Here was an interesting question posted at Philosophy Forums:
If Alcoholism has been proven to be a mental and physical, diagnosable addiction, and society can come to terms with this and forgive those whom have been diagnosed for wrongdoings brought on by said disease, why are serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer punished by law and forced to suffer consequences? Just like it was proven that there are chemical, physical reactions in your brain that cause Alcoholism, leading to it being diagnosable, there are the same that cause some to become mentally ill enough to become serial killers. Alcoholics never “want” to drink, they “need” to. Like heroin to a junkie, it becomes sustenance. Serial killers don’t kill for fun, in fact motives are often hard to find in the murders they commit. And yet, they are punished for “unforgivable” and “heinous” crimes that they cannot control themselves to prevent. This is the reason serial killers often come off as normal and unassuming, as can be Alcoholics. However, society can come to terms with Alcoholism and even forgive them for their shortcomings. Why is this? Is this because serial killers’ diseases sustenance is illegal? Then why can illegal drug addicts avoid prison by committing to and undergoing treatment? Is it because society needs to draw the line somewhere? Is it because society is too ignorant, or ill prepared to accept this as a fact? Or is it because the acts they commit affect society far too harshly? I’d actually argue against the last in that Alcoholism has affected more people in my family, even ruining lives completely, more than a murder would have.
My answer is basically pragmatic: we can deal with alcoholics in society, but not serial killers. Yes, alcoholics “need” alcohol, but after some training and strict discipline, they eventually won’t consume it. The temptation to drink is still there, but it goes down somewhat. For serial killers, it’s hard to say because we’ve never actually studied that or helped them to not want to be killers.
I also think it’s because alcoholics may want to drink, but they don’t desire that want. In other words, the second-order desire is negative; they don’t want to want the drink. Serial killers, however, may still want to want killing. But do they? I actually don’t know. I’ve never studied this.
So two questions: serial killers enjoy killing. But do they want to get rid of these wants? If so, then I may have to revise my argument. And two, what do you think of this proposed argument above?