Obsessive-compulsive disorder and recalcitrant emotion: relocating the seat of irrationality

Philosophical Psychology 37 (3):658-683 (2024)
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It is widely agreed that obsessive-compulsive disorder involves irrationality. But where in the complex of states and processes that constitutes OCD should this irrationality be located? A pervasive assumption in both the psychiatric and philosophical literature is that the seat of irrationality is located in the obsessive thoughts characteristic of OCD. Building on a puzzle about insight into OCD (Taylor 2022), we challenge this pervasive assumption, and argue instead that the irrationality of OCD is located in the emotions that are characteristic of OCD, such as anxiety or fear. In particular, we propose to understand the irrationality of OCD as a matter of harboring recalcitrant emotions. We argue that this account not only solves the puzzle about insight, but also makes better sense of how OCD sufferers experience and describe their condition and helps explain some otherwise puzzling features of compulsive behavior.

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Author Profiles

Somogy Varga
Aarhus University

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