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Post 40

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - 6:11pmSanction this postReply
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Andy,

On what basis do you assume that those of us who disagree with "addiction is a disease" do not have this experience?  Have you considered the possibility that some of us value our privacy and that of others over providing bona fides to the hyper-empiricists who believe you can know nothing unless you've experienced it?
Nonsense.  The point here is not about experiencing addiction, though that may be a significant part of it.  The point here is that arguments over semantics do nothing to solve the real problems that addicted individuals have.  It's easy to sit back and harp on the importance of volition in the addiction problem-solving process, but the truth is that most addicts require help and strategies to quit their addictions.  In other words, many addicts want to know what works and none of your arguments face that problem constructively.

And what would be the worth of such bona fides tendered over the internet?  Something close to zero, right?  So, we're all back to making arguments that are rational and can be comprehended by anyone without regard to any particular experience.
Yes, but some supposedly rational arguments can be pretty tautological and useless.  The argument over whether addiction is a "disease" or not is a useless verbal one.  The real question is whether the strategies proposed from a paradigm that considers addiction as something requiring treatment are more successful than strategies based on addiction as a simple failure in the exercise in volition in solving behavioral issues related to addiction.  Whether addiction is a "disease" or not is the kind of verbal argument whose implications have to be sketched out for it to be meaningful.

Laj.




Post 41

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - 6:12pmSanction this postReply
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Joe M,
I've noticed the name Jeffery Schaler, who is associated with Szasz, mentioned often in this matter by Andy and Jeff Riggenbach, so it might be helpful to go to the source.
Just to keep the record straight, I have mentioned neither Schaler or Szasz.  My ideas on this subject are my own, born of hard experience and commonsense.  Objectivism affirmed what I had already learned, which encouraged me to study it further.

Andy




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Post 42

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - 6:22pmSanction this postReply
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Laj,
It's easy to sit back and harp on the importance of volition in the addiction problem-solving process, but the truth is that most addicts require help and strategies to quit their addictions.
Context, context, context!  Your complaint holds no water, because no one here is trying to treat any addict through this discussion.  An internet forum is not a rehab center.

Andy




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Post 43

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - 6:30pmSanction this postReply
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Jeff,

All I had done, of course, is remove myself from an environment in which it was easy to obtain cocaine. Similarly, when I lost more than a hundred pounds in 1992-1994, I did it by not keeping any food in the house. If I wanted food, I had to go out and get it. Just putting myself in a situation in which I had to overcome some minor difficulties to get my food made it a whole lot easier for me to resist the temptation to eat. Similarly, moving to a place where I knew no one who might have access to cocaine made it just hard enough to get the stuff that I was able to resist the temptation. That's really all there was to it.

In other words, you put yourself in a situation where you would be unable to make certain choices without going through significant effort. That's what some people put themselves into rehab for, of course, and is the core of what MSK wrote - you used a strategy. Of course, some of us would prefer to focus on the choice to change environments as if that was the most important thing. But I think it is better to put the focus where everyone who has an addiction wants it to be: on strategies for ridding oneself of an addiction of the particular kind one faces.

Yours is just one of many strategies that could fall under the disease/treatment paradigm as well as the volitional paradigm. But the goal here is to answer the question of whether some strategies are more successful that others - after all, you can have all that power to choose but not know what to do with it. And people who focus on volition apart from strategies are fostering the dangerous belief that addictions are like light-switches. Addictions sure as hell are not!

Laj.

(Edited by Abolaji Ogunshola
on 9/21, 4:17am)




Post 44

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - 6:41pmSanction this postReply
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Sorry, Andy, it meant Abolaji. I corrected the post.



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Post 45

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - 6:46pmSanction this postReply
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Andy,

Context, context, context!  Your complaint holds no water, because no one here is trying to treat any addict through this discussion.  An internet forum is not a rehab center.

I'm sorry, but you're obviously on a different page from MSK, who is trying to educate people on the nature of addiction and explain why certain strategies for addressing addictions should be properly reconciled with and incorporated into Objectivism with the goal of actually affecting the lives of addicts and those who deal with them.

Thanks for making the page that you are on clear.

Laj.




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Post 46

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - 7:38pmSanction this postReply
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Joe,

