Addiction and Agency

In Matt King & Joshua May (eds.), Agency in Mental Disorder: Philosophical Dimensions. Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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Addicts are often portrayed as compelled by their addiction and thus as a paradigm of unfree action and mitigated blame. This chapter argues that our best scientific theories of addiction reveal that, psychologically, addicts are not categorically different from non-addicts. There is no pairing of contemporary accounts of addiction and of prominent theories of moral responsibility that can justify our intuitions about the mitigation of addicts but not non-addicts. Two conclusions are advanced. First, we should either treat addicts as we normally treat non-addicts (as fully culpable) or embrace the skeptical conclusion that everyone is less responsible than we thought—perhaps not responsible at all. Second, we should be doubtful that theorizing about responsibility will be advanced by focusing on particular kinds of psychopathologies.

Author Profiles

Justin Clarke-Doane
Columbia University
Kathryn Tabb
Bard College


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