Kant and Depression (via Eugene Thacker)

Kant’s Depression (published on on the 3:AM Magazine site) is an excerpt from the above book by Eugene Thacker.

Some excerpts from the excerpt from the book.

Kant first defines depression as “the weakness of abandoning oneself despondently to general morbid feelings that have no definite object (and so making no attempt to master them by reason).”

“The opposite of the mind’s self-mastery… is fainthearted brooding about the ills that could befall one, and that one would not be able to withstand if they should come.”

What Kant doesn’t consider is that reason might actually be connected to depression, rather than stand as its opposite. What if depression – reason’s failure to achieve self-mastery – is not the failure of reason but instead the result of reason? What if human reason works “too well,” and brings us to conclusions that are anathema to the existence of human beings?




    1. Sorry for slow reply.

      I agree that it is a rather intriguing idea. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can give you what would amount to a sufficient explanation as I have only read the excerpt myself and am not exactly sure of the meaning.

      Thacker answers the above question with the following:
      “What we would have is a “cold rationalism,” shoring up the anthropocentric conceits of the philosophical endeavor, showing us an anonymous, faceless world impervious to our hopes and desires.”

      As for my attempt at an explanation, I think there are perhaps two ways the idea can be read, (these in some respect are actually the different possible levels of interpretation).

      In one sense, reason would ultimately guide its owner away from acting, thinking and being in the world. It could very well lead to the misanthropic position Zizek** recently displayed when he said, “We are all basically evil, egotistical, disgusting.” Reason would program a thoroughly sterile course of existence that would preclude any possibility of encounter, chance or surprise. Any experience of the so-called human condition, “the celebration of what it mean’s to be alive”, valorised in all its myriad forms in art and culture, would no doubt be circumvented for its contaminating irrationality. The “human” subject that employs and develops reason to its logical end would ultimately discover that their “human” existence is non-essential to this task.

      In another sense, reason may end up concluding that human life is unwarranted or undesirable. Reason, as part of a philosophy situated in the natural world inhabited by humans, animals and other living things, may end up concluding that human life is detrimental to nature and other living things and cannot justifiably be continued. Likewise, if reason accepts the premise that pain is itself a bad thing then it may develop an argument along the lines of anti-natalism (David Benatar) and be against the creation of sentient beings. Or, to give it greater contemporaneity, reason may logically conclude that AI is superior to humans and should be given preference, as well as power, over humans.

      I am only speculating, however, so I will leave it there for the time being. I would be interested to hear other interpretations or explanations that may hopefully prove much more illuminating than my amateurish attempt…..

      ** Zizek Interview here: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/dec/10/slavoj-zizek-we-are-all-basically-evil-egotistical-disgusting

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I like your attitude, thanks for your answer.

    You wrote,” In one sense, reason would ultimately guide its owner away from acting, thinking and being in the world. It could very well lead to the misanthropic position”
    This makes a lot of sense. May be Kant was a bit like this? I am not sure.

    Do you understand Kant’s so called Copernican revolution?


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