Understanding addiction: Donald Davidson and the problem of akrasia

Heather, Nick and Segal, Gabriel (2013) Understanding addiction: Donald Davidson and the problem of akrasia. Addiction Research & Theory, 21 (6). pp. 445-452. ISSN 1476-7392

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.3109/16066359.2012.754014


The aims of this article are threefold: (i) to show how the work of American philosopher, Donald Davidson can throw light on the concept of addiction; (ii) to argue thereby that addiction is not a myth; and (iii) to help understand the addicted person's experience of feeling compelled to behave repeatedly in ways she does not want. Addictive behaviour is obviously intentional and this had led some to argue that addiction is a myth. In contrast, we propose that it is possible to see addictive behaviour as intentional while at the same time constructing a meaningful and useful understanding of addiction. The principal way this can be done is by seeing addiction as a class of akratic action, something that has been a topic of philosophical reflection since the ancient Greeks. By illustration, we summarise Davidson's enquiry into how it is logically possible to say that akratic action exists and show that, in accepting that akratic action is logically possible, it may also be possible to understand how someone can continue to carry out an addictive behaviour despite repeated resolutions that they will refrain from doing it. We compare in passing Davidson's account of akrasia with recent behavioural choice theories of addiction. We finish by focussing on Davidson's conclusion at the end of his essay that the akrates cannot understand her own behaviour and by drawing out the possible significance of this for an understanding of addicts' reports of feeling compelled to carry out addictive behaviour.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: An earlier version of the text of this article was presented at a Thematic Meeting of the Kettil Bruun Society, “Addiction: What Is The Added Value Of The Concept Today?” at Conference Hotel Majvik, Espoo, Helsinki, Finland, 14–17 October, 2012. Read More: http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/16066359.2012.754014
Uncontrolled Keywords: addiction, the myth of addiction, compulsion, philosophy, weakness of will, Donald Davidson
Subjects: C800 Psychology
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Psychology
Depositing User: Users 6424 not found.
Date Deposited: 14 Nov 2013 09:48
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2019 17:25
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/14601

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