Ethics for the Depressed
July 25 + 28, 6-8pm ET
Wanting to be morally good can be painful, especially to those who want it most. A depressed person struggling with listlessness or feelings of intense guilt may often lose the motivation to care for themselves, but not to care for others: being morally good or virtuous may seem to be their highest and most urgent goal, with failing to achieve it intolerable and achieving it impossible. Ethical theories like utilitarianism or deontology are not usually designed with such a person in mind: they are designed for doubters, like skeptics or egoists, to explain and justify why we should fulfill moral obligations. What would it look like to design an ethics for someone who wants to be good so badly it could crush them? Is it possible to think about being good, at the level of philosophical theory, in a less desolating way? Our discussion will touch on topics like meta-ethics, moral psychology, and the phenomenology of depression.
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Devin Fitzpatrick is a PhD Candidate in Philosophy at the University of Oregon specializing in ethics, phenomenology, and pragmatism. He is an editor and co-founder of Puncta: Journal of Critical Phenomenology. His dissertation is titled “Ethics for the Depressed: A Value Ethics of Engagement.”
Image: Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818) by the German Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich, via Wikipedia.