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date: 16 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter offers a phenomenological account of impaired agency in depression. It begins by briefly considering some first-person descriptions of how depression affects the ability to act, which point to an altered "experience of free will." Although it is often assumed that we have such an experience, it is far from clear what it consists of. The chapter argues that this lack of clarity is symptomatic of looking in the wrong place. Drawing on themes in Sartre's Being and Nothingness, it is suggested that the sense of freedom associated with action is not-first and foremost-an episodic "quale" or "feeling" that is experienced as internal to the agent. Rather, it is embedded in the experienced world; my freedom appears in the guise of my surroundings. This makes better sense of what people with depression consistently describe-a diminished ability to act that is inextricable from a transformation of the experienced world. In addition to illuminating an aspect of the experience of depression, the chapter aims to illustrate something more general: how phenomenology and psychiatry can interact in a fruitful way.

Keywords: action, depression, experience, freedom, horizon, possibility, significance

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