chapter
8 Pages

Introduction

Bronzino’s painting that forms the frontispiece to this book, and which is sometimes known as Venus and Cupid, Folly and Time, is not in my view defeatist. For, although the immediate is tempting, it is not inevitable. While it reflects stimulus-response reactions to the imperatives of environmental opportunities and threats, inculcated in the course of a long phylogenetic history, the lure of the immediate can be overridden, not only by the learning that occurs during the ontogenetic development of the individual, but also through the contemplation of alternative futures. The painting captures the moment of choice, the unconsummated instant whose outcome is uncertain, at least to the naïve observer. It is this moment with which we are here concerned: the point of decision in which either passion or restraint will prevail, when one course of action, together with its aftermath, will be determined. In inquiring further of this moment, we shall not solve the problem of free will versus determinism, but, by understanding better the cognitive dimension of addiction, we may at least clarify the nature of choice.