I want to provide a more in-depth response to your post, and thank you for it being so in-depth. Right now, for the moment, I simply want to mention that several of the points you objected to are not in my article, so I must not have stated clearly what I meant for those cases. For instance, you wrote:
Volition is the ability to choose, and suggesting volition is prevented means that either no choices are being made, or that the "addiction" is making the choices for you.
This is an either-or approach that I did not present. I focused on the faculty of volition as a living thing that has its own specific nature (within the context of the whole consciousness). When it is weak (not "prevented" as you stated to get to the "either-or" position, and which I did not say), that does not mean that "addiction" is making choices or that no choices are being made at all. An addiction is a disease, not a person, so it cannot choose anything. What it does mean is that your evaluative capacity based on medium and long term thinking is impaired, so your choices are based on more immediate influences and a complete lack of thinking based on chosen values. I will quote a pertinent passage from the article:
... if a person’s choosing and evaluating mechanism is short-circuited -- then ethics has little bearing on the choices he makes. The choices are simply made at whim. He is literally tossed about by hormones, sudden desires, environment, and whatever pops up at the time. He does not make bad choices. He hardly makes any choices at all. His decision-making capacity is impaired.
This does not mean that the addiction is making his choices. It means that they are being made based on whim - without any ethical considerations to guide them. I never said that he does not make any choices. I stated that choices are made at whim and he hardly makes any choices at all. Maybe I should have qualified that as being choices based on chosen values or ethical thinking.

His choices in this context are responses to impulses and stimuli, not chosen value judgments (for the most part). What needs to be recovered is his capacity to assimilate ethics, not the particular ethics he adopts, which comes later, and once again this is not either-or. It is a spectrum-type thing going from very weak to healthy and strong. For example, that decision to live I made under the bridge was not a choice based on a fully functioning faculty of volition, nor was it based on adopted ethical principles. It was the last recourse of an atrophied will. And the decision was not to give up drugs. The decision was to live. That decision was a rejection of the life of a bum.

OK. We can say I exercised volition and be done with it. But is was not that simple. At that moment, that was the response I gave. At another moment, in a weaker or stronger state, I could have made a completely different decision - accept, put off, evade, ignore the problem, think of something else, any number of things. The fact is that I am not sure that I would have made that same decision to live twice in a row - principally in the debilitated state I was in. So it was not like the exercise of a healthy faculty of volition. I was sick. Mentally sick.

Yes there is moral responsibility too. I do not defend removing moral responsibility from a recovering addict. (Another either-or I do not hold.) Morality is one component and the disease is another. They both operate. This is because of the very nature of the faculty of volition. Morality cannot be excluded from volition, but morality is not medicine and does not exclude illness either. To me, excluding the illness part would be ignoring reality - one that I know from personal experience is a fact. (You recover from illness over time, for instance. Recovering a faculty of volition happens over time in the exact same manner, not from one minute to the next. You do not choose once and you are all better. It is an organic process and involves strengthening what is weak.) I thought I stated that quite clearly in the article, but I will go over it and see where this was vague.

There are many such points you made where your response confuses me more than it explains what differences we have on the actual issues I wrote about. I had the strange feeling that you were writing about someone else's article. (Seriously.) I understand what you say, and I agree with a good deal of it (not all, but most are minor points) in the contexts you give. But many of such contexts were attributed to me and they are not what I was saying. I will try to clarify and write more later (time constraints right now).

Once again, thank you very much for the attention of such a lengthy post. 

Michael

(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 9/20, 7:53pm)




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Post 47

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - 7:41pmSanction this postReply
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Lindsay:

"And let's also avoid the Brandbourne Christian Temperance Union mindset that sniffs around for any opportunity to pronounce the enjoyment of any naughty substance at all an "addiction." Such folk have their own addiction. They're addicted to addiction-mongering. They are miseryholics."

You bet your ass! There's a vinegar-titted & cardigan-buttoning busy-body type out there that equates any little bit of slap & tickle, rational ribaldism or metaphorical marrow-sucking as an affront to their neo-Spartan existence. It's just good old political correctness--that is, the cowardice of not calling it like it is nor enjoying it as you see fit--gone crazy-nuts. A sort of super-Calvinism that has them whacking off under their cassocks in anticipation of a good flogging for their sins. Screw 'em!

Re addiction. Ditto what Lindsay & Joe said. We've all got itches to scratch & sometimes you end up rubbing it raw. No-one's saying it's easy to straighten-up or that it doesn't get weird & creepy but for chrissakes, worst things actually *do* happen at sea. If you beat your addiction then great! But that doesn't necessarily take heroism, just grit.

Ross



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Post 48

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - 11:02pmSanction this postReply
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Joe,

 

I normally hate to do what I am about to do, but your article-length post makes it almost necessary with the time I have available. I am going straight down your article and make comments as your remarks occur (eliminating what is not pertinent).

 

As I stated, I had the impression that what I was saying did not come across. After rereading your post, now I am sure of it. So please accept these comments not as rebuttals, but as clarifications of what I think was misunderstood.

 

First, let's talk about disease. You started off with a definition. “An abnormal condition of an organism or part, especially as a consequence of infection, inherent weakness, or environmental stress, that impairs normal physiological functioning.”

 

Now how does it hold up as a definition? What kind of things get included? I jokingly mentioned to Lindsay that with that definition, homosexuality could be considered a disease.

