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Neuroscience and Legal Responsibility$
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Nicole A. Vincent

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199925605

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199925605.001.0001

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Addiction, Choice, and Disease

Addiction, Choice, and Disease

How Voluntary Is Voluntary Action in Addiction?1

(p.257) 11 Addiction, Choice, and Disease
Neuroscience and Legal Responsibility

Jeanette Kennett

Oxford University Press

Are drug addicts helpless in the face of their addiction, compelled by cravings too strong to resist, as some recent work in the neuroscience of addiction has claimed to establish? Or is drug taking voluntary activity that can be ceased at will? In this chapter I examine Gene Heyman’s recent argument against the disease model and his analysis of addiction in terms of supposedly universal principles of motivation and choice. Despite the many virtues of Heyman’s account I suggest that it does not succeed in ruling out the disease model, even on the assumption that addictive choices are voluntary. I then question that assumption and the account of motivation on which it rests. I argue there are significant involuntary aspects to addiction which could mitigate the responsibility of addicts for their choices and that neuroscientific evidence may help to distinguish addicts whose choices are compelled from those who are capable of responding to ordinary incentives.

Keywords:   addiction, disease, choice, voluntary behaviour, self-control, compulsion, neuroscience, responsibility

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