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The Morality of Alcohol

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nimble
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Well, since it's an ethical dillema, all you have to do is take a look at the values that are being sought after by those consuming an alcoholic drink. Here's some examples:

Ex. 1: Is the person drinking to the point of intoxication as a way of crippling their consciousness and escaping from reality?

Ex. 2: Do they enjoy the taste of different alcoholic beverages with different foods or just by themsleves?

Ex. 3: Are they spending time with some friends after a hard day at work, sharing some drinks, and relaxing?

Obviously, their is no real value being obtained in ex. 1; and since the drinker is sacrificing their mind, I think it's clear that this is an immoral act.

In ex. 2 the person achieves a value (that specific combination of drink and food that appeals to them) and sacrifices nothing. While I'm sure their is an effect on the body of drinking 1 to 2 glasses of wine/beer, the effect on someone's awareness and ability to focus is negligible (unless they are <100 lb's or something). Thus, this is moral.

In ex. 3, the person gains the value of physical relaxation (in addition to the value of their preferred drink), which is certainly appropriate during time spent recreationally, i.e. hanging out and conversing with friends. So long as he does not sacrifice his ability to focus, he has sacrificed nothing, and therefore the act is wholly moral.

As for me, I love beer (especially with good food). It reminds me of coffee in that it seems to have an acquired taste. At first I hated beer, but as I tried different types, I began to realize that I enjoyed it much more than the sugary sodas I had drinken before. As for wine, when I have enough money, I'll start to try it out. :)

Cheers!

Edited by Walker
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I'd say the evidence supporting the good ol' wine claim is still insubstantial.

Most of what I've read in regard to alcohol's (wine, to be specific--NOT beer) beneficial affect on the cardiovascular system implies a may with it. And to put a may against a certainty, such as the affects alcohol has on the brain, is foolish.

Furthermore, as some sources have suggested, the beneficial effects of red wine might be due to anti-oxidants, which other beverages contain as well, such as grape juice--so why not substitute wine for grape juice?

The multitudinous negative affects that have clearly been shown as a result from drinking alcohol, definitely outweigh the mere possible positive cardiovascular affect alcohol seems to illicit in some individuals.

So I opt not to drink.

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Furthermore, as some sources have suggested, the beneficial effects of red wine might be due to anti-oxidants, which other beverages contain as well, such as grape juice--so why not substitute wine for grape juice?

Grape juice does not contain the resveratrol content that red wine does for some reason involved in manufacturing. This is the main antioxidant implicated in the "French Paradox," a possible reason why Europeans have a healthier cardiovascular profile than Americans while eating roughly the same caloric levels and macronutrient ratios and having a similar smoking rate. I'd implicate exercise as the major factor though.

Now, as far as your "may" claim, there are numbers upon numbers of epidemiological studies showing mild consumption of alcohol leads to less cardiovascular problems in those groups.

What do you mean multiple negative effects of alcohol? Most of alcohol's negative effects do not seem to occur in the one glass per day range, infact it's generally positive effects that surface at that dosage.

Red wine has plenty of scientific back up now for both cardiovascular and anti-cancer benefits. Here's some resources:

Goldberg, I. J., Mosca, L., Piano, M. R., Fisher, E. A. (2001, January 23). Wine and your heart [electronic version]. Circulation, 103(3), 472-475. Retrieved September 20, 2003 Full Text

Wu, J. M. & Hsieh, T. C. (2000). Possible role of resveratrol in prevention of prostate carcinogenesis [electronic version]. Cancer Detection and Prevention, 24(Suppl 1). Abstract

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I'd like to know from where you heard that.

I hope your latter statement isn't your only justification of the former.

See Light Drinking Improves Health Risk Factors

It is also a customary western tradition to smoke a cigar when a man becomes a father. I don't recognise such "customs" as having any merit. If you can rationalize having one cigar on that irrational basis, you can rationalize having any amount of cigars at anytime.

