Title

Is Addicted Phenomenology Just Human Phenomenology?

Date

8-11-2021 11:35 AM

Abstract

The phenomenon of addiction precedes, by millennia, our scientific inquiries into its psychological manifestations and neural bases. We did not need psychiatrists to ‘discover’ it; we have long been aware of its dark shadow lurking in our psyches. The discernable, often troubling behaviors of addicts notwithstanding, addiction is not the kind of phenomenon one observes; addiction is experienced, from the first-person perspective. Its defining features are qualitative: a subjective loss of control, an obsession, a compulsion. The overwhelming phenomenological salience of these features—especially of “compulsion”—has led addicts, philosophers, and psychiatrists alike to imagine that addiction is a discrete (phenomenological, natural, psychological) kind. In my research, I argue that addicted phenomenology is different only in degree from ordinary human experience, and not in kind. This conclusion’s major premise derives from our present-best neuropsychological theories of addiction; together, they successfully explain the defining phenomenological features of addiction while applying, mutatis mutandis, to garden-variety experiences of compulsion. I distinguish between essential and contingent features of addicted phenomenology, which allows for ontological clarity around what it is, exactly, we are talking about when we talk about addiction and demonstrates that the identity-criteria of what we call “addiction” are not phenomenally immanent, so to speak, but are external, contextual and—ultimately—contingent.

Biographies

Benji Mahaffey, Philosophy

Benji Mahaffey is a first-generation student majoring in philosophy. His academic background is nontraditional; he graduated high school in 2005, and after a few brief stints in community college, dropped out to work for the next decade. He enrolled at Portland Community College in 2018 after becoming interested in the philosophical and scientific studies of the mind, consciousness, and their connections to the brain. Of particular concern to him are the phenomenal effects of mind-altering drugs on the human mind, the phenomenon of addiction, and the qualitative experience of conscious, nonhuman animals. He is a member of the 2021 McNair Scholars cohort and has maintained a position on the President’s List each term since enrolling. He won scholarships offered by the Portland State Philosophy Department: the Newhall Scholarship and the Tom Seppalainen Award. Benji believes that consciousness will ultimately prove analyzable via the methods of science and hopes to earn a Ph.D. in either philosophy or cognitive science after completing his undergraduate education in order to continue probing the mysteries of the mind.

Dr. Tom Seppalainen, Faculty Mentor, Department of Philosophy

Tom Seppalainen is an Associate Professor at Portland State Philosophy where he teaches Philosophy of Science and Philosophy of Mind. His research interests include philosophy of perception and human empiricism.

Disciplines

Philosophy

Persistent Identifier

https://archives.pdx.edu/ds/psu/36192

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Aug 11th, 11:35 AM

Is Addicted Phenomenology Just Human Phenomenology?

The phenomenon of addiction precedes, by millennia, our scientific inquiries into its psychological manifestations and neural bases. We did not need psychiatrists to ‘discover’ it; we have long been aware of its dark shadow lurking in our psyches. The discernable, often troubling behaviors of addicts notwithstanding, addiction is not the kind of phenomenon one observes; addiction is experienced, from the first-person perspective. Its defining features are qualitative: a subjective loss of control, an obsession, a compulsion. The overwhelming phenomenological salience of these features—especially of “compulsion”—has led addicts, philosophers, and psychiatrists alike to imagine that addiction is a discrete (phenomenological, natural, psychological) kind. In my research, I argue that addicted phenomenology is different only in degree from ordinary human experience, and not in kind. This conclusion’s major premise derives from our present-best neuropsychological theories of addiction; together, they successfully explain the defining phenomenological features of addiction while applying, mutatis mutandis, to garden-variety experiences of compulsion. I distinguish between essential and contingent features of addicted phenomenology, which allows for ontological clarity around what it is, exactly, we are talking about when we talk about addiction and demonstrates that the identity-criteria of what we call “addiction” are not phenomenally immanent, so to speak, but are external, contextual and—ultimately—contingent.