Addiction has been moralized, medicalized, politicized, and criminalized. And, of course, many of us are addicts, have been addicts or have been close to addicts. Addiction runs very hot as a theme.
Part of what makes addiction so compelling is that it forms a kind of conceptual/political crossroads for thinking about human nature. After all, to make sense of addiction we need to make sense of what it is to be an agent who acts, with values, in the face of consequences, under pressure, with compulsion, out of need and desire. One needs a whole philosophy to understand addiction.
Today I want to respond to readers who were outraged by my willingness even to question whether addiction is a disease of the brain.
Let us first ask: what makes something — a substance or an activity — addictive? Is there a property shared by all the things to which we can get addicted?