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date: 19 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Variation in addiction suggests that a good definition will be précising: it should serve a purpose. The authors canvass the various purposes served by a definition of addiction in psychiatric, social, legal, economic, interpersonal and scientific contexts. They argue that addiction is a strong and habitual want that significantly reduces control and leads to significant harm. What counts as significant varies relative to purpose and context. The authors offer a basic account of the nature of control and how and why it can be reduced. The chapter explores the nature of harm and why it is part of the definition. And it concludes by suggesting that progress in understanding addiction depends on bearing in mind the various purposes and contexts of enquiry, together with the common-sense but often neglected point that both control and harm come in degrees.

Keywords: addiction, definition, mental illness, disease, appetite, wanting, liking, control, willpower, harm

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