Good evolutionary reasons: Darwinian psychiatry and women's depression

Philosophical Psychology 14 (3):327 – 338 (2001)
Abstract
The language of evolutionary biology and psychology is built on concepts applicable in the first instance to individual strategic rationality but extended to the level of genetic explanation. Current discussions of mental disorders as evolutionary adaptations would apply that extended language back to the individual level, with potentially problematic moral/political implications as well as possibilities of confusion. This paper focuses on one particularly problematic area: the explanation of women's greater tendency to depression. The suggestion that there are "good evolutionary reasons" for depression makes sense, and might be helpful to note in therapy, as implying that the tendency is not a defect. However, evolutionary adaptiveness should not be confused with individual or psychological adaptiveness. Besides making reference to an earlier environment, it presupposes a strategic standpoint that may not accord with the legitimate interests of the individual, as this example makes vivid.
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