The paper stages a conversation between Eastern monastic spirituality and the contemporary neurophenomenology of depression. The claim is that, much as the heart once functioned as a symbol for the structured core of the human being, the brain has now come to act as a symbol around which imaginative visions of human nature are pooling. The paper consists of three parts. The first part discusses Peter Kramer’s defense of depression as a neurobiological disease and his vision of “neuroresilience.” The second part discusses the interaction between the symbol of the heart and an early monastic analogue of depression, the sin of acedia (later known as «sloth»). The third part asks whether recent work on the neurophenomenology of depression might make room for a revival of the symbolism of the heart and with it, aspects of depressive experience that are occluded by the biomedical model.

Joshua Connor

University of Chicago