Particeps Criminis: Postmodernity’s Role in Addiction, Part I


Some time ago, I attended an AA meeting where a woman was, in quotidian form, exalting the “virtue” of surrendering, pointing to Appomattox as an example to be emulated. As she was speaking, my mind’s eye took me to Gettysburg, Little Round Top more specifically, where Union soldiers victoriously held the lines in one of the bloodiest and most hotly contested battles of the Civil War. With a moment’s reflection, it became clear that Appomattox was about victory, not surrender. It was about an intellectual commitment, on the part of many, to the objective truth that one man cannot justly own another, to the idea that we all have an intrinsic value.

I don’t believe battles are best won and struggles best overcome through constant appeals to defeatist and disempowering language, especially that which denigrates the role of reason in human florishing. Over the years, my “program” has, rather, been characterized by turning to the Humanities (Philosophy, Ethics, Music, Art, Literature, History, Film, etc.) for empowerment and inspiration. That is, I chase such meaningfulness in the Humanities, the contents of which matter – it’s where the Good, the True, and the Beautiful unfold to inspire me on what to do next or heal my soul. It’s the reason I embrace a modified form of Logotherapy that markedly differs from that of its progenitor (and holocaust survivor) Viktor Frankl. In a previous blog article titled On the Philosophy of Recovery: Reason, Meaning, and Logotherapy, I argued that while Frankl pointed us in the right direction by urging us to pursue meaningfulness for mental health, he most unfortunately deviated from the historical context of “Logos” and imported into his program the more academically fashionable fideism, anti-rationalism, and postmodern synthesis. Let us first review the derivation of the word “Logos” as described by William Dembski:

“Logos for them was a much broader concept. Consider the following meanings ascribed to logos in Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English lexicon: speech, reason, deliberation, evidence, inquiry, proportion, calculation, etc. Logos was, for the ancient Greeks, an intensely rich notion spanning the entire life of the mind.”

From any historical angle, logos was not to be understood as divorced from rationality and was decidedly inclusive of moral reflection.  Yet, Frankl states: “Logotherapy is neither teaching nor preaching. It is as far removed from logical reasoning as it is from moral exhortation.” (Man’s Search For Meaning, p110).  Ironically, it was this same separation between morality and rationality that made Nazism possible. Frankl became of a victim of his own core philosophy in another great war some eighty years after the Civil War. Here, in World War II, the war was won on the battlefield but in the aftermath, the ideas worth dying for endured a subterranean attack by Postmodernity. Hadley Arkes explains:

“After all the affectation, and the springing of new words (“postmodernism”, “deconstruction”)….There is nothing in the current scene that had not been prefigured quite precisely by Leo Strauss after the Second World War, when it was evident that the ethic of “social science” was taking hold in American universities and bringing with it the premises of relativism. There was the distinction, most notably between “facts” and “values”: the insistence that we can have no rational knowledge of right and wrong as we can have about empirical “facts”. We would speak then of value judgements in place of moral understandings: statements about morality were irreducibly personal and subjective, cut off from truth and falsity. With premises of that kind in place, it was but a short step to add the further refinements of relativism and historicism. The doctrines with an edge seemed to emanate in the main from Nietzsche, Weber, Heidegger, and the early Wittgenstein. They came, curiously, from German Philosophy. Strauss remarked then, in Natural Right and History (1953) that “this would not be the first time that a nation, defeated on the battlefield has deprived of its conquerors of the most sublime fruit of victory by imposing on them the yoke of its own thought”.

My efforts in this series of blog posts are several fold: 1) I hope to explain what postmodernity is for those who do not have formal training in Philosophy 2) Describe by example and in plain language why the postmodern synthesis runs into a logical cul-de-sac and falsifies itself. 3) Describe how postmodernity has saturated the recovery community and therapeutic interventions for addiction (i.e. the Biopsychosocial Model, CBT, etc.) thereby harming the addict 4) Suggest that we ought, rather, to embrace evidentialism, method, rationalism, and correspondence theory, and eschew those theoretical constructs which deny Libertarian Agency and 5) suggest that the understanding of Logotherapy offered here is supported by the arguments of Harvard Psychiatrist Nassir Ghaemi in his work titled The Rise and Fall of the Biopsychosocial Model.

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