You’re misreading me. I did not say that we should drink because it is a Western tradition. Rather I argued that having a drink with friends is a very pleasant experience and for that reason it is “one of the great rites of Western Civilization.”

I'm not sure whether I agree with TomL or not that it is always immoral; that would depend on how profound an effect alcohol has on one's consciousness when drank in moderation, and without actually getting to the stage of being drunk. I can drink a shot of whiskey, for instance, without feeling any different at all. If the effect on consciousness is so negligable as to be unnoticable, and you happen to like the taste of the drink, and you aren't in a situation where the effects of alcohol could be a risk, then there's nothing immoral about it.

Fine. We agree.

Here's a question for you all: suppose there was a drink that tasted just like alcohol, but it had the opposite effects on your brain. That is, it makes you more alert, focused, aware of your surroundings and inner state, and in control. Would it be as immoral to get intoxicated on such a substance, as drinking alcohol? Is the intereference with consciousness always wrong, period? Or is it only when the effects are detrimental to your well-being?

I don’t see how becoming more alert and focused constitutes “interference with consciousness.”

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Getting drunk is not immoral and drinking is not immoral as long as you know what you are doing and what it is doing to you. It is only immoral if you are aware of the effects and know that it will harm you in some way and do it to excess regardless. Have any of you actually been drunk? The only thing drinking really causes (in terms of consciousness) is make you slur when you talk and not have really great motor skills. It doesnt inhibit your rational faculty to the point of sheer stupidity. It doesnt MAKE you do anything you wouldnt normally do, and if anyone tells you it does then they just want an excuse for acting stupid. It is fun to get a little tipsy sometimes, like on New Year's with your friends and you have nothing to do the next day and no obligations, you just want to live it up with your friends, dance like crazy and enjoy the night with champagne or what have you. It's just fun, just like bungee jumping is fun, just like rock climbing is fun, just like parasailing is fun. It's just fun. Now if you get drunk to escape reality, instead of to celebrate, then yes, it is immoral, but please do not make blanket statements like "Drinking is immoral, period." Because most situations are contextual. If you do not do something because you see the effects and decide the pros do not outweigh the cons, fine. But do not try to impose that same idea onto someone else, they may be different from you, they may have a higher tolerance level, they may know how to handle their liquor, whatever. It pains me to see responses like "Drinking alcohol is immoral." because it is not.

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Getting drunk is not immoral and drinking is not immoral as long as you know what you are doing and what it is doing to you.

Does this rule apply to smoking and drugs too?

The only thing drinking really causes (in terms of consciousness) is make you slur when you talk and not have really great motor skills.
Wrong. The effects are diverse among different people. I for instance tend to speak out every thought that occurs to me, and, if very intoxicated, will laugh at things without reason.

It doesnt inhibit your rational faculty to the point of sheer stupidity.

It makes you slow and therefore thinking is more difficult. You can still choose to think, but it will be much more strenuous to do so and you might forget what your thoughts were.

It is fun to get a little tipsy sometimes, like on New Year's with your friends and you have nothing to do the next day and no obligations, you just want to live it up with your friends, dance like crazy and enjoy the night with champagne or what have you.  It's just fun, just like bungee jumping is fun, just like rock climbing is fun, just like parasailing is fun.  It's just fun.

Why is it fun? A sensation isn't an end in itself, and should not be pursued just because it feels nice.

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that would depend on how profound an effect alcohol has on one's consciousness when drank in moderation, and without actually getting to the stage of being drunk. I can drink a shot of whiskey, for instance, without feeling any different at all. If the effect on consciousness is so negligable as to be unnoticable, and you happen to like the taste of the drink, and you aren't in a situation where the effects of alcohol could be a risk, then there's nothing immoral about it.

If you don't notice it even from one drink, then I question your typical state of focus even when not drinking. This is, in fact, the same argument I've heard from many people and it is patently false. You most certainly do get a limitation of focus from even one drink.

