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Depressive Habituality and Altered Valuings. The Phenomenology of Depressed Mental Life*

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Abstract Phenomenological descriptions of depressed mental life offer a profound understanding of depression from the first-person perspective. In this paper, such descriptions are developed by drawing on the work by Ludwig Binswanger (1881–1966) and on the autobiographical report of depression by Piet C. Kuiper (1919–2002). I will argue that Binswanger’s central claim in his phenomenological description of the depressed state of mind fails due to crucial misunderstandings of Edmund Husserl’s (1859–1938) phenomenology. Nonetheless, by drawing on Kuiper’s first-hand account, I will develop a phenomenological description of depressed mental life, highlighting the altered manner of pre-reflective valuing in depression and introducing the concept of a ‘depressive habituality.’ This term refers to the acquisition of a new set of habitualisations, especially on the foundational levels of automatic mental life. It offers explanations for the fact that it is not easy to recover from depression and that people may more easily become depressed again.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin Germany


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