Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2018

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



This dissertation explores the way depression illuminates –and is illuminated by – certain aspects of moral philosophy. I begin by defending, in chapter one, a cognitive theory of one important subtype of depression. The subsequent chapters then investigate what depression can teach us about the nature of well- (and ill-) being, and about the nature of moral virtue. In chapter two I ask ‘what makes depression bad for us?’ and go on to argue that reflection upon this question shows that desire-based theories of welfare are false. Then, in the next chapter, I provide a (partial) answer to that question, arguing that a central harm of depression is its undermining of the values or cares that constitute the core of a person’s self. This, in turn, vitiates effective agency and saps a person’s life of subjective meaningfulness. Given the results from the previous three chapters, I then ask, in chapter 4, whether it is ever permissible to allow those suffering from depression to choose physician-assisted suicide, and answer in the affirmative. Finally, in chapter five I take up the relationship between depression and virtue. Though the virtuous should never seek to become clinically depressed, I contend that morally virtuous people ought to preferentially attend to what it is fitting to feel negative attitudes towards, and thus, that they should be unhappy.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

John M. Doris

Committee Members

Julia Driver, Charlie Kurth, Dan Haybron, Renee Thompson,


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