Lecture 2 of 3. Who we are depends in part on the social world in which we live. In these lectures I look at some consequences for three mental health problems, broadly construed: dementia, addiction, and psychosomatic illness.
Much recent work on addiction has stressed the importance of cues for the triggering of desire. These cues are frequently social. We have a plausible theory of this triggering at the neurophysiological level. But what are the ethical implications? One concerns the authority of desire: maximizing the satisfaction of desires no longer looks like a obvious goal of social policy once we understand the dependence of desires on cues. A second concerns an addict’s responsibility in the face of cues. I suggest that the provision of cues can be thought of as akin to pollution, for which the polluter may bear the primary responsibility. I spell out some of the political implications and ask whether there are good grounds for extending the argument to the cues involved in obesity.