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.