Abstract

This paper explores the relationship between mania, or pathologically elevated mood, and philosophical theories of well-being. A patient, Mr. M., is described who oscillated between periods when he refused medication and periods when he was willing to accept it, and whose desires and life objectives were radically different in his medicated and unmedicated states. The practical dilemmas this raised are explored in terms of the three principal philosophical theories of well-being: hedonism, the desire fulfillment theory, and objectivism. None of these adequately accounted for Mr. M.'s case: hedonism, because pleasure is increased in mildly manic states; desire fulfillment theories, because these suggest that an unending cycle of treatment and nontreatment would be in Mr. M.'s best interests; and objectivism, because, in a form that would be applicable to Mr. M., that theory brings with it substantial risks of paternalism. Four further philosophical approaches are explored briefly—approaches focusing on autonomy, rationality, personal identity, and illness, respectively—but these also provide no straightforward resolution of the clinical dilemmas. It is concluded that philosophical analysis, even if it does not resolve cases like Mr. M.'s, can deepen our understanding of the issues involved in clinical decision making in psychiatry, especially the importance of sensitivity to the patient's wishes and values; and conversely, that mild mania is an important "real life" case against which philosophical theories of well-being can be tested.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3303
Print ISSN
1071-6076
Pages
pp. 165-177
Launched on MUSE
2009-01-01
Open Access
No
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