 

(Start with a small minor-point rebuttal, though.) If human living were only sexual reproduction, then maybe a case could be made for this. But the human being is far more complex and living in a society has made reproduction a non-issue for survival, as opposed to say a primitive tribe, where such a case might be made. Also, the word “impair” in this context does not mean a complete shut-down. If it did, that would not be a fatality, not disease. It simply means not working properly,

 

This definition did not come from me. It is in the dictionary. So it is not my definition. I did adopt it for addiction, however. It served (and serves) admirably for what I am saying. I suppose that if you run over you leg and it becomes crippled because it was crushed, calling it diseased might sound funny, however this state fits in with the definition. I might even think of polishing this definition for future versions of this article.

 

What is important to me is the concept of a living thing not functioning completely according to its nature because it is contaminated, infected or debilitated in some manner. Do you agree with that? Living things functioning according to their inherent nature are healthy. When they are unable to function completely like that, they are diseased (or unhealthy, or whatever you want to call it).

 

That concept is my definition. Not just the words as given. So if other words are needed, I will think on it.

 

The major problem I see is that evasion could count as a disease. I'm not joking here, or trying to twist your words. Your descriptions of addiction actually sound a lot like evasion. (Then you discuss James Taggart.)

 

Before we continue, there is something that needs to be made clear. Atrophy is a special form of debilitation and calling it a disease is maybe forcing things because age can cause atrophy, not just lack of use. A good case in point from Rand’s fiction (so long as we are using her works) is the episode of Peter Keating trying to become a painter and showing his work to Roark. His capacity, artistic judgment, undeveloped talent, whatever you want to call it had atrophied from not being exercised. The implication in that passage was that if he had started painting sooner and had grown, he would have had a chance at becoming a good painter. Now he could not and it was physical. Whether Rand thought this was due to age or age plus not using the capacity is not clear. I would bet on the latter, since her moral judgment would have condemned Keating for not following his dream. What is clear is that this part of Keating’s mind is atrophied to the point that it cannot produce good quality and can no longer develop to do so. That is not a “physical brain only” condition. It is a consciousness condition.

 

About evasion, I did not include this word in my article, but of course an addict evades all over the place. I don’t think I implied the contrary in the article, though. I just did not discuss it, as the focus of the article was the illness of the capacities themselves, not so much how they are used (with evasion, as you correctly state later, being a form of using volition).

 

You then mentioned your article Path of Most Resistance, which I agree with wholeheartedly.

 

However, you make the curious statement:

 

So when you talk about addictions in terms of short term incentives, and long term costs, the problem is that most irrationality is like that.

 

This is where I start to get confused. You see, I never talked about addiction like that. I talked about short term, medium term and long term thinking. I was referring to responding to urges, learning the results of things like hygiene and setting goals or adopting principles or a career and things like that. Not short term incentives and long term costs. That concept certainly does apply to addiction and merits discussion (a great deal of which you have done in your own work), but my discussion of thinking in time frames was not a discussion of value evaluation only (especially not limited to short-term payoffs, although that is important for the identity merge I discussed). There is a level of abstraction, intensity of desires, the state of relative freedom to act (as opposed, say, to a barrage of noise, as I mentioned in my examples, or a state where physical craving is not present) and a host of other considerations needed to be able to think in longer time frames. It is the capacity to deal with all of these things all together that I am discussing. Value appraisal is only one part – and essential part, but only one.

 

So is your definition inadequate? Well, it certainly seems to be. It lumps in conventionally viewed addictions in with all manners of evasion. So then, what is the point of the definition?


 

Sorry. I read and reread this and did not catch your drift. Where did I include evasion as part of the definition of disease, or where did it sneak in? I’m confused.

 

One possible point would be to show that since addiction fits into the definition of disease, it must have the characteristics of that concept. Typically, disease is seen as something outside of your control, not something you can be morally blamed for.


 

I agree with the first part. I get confused (again) with the second. Control is not an issue with disease, not that it is outside. Then the contrary would make sense, that good health is something outside of your control. The concept of control applies to maintaining or nurturing it (health), or fighting it (disease). Control does not apply to the “it” itself. This may seem like hairsplitting, but it is important. The issue is not “to control or not to control.” The issue of control does not apply at all. Sort of like saying that there are no shoes in solar rays. Health/disease is an organic condition. Nothing more.

 

To jump ahead a bit, the exercise of healthy volition requires a great deal of control. The innate ability of volition just is. The debilitation of that innate ability is the focus of my article.

 

But now we get to a crux of where I think you misread me.

 

The reason people normally associate addiction with disease is to prove you are not morally culpable for your continued use/actions by asserting you have no choice in the matter. Or, if you prefer, you're mostly not responsible for your actions. You can blame the addiction, and not yourself.


 

I had no such intent, nor did I even imply that. On the contrary, I discussed using a debilitated capacity to recover. I especially did not elaborate all this to provide an excuse from moral culpability. I sometimes wonder why the either-or with this, anyway. Not just you. The whole free-will versus determinism thing. Where does biology fit in? Do not things have inherent nature also? I used the example of leg in the article. If your leg is sick, diseased, impaired, whatever word you do not find offensive, you need to try to walk on it in order to start walking normally. That is part of getting better. The “try to walk” is free will, so to speak, and the “capacity to walk normally” is determined by the nature of what legs are for.

