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Appetite, Eros, and Addiction: The Roots of Tyranny in Plato's Republic

Sat, November 9, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Wyndham Philadelphia Hotel, Floor: Lobby Level, Penn


This paper argues that the degenerate manifestation of desire that Socrates describes in the Republic corresponds to the destruction of community in commercial society and the emergence of addiction as a central facet of modernity. This flies in the face of mainstream thinking about addiction which places it on the periphery of human existence—the private behavior of a disordered few. For example, some liberal and libertarian theorists would suggest that addiction is a purely private matter. Those operating from a more utilitarian viewpoint would concede that addiction can be a matter for public concern only as it can affect public health. A more conservative worldview might cast it as a matter for public concern only on moral grounds. All of these views suggest that addiction is a peripheral behavior manifested by a disordered few. But all of these positions are deficient. In fact, as Plato's logic would suggest, addiction is centrally connected the degeneration of political life and the destruction of society.