Taking Mentality Seriously: A Philosophical Inquiry Into the Language of Addiction and Recovery

In this paper, I argue that the thought and behavior involved in drug dependence is associated with a certain pre-theoretic conception of the self that finds philosophical expression as a grossly simplified form of materialism. Addicts tend not to take mentality seriously: They do not understand themselves as minded beings capable of self-awareness and development through intentional action. Recognizing the practical implications of accepting this philosophically unconvincing view, I argue, encourages a modification of self-conception that is instrumental to the process of recovery from addiction. Using a combination of philosophical analysis and close reading of a trio of narratives that describe drug dependence and recovery, I pursue the possibility that rehabilitation may involve the clarification and alteration of self-conception in such a way that emphasizes autonomous agency and certain values that have not yet been embraced by twelve-step programs, namely, integration, apprehension, moderation, and self-discipline. The rich and substantial history of analytic–philosophical thought about the self is of immense practical value to people impacted by drug dependence and/or engaged in recovery from it; philosophy offers us a set of investigative tools, terms, and concepts that may help to map the different cognitive routes to successful self-rehabilitation. A philosophical consideration of the use of self-related words and ideas within the context of narratives of addiction and recovery may bear directly and significantly on the improvement of the lives of those persons who struggle to overcome drug dependence.