 

Why is the faculty of volition excluded from this condition? It has an inherent nature. You need to use it in order to strengthen it. And if you can strengthen it, you – or other agents – can weaken it. What is using your faculty of volition? It is making choices based on value judgments (which also are choices).

 

Why is a debilitated capacity to do this ignored so much in these discussions? I think we must use ethics to strengthen it, not deny its limitations, like susceptibility to atrophy. Ethics is a way out of the atrophy. But the capacity to understand and adopt principles has to grow from extremely debilitated (atrophied) to strong over time. So simple principles and short term goals are needed before more complex and long range ones can be attempted. If not, failure is an almost certainty.

 

This brings us to the fundamental problem with this essay, as far as I can see it. You've done nothing to really distinguish your description of addiction with simple evasion and bad choices.


 

Then I did not communicate the organic nature of the mind correctly. I will try to work on that. Before a choice can be made or even evasion practiced, there has to be an organ that does it. This organ is conceptual consciousness inside a living brain. A conceptual consciousness can be thought of as the three components I stated in the article (which all come from pure Ayn Rand). Addiction is the debilitation (if you don’t like the word disease) or atrophy of such faculties.

 

You discuss volition as being impaired by the addiction. That is the significant argument you are making for your view of addiction as a disease. I for one don't think you've made a case for that.

 

Two points here. My concept is that volition is impaired to a degree – not suspended or canceled impaired, sick impaired. Some people will have a light case of it and others will have a fatal case. I remember stating clearly that usually part of the faculty of volition still functions. I get the impression that you are trying to push me towards the extreme end (which would be death, not disease), but this might be an impression.

 

Second point. You mentioned platonic view. This organ that functions volition-wise is a living organism. Right or wrong? Is it alive or not? If it is alive, then it must have the same nature that is common to all life.

 

If you believe that volition works only in ON or OFF modes, that would set it completely outside of all the rest of living things in nature. All things function to varying degrees, depending on the circumstances in which they are found. The working of a faculty of volition depends on several factors, one of which is the input from sense of identity and sense of life. It uses this to make value judgments. The second is the conceptual faculty. It uses this to make other choices based on value judgments. Its ability to do this, once again, is not ON or OFF. Sometimes it is quick and right on, and other times it is sluggish and vague – even when the ideas are the same. There is a whole range of performance here, with terminal disease at one end and good health at the other.

 

Ignoring the biological aspect, and using only ON or OFF is very close to Platonic as I understand him.

 

Volition is the ability to choose, and suggesting volition is prevented means that either no choices are being made, or that the "addiction" is making the choices for you.


 

I commented on this already. It is precisely here where I did not get across to you. You even go on to say:

 

But the way you phrase it means that one's ability to choose actually ceases.


 

Once again. No. It gets weaker from being sick. Not ceases.

 

The disagreements involve whether or not the addict still has control.


 

Here is the control thing popping up again. In the part of addiction that I am trying to address and cure, “control” in this sense is not applicable. I will repeat an example from the article. Did a person with cancer exercise control by going to the doctor, getting medication, etc.? Or is control in this case “willing” the cancer to go away?

 

What makes this a bit confusing is that the faculty of volition must be used in its on cure. The disease cannot be “willed” away. It will stay on, even after a choice to get better has been made and acted on. Thus the faculty of volition is extremely weak (usually), but not completely shut down.

 

You then discuss the standard "addiction is a disease" crowd, which has very little to do with what I am discussing. (They also claim that addiction cannot be cured and I claim it can, depending on which type it is and the severity, as with all diseases.)

 

So the big argument is that the addict is helpless.


 

That is not what I said. But helplessness would depend on several things. Basically it would depend on how advanced the disease is. The average addict is not helpless in my view, but he is sick. There are things he can do, but like with all sick people, he can’t do them as well as when he is healthy. Then you go on to use the “helpless” proposition is if it were on the table for being used as a recovery strategy or way for an addict to have an excuse to go on being addicted (and avoid moral judgment).

 

So, in light of the amount of verbiage expended on this, I need to stress that I do not claim that an addict is helpless, and I don’t think I stated that in the article.

 

I do agree that people use this argument in the manners you state. It’s just that this has nothing to do with the thesis of my article.

 

This debate is fundamentally a philosophical debate on the nature of free will vs. determinism.


 

Here we may have a strong disagreement. There is this debate going on. I think both sides are wrong and both are right, but the mishmash that is made out of addiction is so convoluted that I prefer not even to analyze the schools of thought on this. The free will people usually forget all about biology and the determinism people usually forget all about the conceptual faculty and volition (they like the subconscious, though). They both treat human beings as if they were built only according to their own model.

