Depression, Ataraxia, and the Puzzle of the Pig

29 October 2020, 2.00 PM - 29 October 2020, 3.30 PM

Dr Lea Salje, University of Leeds


The puzzle of the pig is about the value of affective, or ‘feeling’ states. One way of putting it asks: what would be the impact of eliminating, or anyway substantially reducing, our affective states? In this talk I consider two conditions that seem to play out the answer to this question in very different ways. First, the clinical disorder of depression, that classically presents as a sustained state of blunted affect.

Depression might lead us to think that reduced affect is a bad thing; something valuable is plainly lost. The second is the Epicurean state of ataraxia, in which reduced affect is taken to be the key component of a tranquil mind. Ataraxia might lead us to think that reduced affect is a good thing; something valuable is gained.

Together they make up our puzzle - how can the state of reduced affect seem so horrifying in one case and yet so appealing in the other? This talk develops a (pig-involving) answer to this puzzle. 

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