A Kantian Perspective on Agency in Addiction: Cultivating Freedom

Sarel Ohayon, Natti Ronel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What is the role, if there is any, of our free will in the deterministic experience of being an addict? The acknowledgment of free will has theoretical, practical, and social consequences as well as an impact on those struggling with addiction. This article examines the freewill dynamic of people in active addiction and recovery phases through a Kantian lens, mainly in terms of autonomy and heteronomy, using the 12-step program as a case study. We show that free will and deterministic experience of compulsive use both manifest in addiction and recovery in a dynamic and episodic manner. We also show how heteronomy may be functional in recovery and in cultivating autonomous conduct. In addition to an interpretive grounding, we provide guidelines for the restoration of the individual’s agency by assessing the factors enabling its cultivation in the 12-step program. This process converges into several procedural categories: diffused heteronomy, taking responsibility for the entrustment of will, the liminal stage with its nurture of autonomy and moral identity, and spiritual freedom.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAlcoholism Treatment Quarterly
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Taylor & Francis.


  • Addiction
  • Kantian philosophy
  • autonomy
  • heteronomy
  • spirituality


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