-48), DOI: n/a.