Powerlessness and responsibility in twelve step narratives

Mary Jean Walker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Most of us recognize that addiction saps freedom. But we also tend to think that someone saddled with an addiction should and can do something about it. Ever since Aristotle and the ancient Greeks first examined "weakness of will," philosophers have grappled with this dilemma. The very first of the Twelve Steps raises the issue, and our next two essays address it from two quite different perspectives. The Australian philosopher Mary Jean Walker begins by describing the conundrum and then assesses some of the ways commonly used to try to get past it. Eschewing these, she argues that the narrative theory of identity developed by the contemporary philosopher Paul Ricoeur enables us to resolve the dilemma. The fact that Twelve Step practitioners tend to love telling stories gives great credibility to this provocative proposal.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSobering Wisdom
Subtitle of host publicationPhilosophical Explorations of Twelve Step Spirituality
PublisherUniversity of Virginia Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9780813936543
ISBN (Print)9780813936529
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2015

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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