Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice, By Kent Dunnington
Addiction and Virtue
  • Length: 199 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: July 26, 2011
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 3901
  • ISBN: 9780830839018

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What is the nature of addiction? Neither of the two dominant models (disease or choice) adequately accounts for the experience of those who are addicted or of those who are seeking to help them.

In this interdisciplinary work, Kent Dunnington brings the neglected resources of philosophical and theological analysis to bear on the problem of addiction. Drawing on the insights of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, he formulates an alternative to the usual reductionistic models.

Going further, Dunnington maintains that addiction is not just a problem facing individuals. Its pervasiveness sheds prophetic light on our cultural moment. Moving beyond issues of individual treatment, this groundbreaking study also outlines significant implications for ministry within the local church context.

"An intelligent, informed and well-integrated treatment of virtue and addiction that doesn't fall into theological, philosophical or scientific dogma. Dunnington provides a framework that is invaluable for clinicians and researchers in the area of addiction, and for those who strive to live the virtuous life."

William M. Struthers, associate professor of psychology, Wheaton College, and author of Wired for Intimacy

"Kent Dunnington offers a compelling account of addiction as interpreted through the lens of virtue. A strong theological and philosophical foundation helps the reader to see how the good news of Jesus Christ offers a powerful alternative to the habit of addiction. While some within the addiction treatment community will find Dunnington's arguments controversial, others will experience them as a breath of fresh air. Either way, Addiction and Virtue is a worthwhile read!"

Virginia T. Holeman, professor of counseling, Asbury Theological Seminary

"In Addiction and Virtue Kent Dunnington uses Aristotle, Thomas and the philosophically clarified concept of habit to illuminate addiction. The addicts in our midst emerge as 'contemporary prophets' who, if we can but find the ears to hear them, call society as a whole to profound change and the Christian church in particular to renewal. This valuable book points the way, if we are ever to recover from all our junkie-like 'habits' of personal behavior and social interaction, to turn them into truly sustaining habitats for flourishing human life."

Francis F. Seeburger, professor of philosophy, University of Denver

"Addiction and Virtue is one of only a few books which use philosophy to unpack the false dilemma limiting addiction to either disease or willful choice. What's more, Dunnington does this from a Christian theological perspective."

Linda Mercadante, author, Victims Sinners, and professor, The Methodist Theological School in Ohio

"Considerations of addiction as disease are helpful but inadequate. Kent Dunnington shows us that addiction is a habit, more akin to idolatry or wrongful worship. In doing so he deepens our notions of addiction, but also enriches our understandings of sin and redemption. I can't think of a more timely subject, or a more exemplary way to do theological ethics."

Sam Wells, dean of the chapel, Duke University

"Drawing on Aristotle's and Aquinas's accounts of habit, Kent Dunnington has given us an analysis of addiction we have desperately needed. Few are able to combine philosophical analysis with theological insight, but Dunnington has done it in a manner that helps us better understand the nature of addiction and why it is so prevalent in our time. This is a book that needs to be read, not only by those who work in the fields of addictive behaviors but also by philosophers, theologians and pastors. I suspect in a short amount of time, this book will be viewed as something of a classic in the field."

Stanley Hauerwas, Duke Divinity School

"This would be a good read for those of you who want to explore more deeply the true nature of addiction, are unhappy with the disease or choice models as explanations, and, in the face of the limiations of the recovery movement, want to be encouraged by the veritable contributions of Christianity."

Linda S. Parker, Dharma Deepika, July-December 2012

"Addiction and Virtue sets the stage for a new scene in the church, where she is no longer dulled and distracted by a secular vision of happiness, but is a vibrant, attractive, and welcoming community of 'repentant sinners.'"

Paul Warhurst, Themelios 37.1

"Dunnington's work neither demonizes the addicted person nor excuses the abuse of alcohol and drugs. But it points the way toward compassion for the individual, transformation of the culture (including the church), and recovery through the fullness of the Christian gospel."

Amy Julia Becker, Christianity Today, September 2011



1 Addiction and Disease--Science, Philosophy, and Theology
Defining Addiction Neurologically
Assessing Risk Genetically
Treating Addiction Medically
Science, Philosophy, and Theology

2 Addiction and Incontinence--Resources in Aristotle
The Paradox of Addiction
Addiction and Incontinence
Sources of Incontinence

3 Addiction and Habit--Resources in Aquinas
Aquinas on Habit
Habit as a Mediating Category
Kinds and Causes of Habit
Addiction as Habit

4 Addiction and Intemperance--Sensory Pleasures and Moral Goods
Complex Habits
Addiction and Intemperance

5 Addiction and Modernity--The Addict as Unwitting Prophet
Aristotle on Habit and Happiness
Modern Arbitrariness
Modern Boredom
Modern Loneliness

6 Addiction and Sin--Testing an Ancient Doctrine
Sins, Sin, and Original Sin
Sin, Addiction, and Voluntarism
Sin as a Religious Category

7 Addiction and Worship--Caritas and Its Counterfeits
Immanence and Transcendence
Aquinas on Charity
Addiction and Charity
Addiction as a Way of Life

8 Addiction and the Church?The Gospel and the Hope of Recovery
Addiction and Worship
The Church and the Hope of Recovery
Recovery and Friendship
Addiction as Prophetic Challenge



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Kent Dunnington

Kent Dunnington is associate professor of philosophy at Biola University. He holds a PhD in philosophy from Texas A&M and an MTS in theology from Duke University.