An ethical analysis of alcoholism in light of Aristotle's virtue ethics

Maureen Ann Milligan, Marquette University

Abstract

This work develops an ethical analysis of alcoholism. I apply Aristotle's virtue ethics to a social-psychological interpretation of one kind of alcoholism in order to both enhance our understanding of the phenomenon of alcoholism and to illustrate the pertinence of Aristotle's ethics for enlarging our understanding of contemporary problems such as alcoholism. I argue that alcoholism is not a non-controversial medical disease which mitigates against alcoholics' responsibility for developing it. I do argue that some alcoholics' responsibility for developing alcoholism can be mitigated because they have non-culpably developed dispositions which predispose them to alcoholism, i. e., dispositions which make alcohol consumption appear to the best choice. The first part of the dissertation utilizes research from sociology and alcoholism studies to criticize the notion that alcoholism is a disease and as such, individuals are not responsible for developing it. This part includes discussion of the "Alcohol Movement," the classical disease theory of alcoholism, and research which challenges alcoholic "loss of control." In the second part, I develop an Aristotelian ethical framework, concentrating on character development and the importance of character development and upbringing on the capacity for being virtuous and responsible. Utilizing information and insights from addiction and alcohol studies, object-relations and self-psychological theories of human development (specifically the work of Kohut, Horney, Miller and Winnicott), and the Alcoholics Anonymous literature, I illustrate the ways in which deficiencies in human development can foster the non-culpable development of dispositions which promote the development of alcoholism.

Recommended Citation

Milligan, Maureen Ann, "An ethical analysis of alcoholism in light of Aristotle's virtue ethics" (1991). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9133802.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI9133802

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