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Will Godfrey Will Godfrey

What’s the Relationship Between Addiction and Choice?


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If, like me, you sometimes struggle to get your head around the apparent contradiction that although being addicted isn’t a choice, addicted people do still retain free will, this piece by Vaughan Bell might help. It’s well worth reading in full, but here’s the crux of his explanation:

“Addiction has a massive effect on people’s choices but not so much by altering the control of actions but by changing the value and consequences of those actions. If that’s not clear, try thinking of it like this. You probably have full mechanical control over your speech: you can talk when you want and you can stay silent when you want. Most people would say you have free will to speak or to not speak. But try not speaking for a month and see what the consequences are. Strained relationship? Lost job maybe? Friends who ditch you? You are free to choose your actions but you are not free to choose your outcomes.”