 

So to sum up. It is not either-or, or, as you brilliantly stated in another article, all or nothing. Moral principles are either-or. The actions in using them are contextual. Addiction is not either-or (free will or determinism / choice or disease). There are many types and degrees, and it involves both morality and illness. The consciousness is a living thing. It can get sick. And it can be used even when it is sick.

 

One essential part you did not discuss was the identity merge with the addictive substance. This contamination, or infection, or whatever you wish to call it is what short-circuits all the rest. (This is more disease-like also than atrophy.) Identity merge is much more important than the whole volition thing in terms of illness. This merge is real. I know from experience, and it is not based on any principle or evasion. It is a bottom-level organic thing for mental events.

 

I hope this makes what I am trying to say clearer. As you can see, I do not fundamentally disagree with you. I am generally just talking about something else.

 

Michael







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Post 49

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 12:45amSanction this postReply
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MSK,

First, I have to ask if you agree with John Newnham's post.  He said "Furthermore, is the thrust of Michaels article really about addiction as a disease? I think not. It is about *one* persons experience and recovery from it with a description of the process."

Did you intend this as just a personal memoir, or were you trying to argue about the nature of addiction?  I assumed the latter, but I'm seeing he got 21 sanctions.  And Jamie Kelly after that got a bunch for complaining that people would address your ideas instead of just offering empathy.  Personally, I would find those comments incredibly insulting towards your article.  Although I have expressed major disagreements with the article, I take it seriously and respect it as a good effort to discuss the topic from an Objectivist perspective.  I'm baffled that people would come to your defense by stating we shouldn't take your ideas seriously, and it was just a sob story. With friends like that....

But then, maybe I misunderstood your intentions with the article?

Now, to the debate.

I can't do these long line by line debates.  It appears the most important question I asked, you didn't understand.

So is your definition inadequate? Well, it certainly seems to be. It lumps in conventionally viewed addictions in with all manners of evasion. So then, what is the point of the definition?

You got confused because I brought up evasion.  I brought up evasion because your definition encompasses it, as I explained before.  I don't care that you got the definition from a book.  That's merely a semantic game.  You can define things anyway you want.  The question is, what do you hope to accomplish?  Your article, and much of this debate, hinges on your attempts to prove that addiction is a disease.  So what's the point?  I explained what the usual point of calling it a disease is...you remove blame from the addict.  What do you gain by pushing for it to be called a disease?  What do you think that would imply?  If you're spending so much time to convince people it's a disease, at least you can clarify what the implication of that would be.  Especially since the mainstream view is that since it's a disease, the addict's free will is overridden.

You dismissed my comments on evasion by saying you didn't discuss in in the article, and yes an addict evades.  You're missing the point here.  I'm suggesting that your argument implies that evasion itself is a disease.  And more importantly, evasion is an addiction.  Do you see why this follows?  I bring this up because if being immoral is considered a disease, the term stops having any real use.  But again, you need to explain what you seek to gain from using the phrase "disease".

Now, as far as free will vs. determinism, there's a question of whether it's all or nothing or what.  Are you talking about strong motivations to choose one way, or the actual impairment of the ability to choose?  The standard disease model of addiction claims that your ability to choose is actually negated.  Since you wrote an article starting with a discussion of addiction as a disease, and then followed it up with a discussion of volition being impaired, it's not a stretch to interpret your words that way.

BTW, in at least one sense, this debate is actually all or nothing.  I don't reject all or nothing dichotomies, as I said even in the article in question.  Some dichotomies are useful, and actually tell you something.  In this case, the question is, are you able to choose or not?  It doesn't matter that you're not good at choosing, or you don't have the guts for it, or it hurts to, or anything else.  It's all or nothing.  Either you have the choice, or no choice is made.  What would a middle ground be?  You make half of the choice?  It's nonsensical. 

So here's the problem.  There are already people arguing addiction is a disease, and volition is impaired.  You claim to disagree with their conclusions (there's no free will, the addiction controls the person, who's helpless against it), and yet you argue along the same lines, using the same biased nomenclature, and argue against people like Andy who is arguing against that disease model.  Why?  Why even discuss disease unless you think it has some implication?  And what implication does it have other than those I've already mentioned?




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Post 50

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 3:11amSanction this postReply
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Maybe I've just missed it, but something I haven't heard people discuss much in this debate is the evidence that alcoholism has a genetic component.  I looked around a bit on Google and found, among other things, this:

Aside from the fact that alcoholism runs in families, there is compelling evidence that alcoholism has a genetic component. For example, identical twins (who have exactly the same genes) are more likely to be similar in having alcohol problems than fraternal twins, who share only half of their genetic material. Likewise, when infant children of alcoholics are adopted by nonalcoholic parents they are still about three times more likely to have an alcohol problem, even though they were raised in a lower risk environment. Such findings suggest that about half the tendency to have an alcohol problem comes from environmental factors, such as growing up in a particular family, and the other half results from genes.
 
