Addictive behaviour constitutes a serious enigma to action and moral philosophy as to theories of rational choice. How is it possible that someone pursues a desire that has been repeatedly experienced and reinforced as contrary to one’s better judgement? According to a general view, addiction stems from the loss of self-control attributed to its increasing undermining by strong cravings. However, in both substance and behavioural addiction, one’s ability to make choices is not entirely impaired. One is able to pursue some intentions, despite of the fact that addiction leads to a derailment from normal life, undermining relations and roles constitutive of identity and agency. Therefore, it seems that self-control is not completely absent but it becomes somehow “errant”, not oriented by an adequate appraisal of the future, and even maintained in order to fulfil what has become an overwhelming need. This has recently been explored as an unbalance between motivational and evaluative assessment, i.e., a particular form of weakness of will.
After determining the specific kind of weakness of will associated with addiction, I will try to understand in what terms can self-control be conceived in order to produce therapeutic outcomes. The case of alcoholic dependence will serve me to illustrate the concurrent forms of self-control subscribed by both sciences and therapies of addiction.