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Understanding Addiction: Philosophy, Science, Ethics

Course Status

East Baltimore
2nd Term
Berman Institute (Bioethics)
Academic Year
2024 - 2025
Instruction Method
Class Time(s)
Wednesday, 3:30 - 6:20pm
Auditors Allowed
Available to Undergraduate
Grading Restriction
Letter Grade or Pass/Fail
Contact Name
Frequency Schedule
Every Year
- What is addiction? - How does ethics intersect with our theories of addiction and our responses to people who struggle with addiction?
Employs an inter-disciplinary approach to understand the nature of addiction, drawing on philosophy, psychological science, and the perspectives of people who struggle with addiction. Provides an overview of competing models of addiction and evaluates their theoretical foundations and supporting evidence. Explores the heterogeneity of individual-level decision-making in addiction. Distinguishes different ideas of responsibility and how they intersect with addiction research and individual and societal responses to addiction, including drug criminalization. Provides students with the opportunity for in-depth reflection on conceptual and ethical issues surrounding addiction, developing analytic and argumentative skills.
Learning Objectives
Upon successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
  1. Explain the theoretical foundations of different models of addiction and assess the supporting evidence
  2. Identify the multiple factors that impact individual-level decision-making in addiction
  3. Taxonomize ideas of responsibility and evaluate how they interact with addiction research and responses to addiction
  4. Critically evaluate the philosophical-legal foundations for drug criminalization
  5. Deploy conceptual reasoning skills to address complex issues of moral disagreement
Methods of Assessment
This course is evaluated as follows:
  • 10% Participation
  • 30% Midterm Paper
  • 50% Final Paper
  • 10% Reflection
Enrollment Restriction
Priority enrollment given to MBE students. No undergraduates permitted to enroll.