(I found this at http://www.familystudies.org/alcoholism&genetics.htm  .)
 
I don't know the precise medical definition of a "disease", but whether or not it's a disease, I think it's true that alcoholics have a physiological condition that they were born with that makes them have the potential to crave alcohol much more strongly than other people.
 
Alcoholics still have free will, but it's just much harder for them to resist alcohol, because the cravings are much worse.  I feel sympathetic to them for their problem, and I would encourage them to try really hard to muster the will power to beat the addiction.
 
I don't think the issue is any more complicated than that.  It doesn't seem like there should need to be all this debate about it.
 
 




Post 51

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 3:43amSanction this postReply
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Well said, Daniel. The ethics of addiction is a study that, as Aristotle would say, we can only hope to hit a bit closer to the mark. There is no clean, mathematical answer to this. We're not gonna hit the bulls-eye.


Serious question for the field:

Which type of person is most likely to understand addiction? -

1) the addict

2) the re-formed addict

3) the never-been-an-addict




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Post 52

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 8:10amSanction this postReply
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Joe,

Thanks once again for the reasoned response. I will go through the points you made.

About John's and Jamie's posts, my relating of past experiences was offered as direct observation of what the thing we are talking about is. It was not meant as a story of heroism or anything of that nature. It was offered because with the present deluge of contradictory writings, opinions, treatments and whatnot, this was the only starting point I could think of to establish a clear idea to base my conclusions on.

I don't find their support insulting, although I do admit that they did not deal with my analysis at all in posting what they did. They merely responded to the accuracy of my description, since it seems to have struck a similar chord in their own minds (and in the minds of those who sanctioned them). That acknowledgment of accuracy is a good thing to me. (I have read a bit of literature on addictions and have not found much in the way of my description.) Still, as you observed, that is merely part of what I wrote about and it would be gratifying to comment on the ideas in themselves.

I don't like to discuss this kind of thing with people like Andy, since he does not examine what you say. He proclaims. He proclaims loudly. He has all the answers already. He is in a debating contest and essentially the issue is not important. Winning the argument is. Well, I also have many answers which I know for a fact to be true, but which are dismissed outright when he posts (and I am seeking for more - what I am doing is a start, not a culmination). He also hijacks threads with constant multiple posts and I find that repugnant. He thinks I am wrong and proclaims that to the four winds, offering the standard free will view of addiction. I know he is dead wrong on several points - especially in what he thinks I am saying, but I can't get through to him long enough for him to listen. He just posts on and on and on - with argument by repetition and dredging up the standard free will fare. There is no give and take of communication. So we essentially have nothing to say to each other and I was using my time unwisely in even addressing him.

The only person so far who disagrees with me, but who is trying to get to the meat of what I am saying is you, for which I am very grateful. (Not even Linz attempted - but off line he has been very supportive.) With the kind of discussion that you are now engaging me with, concepts can get honed and inaccurate ones can become identified. Who knows? Maybe we can get somewhere on this - on both sides. After this last post of yours, I am no longer have the feeling of invisibility that I did at first.

Frankly, I think I am getting a taste (on a very tiny scale) of what Ayn Rand went through with all the public mischaracterizations of her work. It is very frustrating to say something, not be heard, and be condemned (and even supported) for what you did not say. I am not talking about being refuted. I am talking about people not even trying to understand your words.

One thing I am doing is challenging the basic premises of an ongoing issue that is a complete mess in today's society, from what I can see. The problem is there. It is growing. Some other things related to it are too. But no real solution is being found. The traditional stance of Objectivism on addiction is part of the mess (look at its complete lack of effectiveness - just dismissal), but Objectivism has a philosophical framework that can be extremely effective in helping to clean the mess up. When you challenge everybody like that, you step on many toes. So be it.

I agree wholeheartedly about the form of line-by-line debates. I apologize for that form in my last post and, as I stated, it was done because of time constraints. (This issue is so important to me that I a "stealing" time right now.)

I thought I got to the essence of your definition question about lumping addictions with evasions by trying to clarify the concept. I see that this still needs work. So let me state that my view is that evasion is not a disease. Evasion as I understand it, is refusal to think about something. It is an active process, actually a choice - the choice to not think when confronted with an issue.

My discussion is one level below this - a more biological consideration. I am discussing a very limited area of experience where a person can't think. Once again, this is not all or nothing. Thinking is not merely an ON and OFF tap at that level (as I mentioned before). It is an ON and OFF tap at a higher level, but even then, there is a capacity to engage in long term thinking that is not simply turn it on by choice and off by evasion. Thinking exists within a range of complexity going from whim to setting long term goals and understanding complex subjects.

If a faculty of volition ever ceases to make choices, then it it dead. That is in line with the nature of living things. When they completely stop functioning according to their nature, they die. So my discussion and thesis is about degrees, not all or nothing positions. the very term, faculty of volition, implies life and choice. Without those two it does not exist.

