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The Future of Punishment$
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Thomas A. Nadelhoffer

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199779208

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199779208.001.0001

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Punishing the Addict: Reflections on Gene Heyman

Punishing the Addict: Reflections on Gene Heyman

(p.233) 11 Punishing the Addict: Reflections on Gene Heyman
The Future of Punishment

Levy Neil

Oxford University Press

Gene Heyman has recently and influentially argued that addiction is a disorder of choice. He amasses a great deal of evidence that addicts respond to incentives to use drugs, in the same way as nonaddicts. This claim generates a puzzle: why are addicts often unresponsive to costs—legal penalties, impairment of relationships, loss of job or health, and so on—which seem sufficient motivation to abstain? The chapter argues that although addicts are responsive to incentives, this responsiveness is patchy. Addicts are relatively insensitive to delayed and uncertain punishments. They are more responsive to rewards than punishments. Addicts can be motivated to change their behavior by incentives, positive and negative. The chapter suggests that the most effective response to addiction may involve the imposition of swift and certain, but relatively light, penalties, coupled with rewards for abstention. The claims put forward here also have a philosophical upshot: they indicate that the common philosophical view that capacities are perfectly general-purpose must be rethought. Negative and positive rewards are not treated alike by the brain, and they are differentially motivating for the addict.

Keywords:   addiction, punishment, choice, control

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