If you drink a shot of whiskey and don't notice, then you aren't focusing to your maximum potential to begin with.

The "degree of profoundness" is another variant of "now disease", i.e. the ideal/practical dichotomy. See OPAR Chapter 9.

Here's a question for you all: suppose there was a drink that tasted just like alcohol, but it had the opposite effects on your brain.e to hear what everyone else thinks.

I'll have an opinion when such a thing actually exists in reality.

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Getting drunk is not immoral and drinking is not immoral as long as you know what you are doing and what it is doing to you.

If you know that what it's doing is bad, then to do it is immoral. If you know that alcohol limits your ability to think clearly, and that thinking clearly is the means of living as man qua man, to take action which -may- limit your ability to do so is immoral. Case closed. Everything else on the subject is rationalizing hedonism.

Yes, I've been drunk. I know exactly what it does, even one drink.

I have no desire to have you stop drinking just because I think its immoral. Knock yourself out, its your life. My ideas are still valid, and the only way to defeat my argument is to either say that alcohol does not limit clear thinking (obviously false) or that clear thought is not necessary to live as man qua man. I think that would probably qualify one as an anti-Objectivist, and I'm glad no one here is taking that position.

If you are troubled by my idea, you should ask yourself where the negative emotion is coming from.

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Grape juice does not contain the resveratrol content that red wine does for some reason involved in manufacturing. This is the main antioxidant implicated in the "French Paradox

Here are some sites regarding wine and grape juice.

http://archives.cnn.com/2000/HEALTH/altern...wine.heart.wmd/

http://www.ohiohealth.com/healthreference/...m?category=5171

http://vanderbiltowc.wellsource.com/dh/content.asp?ID=577

"Also, you'd have to drink enough red wine to be legally drunk to get the same anti-clotting capabilities found in purple grape juice."

Regardless, I'm sure we can both find many sites that differ slightly in the statistics and data presented. But the many differing sites have not convinced me that red wine is necessarily better for you than grape juice, especially knowing that wine has alcohol in it, and grape juice doesn't (except for maybe an immeasurable amount--or if you forget to refrigerate it).

What do you mean multiple negative effects of alcohol?

Here are some: Fatty degeneration of the liver, infection of the liver, liver cirrhosis, sleeping disorders, sexual problems, infection of the esophagus, infection of the stomach, infection of the pancreas, premature dementia, varying from a reduction of memory to the serious syndrome of Korsakoff; cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx, intestines and breasts; hypertension and heart problems.

Banana-eater did you read this one? http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full/103/3/472

Point of grammar: to "substitute x for y" means to use "x" in place of "y," not to use "y" in place of "x." So your statement means to use wine where normally one would use grape juice, while I'm sure you meant it the other way around.
lol thanks for pointing that out :)

I won't go as far as saying that drinking moderately, or w/i one's limits, is immoral, as I am afraid of certainties (j/k), but I will say that getting drunk is immoral. Obviously this statement is meant to be read w/ context in mind---that is to say, if ones leg is blown off and he needs to alleviate the pain, then by all means get drunk.

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If you don't notice it even from one drink, then I question your typical state of focus even when not drinking. This is, in fact, the same argument I've heard from many people and it is patently false. You most certainly do get a limitation of focus from even one drink.

If you drink a shot of whiskey and don't notice, then you aren't focusing to your maximum potential to begin

If you drink a shot of whiskey and don't notice, it's probably b/c you have built up a tolerance level for alcohol, or you weigh 500lbs. In either case, your body and mind is being put through something that it doesn't need to be put through.

I won't go as far as saying that drinking moderately, or w/i one's limits, is immoral

Or maybe I will, but I'll have to chew on what Tom and iou has said.

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If you've drank enough to build up a tolerance and you weight 500 lbs, you have far bigger issues than trying to decide if having one drink is immoral.

A built-up tolerance to the effects of alcohol abates off when usage is reduced or eliminated.

