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A theory of addiction founded on classical Greek philosophy

Yates, Albert (2018) A theory of addiction founded on classical Greek philosophy. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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The aim of this thesis is threefold (i) To introduce a theory of addiction founded on an understanding of Classical Greek philosophy, (ii) To increase current understanding of addictive behaviour through an awareness of Classical Greek philosophy, (iii) To become the stimulus for others to study addictive behaviour from the perspective of Classical Greek philosophy. The ancient Greek concepts of akrasia and mania are central to this thesis. Akrasia may be loosely translated as acting against a better judgement, and mania as a disorder of the soul. Personal volition, self-efficacy, desire, appetite, reason and logic, and other areas of human behaviour that have a bearing upon addiction are considered. In the Classical Greek period there was no conception of addiction. For those living at the time, it was a constant struggle to resist the pleasures offered by, for example, food, drink, drugs and sex. Some could not resist these temptations and went on to indulge their appetites to excess. The Classical Greek philosophers, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle characterised such “appetites” as an impairment or defect of the soul. Their work is key to this study. They argued that when appetite rules the soul, as opposed to reason and logic, the soul falls into a state of disorder. A disordered soul has the capacity to turn a good life into a miserable one. An exegetical study of ancient texts reveals that Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle studied in detail the kind of human behaviour that encourages an excessive appetite to develop. An exposition of contemporary theories of addiction, combined with an understanding of Classical Greek philosophy, allows for this research to propose that: Addiction is a disorder of the soul characterised by the excessive use of psychoactive substances, or the excessive involvement in certain non-substance related activities.

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