Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE)

Reader 1

Paul Hurley

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.


The word ‘addiction’ has been receding from official vocabularies, replaced most often by ‘substance abuse’. Despite this, the term remains common in colloquial speech and has increasingly spread to describe excessive consumption not only of substances but of the Internet, clothing, and slot machines, to name just a few. What do we mean when we speak of addiction? Most often it is invoked as a defense against accountability, a fact at odds with the massive resources devoted to the criminalization of drug use in the United States. Treating ‘addicts’ as fully responsible for their actions seems unfair, but so does imaging them to have no role in their predicament. This paper seeks to explore how two authors — Gary Watson and Gerda Reith — have rejected the notion of addiction as irresistible compulsion. The result is that a reliable methodology of determining individual accountability seems implausible and so, drawing on Aristotle, I propose that we redirect our efforts, resources, and mindsets with regard to treating addiction.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.