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Institute of Advanced Study

Emotional Experience in Depression Workshops

Professor Matthew Ratcliffe (Philosophy) and Professor Achim Stephan (University of Osnabrück, Germany) are organising a series of workshops between October 2009 and September 2012, as part of a three-year project funded jointly by the AHRC and the German Research Council. The aim of the project is to provide a detailed, systematic philosophical study of the nature and role of altered mood, emotion and feeling in depression.  These workshops complement the very successful Thinking with Feeling workshops series, sponsored by the IAS as part of its 2008-09 Being Human theme, and an ongoing AHRC- and IAS-sponsored project on Emotions and Feelings in Psychiatric Illness, co-organised by Professor Ratcliffe and Dr Anthony Atkinson (Psychology).

Despite the vast amount of research that is conducted into the causes and treatment of depression, the experience of depression remains poorly understood. Most autobiographical accounts either resort to metaphor or acknowledge that aspects of the experience are incommunicable. Changes in emotion, mood and bodily feeling are central to all forms of the condition. In recent years, there has been much valuable philosophical and interdisciplinary research on the emotions, which is complemented by new developments in philosophy of psychiatry and in scientifically-informed phenomenology. This project will draw on all these areas. It will bring together a group of philosophers, psychiatrists, cultural anthropologists, psychologists, and neuroscientists all of whom have made important contributions to current research on emotion and/or psychiatric illness. The result will be a cohesive account of emotional experience in depression that will serve as the basis for further philosophical work, assist ongoing scientific research by providing clearer accounts of the emotional changes that require explanation, and contribute to clinical work by formulating a conceptual framework that patients and clinicians alike can use to communicate the experience of depression. 

Details of the workshops that are being organised as part of this project will be advertised in due course on the IAS and Department of Philosophy websites. For further details about this project please contact the project research fellow, Dr Benedict Smith (b.w.smith@durham.ac.uk).