Self-control is often seen as that which allows us to inhibit acting in accordance with an impulsive desire in order to reach a long-term goal – the “moral muscle”. The phrase was popularized by Roy Baumeister, but it is a prime example of the wide cultural and philosophical understanding of self-control as essential for autonomous moral agency. While there is plenty of evidence to suggest that there is a significant environmental and social component to self-control, in both neuroscience and philosophy, self-control is largely discussed as primarily a trait with a locus in the brain.
The research project brings more detailed attention to the interplay of the neurobiological and environmental factors that contribute to self-control. It aims to do so by studying Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder, since deficit self-control is a key aspect of ADHD. On one hand, findings on ADHD in behavioural genetics demonstrate that ADHD is hereditary and therefore largely (neuro)biological in character. On the other, research in the field of disability studies can shed light into the many ways environmental and social factors influence self-control ability in people diagnosed with ADHD.
This contribution to clarifying the concept of self-control uses the abovementioned existing studies to improve the understanding of self-control as an ability grounded both in the environment and in individual neurobiology. This clarification is useful and direly needed in both empirical and philosophical discussions concerning self-control, and furthermore benefits the philosophical understanding of autonomous agency.
As my first post to our blogging platform, I will endeavour to motivate my research into the constitution of self-control by means of an applied ethical challenge. A central theory within the field of criminology, Gottfredson & Hirschi's General Theory of Crime (described in a 1990 monograph by the same name), posits that difficulties in…