A person automatically thinks on a very limited short term level. He has no control over the fact that he has a volitional consciousness, so some things will be done, some concepts integrated and so forth, haphazardly. This is true even of people who train and use their integrative capacity by choice. That is part (not all) of what learning is all about - to put order into the haphazard.

Anyway, you asked what the point of my definition of disease is. I seem to get the gist that you are claiming that defining a disease of consciousness is to sanction evil by taking it outside of the scope of morality.

That is not my point at all. My point - my purpose - and my most heartfelt desire - in defining a disease is to identify the elements of it so that cures can be worked on. If that means using morality, then use it. If it means using a therapy group because a capacity is too weak and debilitated, then use it.

Most people think that addiction is using drugs or alcohol. To me, substance use is merely part of the whole. The really malignant part of addiction is in the identity merge with the substance - the incorrect subconscious identification and acceptance of a substance as an essential survival need.

Once that premise is checked, contested and the new identification maintained for a period of time, then the "disease" is cured. Just checking and contesting the premise is not enough. It will automatically come back of its own accord. That is why specialized treatment is necessary - to get rid of it.

Now where does morality fit in? On the level of breathing, sleeping, and so forth, no one could say that these are moral choices. When someone sleeps could very well be a moral choice. The fact of sleeping as a part of a person's nature is not.

There is an automatic level of thinking where the process is automatic (I mentioned the drive of thirst turning into an emotion, then turning into actively seeking water, i.e. going from the automatic to the conceptual level - so once awareness of the emotion is registered, morality enters - not before, i.e. not at the level of needing water and the body becoming aware of it enough to transform such awareness of the need into an emotion.)

Here is my basic point. There is one part of addiction that is disease. There is another part that is moral. I am not on the side of "the addict can't help himself because he has a disease." My side is that "the addict must help himself because he has a disease and is acting immorally - and he needs help when the disease part is so overpowering that his mind can't function properly."

The crux of a disease of volition is that volition must be used to help defeat it.

You mentioned the phrase "standard disease model." I hope it is starting to get clearer that my concept of disease is anything but that.

So the implications of identifying a disease are not to deny the essential nature of ethics in disciplining a mind. It is not to sanction evil. It is to find a cure so that the mind can chose and function in a standard healthy state. it is a biological consideration. (After all, the mind is a living thing, so it does have a biological nature, not just an "abstract" one.)

One last shot. In addiction, the mental capacities to think of the addict are debilitated - not terminated. He does have some capacities left, which he uses morally or immorally (usually both), and even automatically on very basic levels. He must build on them if he is to get better. Such "building" means removing contamination and growth by strengthening.

The "moral' and "immoral" part of using his debilitated capacities is not the diseased part. That is entirely his responsibility. (That is also probably why the moral issues get much simpler and more basic to a debilitated person.)

Time is running out again. Thank you once again for your remarks. I hope this continues.

Michael




Post 53

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 8:22amSanction this postReply
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4) The guy with the coolest, bravest hairdo. :)

It was still a worthwhile discussion... It's always a crapshoot whether or not the discussion will measure up to the article.

best,
rde




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Post 54

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 2:06pmSanction this postReply
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Michael,
I don't like to discuss this kind of thing with people like Andy ...
Your problem is that you like to play the victim.  Maybe that's why you had addiction problems in the first place.  If so much of your identity weren't wrapped up in the addict-as-victim role, you wouldn't have misinterpreted what I wrote as aggressive, obnoxious, or malicious.  Because you do, my firm statements that an addict has himself to blame for his predicament is taken by you as an assault upon your identity as a victim.  I now understand why you are as quick as lightning to find grievance in what I write.

So let me say something to you that will be as close to a genuine grievance as you'll ever get against me:  You're addicted to being a victim.  That's why you tell everyone here ad nauseum about your "diseases" of alcoholism and drug abuse.  Because of that, the only thing I know about you is that you are a recovering addict.  How could I as a complete stranger to you know this through the impersonal constraints of an internet forum that has next to nothing to do with the subject of addiction except for your perverse - and tedious - desire to expose the intimate details of your life to everyone?

To prevent this post-recovery wallowing in victimhood, I always counsel an addict to stay away from the therapeutic culture.  I let him know that it is OK to put his past behind him and take with him only the hard lessons learned from it.  A recovered addict is allowed to be a normal person again.  He is neither a victim for falling into the abyss of addiction, nor is he a hero for climbing out of it.  He is simply back where he belongs, and no one is entitled to know he had been anywhere else.

Do yourself a favor, Michael, and cut loose from your victimhood.  Either that, or prove I have my head up my ass and go a month without mentioning your past problems with addiction.

Andy




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Post 55

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 3:56pmSanction this postReply
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MSK,

I honestly can't see this going anywhere. After repeated messages, you're not the slightest bit clearer.

