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From Pathology to Transformation: A Technophilosophy of Addiction

MYLONAS, NIKOLAOS (2023) From Pathology to Transformation: A Technophilosophy of Addiction. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Despite advances in the disciplines of psychology and neuroscience, contemporary addiction theories often provide contradicting perspectives on the phenomenon. The dominant view among the neuroscientific and the medical communities is that addiction is a brain-disease caused by the individual’s chronic exposure to the effects of psychoactive substances. However, critics have challenged the premise that addiction is a disease, while emphasizing the role played by the environment in the genesis of the problem. Although both views have their merits, the persistent dualism ‘individual-environment’ creates a theoretical chasm that often seems unbridgeable. This dissertation seeks to address this problem by introducing a third term in the dualist conceptualisation of addiction. More specifically, I aim to investigate the ways the use and misuse of psychotropic substances and other potentially addictive activities constitute forms of engagement with technical artefacts that mediate the relationship between the individual and the environment. Drawing from Bernard Stiegler’s work, I argue that the evolution of our species was influenced by the use of substances and other potentially addictive behaviours that transformed our mind and body. Through a close reading of Canguilhem’s The Normal and the Pathological (1966) and Stiegler’s symptomatology of contemporary societies, I conceptualise addiction as a case of pathological automation of the psychical apparatus, which is produced by the individual’s engagement with the psychotropic properties of technical artefacts in the context of environmental pressures that make addiction a dominant mode of relating to the world. I then proceed to explore questions of recovery by examining the relationship between autonomy and agency in addiction, the practices of Alcoholics Anonymous as a form of automation of the mind, and the potential of artistic endeavours as technologies of individual and collective recovery. The study concludes with a consideration of the promises and the limitations of a technophilosophy of addiction.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:addiction; substance misuse; Alcoholics Anonymous; bioethics; technology; evolution; social theatre; Bernard Stiegler; Georges Canguilhem; Konstantin Stanislavski;
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Modern Languages and Cultures, School of
Thesis Date:2023
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Mar 2023 09:31

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