Blame Without Punishment for Addicts

Philosophia 50 (1):257-267 (2022)
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On the moral model of addiction, addicts are morally responsible and blameworthy for their addictive behaviours. The model is sometimes resisted on the grounds that blaming addicts is incompatible with treating addiction in a compassionate and non-punitive way. I argue the moral model is consistent with addressing addiction compassionately and non-punitively and better accounts for both the role of addicts’ agency in the recovery process. If an addict is responsible for their addictive behaviours, and that behaviour is in some way bad or wrong, then that addict is blameworthy. If not, then they are not. But, if their addictive behaviour or behaviour which contributes to and perpetuates their condition of addiction, is not bad or wrong, then addiction is not an issue of moral concern. Addicts are blameworthy, but attributions of blame need not be followed by harsh treatment or punishment. Because blame and harsh treatment or punishment can be separated, there is no good reason to reject the moral model of addiction.

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Prabhpal Singh
University of Ottawa


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