You insist on calling it a disease, for no apparent reason, but claim it's important. You say evasion is not a disease, when it fits all of the same criteria. You claim the typical Objectivist position is wrong, but you're unable to specify what's wrong about it. You claim volition is impaired because a person is motivated by emotions, self-identity, etc, even though those are always the case.

Your ability to communicate your ideas is severely hurt by your use of loaded words. 'Disease' does nothing but complicate things. 'Addiction' is a word that can be used for a million things. Some people anthropomorphize it to be what controls you. Some say it's the physical drug dependence (physical withdrawal pains). Some use it to describe the behavior. 'Volition' is the ability to make choices. You use it to describe how well someone makes choices, how clear they are thinking, etc.

All that, and it's still perfectly unclear what you're trying to say about addiction, except that you disagree with the traditional Objectivist position, and you can't even clarify what that disagreement is.

I can't continue trying to figure out what you're trying to say, giving you the benefit of the doubt that you have something to say. I'll just have to leave it with my conclusions.

Repeated drug use (or pick your addiction) is a series of choices. Like most irrational choices, the costs get bigger and bigger, and the quick fix last for less and less time. There is a physical component as well, which makes the choice even more difficult. There are psychological consequences to these repeated irrational choices, which can make it harder. And given anything that's difficult to do, getting help can make it easier. But ultimately, you have to choose, and you have the power to. Suggesting otherwise is a fiction and damaging.

To those who said kind words about my previous post, thank you.





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Post 56

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 3:00pmSanction this postReply
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Andy, your post #54 is remarkably astute. To relate this to the passage from Thomas Szasz I posted earlier (#39), victimhood is the subject of the "internally significant dramatic production" in which MSK "is the star." You want him "to close down this play and leave the stage," but I bet he won't, not even for a month.

JR



Post 57

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 5:54pmSanction this postReply
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Joe,

I have a firm empirical grasp of the problems of addiction, but your philosophical treatment of the issue has been a service to me.  It would be inappropriate for me to discuss my experiences with addicts and addiction, but I thought you'd like to know what you have written will be of use to me in the real world.  Thank you.

Jeff,

Thanks for the thumb's up, but on reflection I'm not so sure I should've posted what I did.  I believe I'm on the mark, but I really don't know Michael.  I'll let the post stand and ask everyone to keep that crucial qualification in mind.  I do think Michael has a good heart, and he has rationalized the repeated staging of his "play" for us by thinking it can be helpful to others.  I don't disregard the benefit of a recovered addict sharing his experience with others.  Michael probably has done some good by telling his story.  The problem comes when the ex-addict needs to share his story or is beaten down by the therapeutic crowd into believing that he must to complete his recovery.

Andy




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Post 58

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 6:01pmSanction this postReply
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I've been reluctant to get involved in this post.  There is more swatting of imaginary flies going on in here than at a party for those addicted to hallucinogenic drugs.  From both sides there has been not much more than, as Walter Kaufmann might put it, "linguistic acrobatics" and a cluster-fuck(as I might put it) of arguing semantics.

Michael is not wallowing in the mire of victimhood, he is basking in the sun of "sense of life".  Yes, he created his own clouds, but he has also danced them away.  He is trying to convey the hard lessons.  He is trying to do it from an objectivist perspective.  I agree that "disease" is an incendiary word, especially here, but have some god-damned sense about you and look at the gist of his article.  Look at the overcoming and what it takes to do so.  Look at what it takes, chemical addiction is real, it's self-inflicted(though genetically augmented in cases), and overcoming it does not merit a pity party, but it does merit a celebration.  It merits a consideration that it(chemical addiction) is real, and though only the individual can make the decision to overcome it, it is much more difficult a decision than choosing what shoes to wear, and it comes at a sometimes excruciating, albeit temporary, physical price.  This is where it transcends ordinary volition.  Does that imply determinism? NO.

Joe-
Repeated drug use (or pick your addiction) is a series of choices. Like most irrational choices, the costs get bigger and bigger, and the quick fix last for less and less time. There is a physical component as well, which makes the choice even more difficult. There are psychological consequences to these repeated irrational choices, which can make it harder. And given anything that's difficult to do, getting help can make it easier. But ultimately, you have to choose, and you have the power to. Suggesting otherwise is a fiction and damaging.
This is a brilliant and succinct summation, but where has Michael said otherwise?

Andy-
As with your forum topic goading Sarah(which damned near ended up being an infinite physical entity), you just have to be the last fucking kid to stick his god-damned tongue out don't you?  Michael is passionate, and even when he wishes to just drop a topic his words chosen for doing so are often going to incite more, but let it be.  Michael has tried to do so, and I've seen before how hard that is for him to do. ;)

With that said, can't we just all go for a drink?





Post 59

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 7:33pmSanction this postReply
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As Hoffer said - there's no believer like a true believer, and those who believe along with one...



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