Imagine a strange genie offers you the opportunity to no longer crave food, drink, sleep, warmth or sex. Are you be interested? I wouldn’t be – getting things I need and crave seems to be more fun on the whole than getting things I just casually enjoy. There’s a pretty steep diminishing return to the things I listed though, and like many people I have about as much as I want of most of them. So how to make my life much better?
An obvious strategy is to acquire more such strong desires. This is an unpopular path though. If you want to enjoy life more it is common to look for new casually pleasurable activities – make new friends, try a new sport, take your partner on an unusual romantic excursion. If you become too attached to an activity, you are deemed ‘addicted’ though, which is a bad thing. There are activities that are known to make people particularly addicted, and beginning them is seen as a stupid move. But why is addiction so bad?
There is an argument that addictions don’t make you happy – they entrap you in a cycle of endless obsession with no real satisfaction. Remember enjoyment and desire don’t always coincide. But while that’s surely true for some things people become addicted to, if addiction merely entails strong ongoing craving, why should the subjects of such cravings tend to be unpleasant more so than less serious desires?
For these reasons I recently set out to acquire an addiction to coffee, a not particularly dangerous drug. It’s not very strong yet; I do alright without coffee for long periods, but feel relieved and invigorated for having it. So far this seems a great benefit, compared both to casually and unaffectedly drinking coffee and to not drinking coffee at all. However if I say to people that I’m somewhat addicted to coffee they usually express pity. If I say I think it’s a fine arrangement they seem to think I’m silly.
Why is addiction bad, beyond the few specific addictions that aren’t pleasurable or to lead to externalities such as weaponed thievery?