This Weekly Research Seminar will commence at 11:30am in room 005, 48/49 Old Elvet, Durham. Refreshments will be available from 11:00am with the talk commencing at 11:30am.

Dr Gerald Moore The Pharmacology of Addiction


A photo from a December 2014 issue of The New Scientist shows an adolescent undergoing treatment at an Internet Addiction Treatment Centre in Beijing, where his diagnosed excess of time spent online is dealt with in much the same way as heroin dependency. The treatments may vary by culture, but the image reflects growing acceptance that we risk pathological attachment to the tools of consumerism.

One of the principal exponents of this line of thought is Bernard Stiegler, a French philosopher of technology preoccupied with the ways in which the biological organism is ‘reinvented’ through the technical objects that make up culture. Arguing that the neurocircuitry of the brain is organised by the tools that condition the physiological body, Stiegler has also been a vociferous critic of our exploitation by consumer technologies that, by seizing hold of our attention and mining the dopamine system, leave us affectively exhausted. His position finds substantial corroboration in an emerging neuroscientific critique of the dominant ‘disease model’ of addiction treatment, which draws on research into brain plasticity and the relation of addiction to social exclusion to reject the identification of dependence with genetic susceptibility and the specific properties of a highly politicized range of narcotics. Stiegler’s account of the construction of desire through technics shares with this new approaches not just a diagnosis, but also a vision for therapy based on creating alternatives to the ‘proletarianizing’, or ‘dislocated’ environments in which addiction takes hold. Underwriting Stiegler’s position is Plato’s theory and logic of the pharmakon, ‘the cure that is also the poison’, first outlined in the Phaedrus. Pharmacology, in this sense, is not a matter of the pharmaceutical and rehab industries, whose mass-production of consumable, commodified treatments risks counterproductively facilitating the indiscriminate disavowal of our underlying symptoms, while simultaneously locking us into ever more restrictive patterns of use. It refers, rather, to the idea that the issues arising from the prevailing technological culture can be mitigated and overturned through the reorganisation of the tools and techniques of entrapment to create ways out of an impasse.


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