A Liberal Account of Addiction


Philosophers and psychologists have been attracted to two differing accounts of addictive motivation. In this paper, we investigate these two accounts and challenge their mutual claim that addictions compromise a person's self-control. First, we identify some incompatibilities between this claim of reduced self-control and the available evidence from various disciplines. A critical assessment of the evidence weakens the empirical argument for reduced autonomy. Second, we identify sources of unwarranted normative bias in the popular theories of addiction that introduce systematic errors in interpreting the evidence. By eliminating these errors, we are able to generate a minimal, but correct account, of addiction that presumes addicts to be autonomous in their addictive behavior, absent further evidence to the contrary. Finally, we explore some of the implications of this minimal, correct view.