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Not an act of volition?  You mean I point a gun at my head in order to force myself take the drug I want to take?

I meant achieving that state of consciousness through the use of your mind, not through the use of the drug. That is, you directly alter your consciousness through volition, not indirectly alter it through means of a drug (whether you took that drug through a choice or by force of a gun is totally irrelevent to my argument).

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If you've drank enough to build up a tolerance and you weight 500 lbs, you have far bigger issues than trying to decide if having one drink is immoral.

A built-up tolerance to the effects of alcohol abates off when usage is reduced or eliminated.

I'll add to this. Even if your tolerance is so high that you can have 12 drinks at a time without catching a buzz, this doesn't aleviate the physical harm you do to your body by drinking that much. Regardless of how quickly you get drunk, you are still doing damage to your liver and dehydrating yourself.

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If you don't notice it even from one drink, then I question your typical state of focus even when not drinking.  This is, in fact, the same argument I've heard from many people and it is patently false.  You most certainly do get a limitation of focus from even one drink.

I don't think it is the state of focus that determines whether I would detect such a change, but rather, where I am focusing. If my attention is on my work, for example, I probably wouldn't notice it. If my attention is turned towards my state of mind, and I examine every nuance of feeling passing through my head, then yes, I do find myself feeling very subtly different.

If you drink a shot of whiskey and don't notice, then you aren't focusing to your maximum potential to begin with.

Could you clarify what you mean by focus. I regard focus to be refering to concentration directed at a particular object or activity. Using your mind to focus on everything at once then would be a wasteful use of one's resources.

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If you drink a shot of whiskey and don't notice, it's probably b/c you have built up a tolerance level for alcohol, or you weigh 500lbs. In either case, your body and mind is being put through something that it doesn't need to be put through.

You're totally wrong on both accounts. I drink very rarely and avoid getting drunk while doing so, and am far from overweight. The rate and severity of drunkenness I experience depends on the substance I'm drinking. I don't feel too different from a shot of whiskey. A glass of wine will make me tispy, and a pint of beer will do even more than that. I am not sure why this is the case, but it probably has something to do with the percentage of alcohol, and how fast it is absorbed into my body.

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I meant achieving that state of consciousness through the use of your mind, not through the use of the drug. That is, you directly alter your consciousness through volition, not indirectly alter it through means of a drug (whether you took that drug through a choice or by force of a gun is totally irrelevent to my argument).

Then "volition" was a poor word choice, for volition is hardly absent from the choice to swallow or inject a drug. But, more importantly, if the goal is increased ability to focus and perform mental tasks, what difference does it make if the higher mental acuity comes by means of sheer will or pharmaceuticals? Since the effect in both cases is presumably heightened consciousness we could hardly say taking a drug to achieve that state is "interference with consciousness." (And all along I have been assuming that there are insignificant side effects to this hypothetical drug.)

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Then "volition" was a poor word choice, for volition is hardly absent from the choice to swallow or inject a drug.  But, more importantly, if the goal is increased ability to focus and perform mental tasks, what difference does it make if the higher mental acuity comes by means of sheer will or pharmaceuticals?

Alertness and focus is not accomplished by "sheer will" but by proper use of one's mind. For instance, if you can't seem to concentrate on an activity, but it is in your self-interest to do it, you need to discover what is preventing you from concentrating. Or, you could pop a pill or drink something that enables you do focus on it without altering your method of thinking.

With the first solution, you learn something about how to use your mind better to deal with reality. With vigilance the solution will be permenant. On the other hand, if you use a drug to achieve that same state of mind, once the drug wears off you are back where you started. You may have completed the task you wanted, but you are mentally as incapable of dealing with that situation as before. You will be harming yourself in the long run by evading the responsibility of controlling your own thinking. You will be impairing your ability to use your mind and interact with reality.

It is no different than achieving your happiness through productive accomplishment, versus injecting heroin. In the most abstract sense, I am asking: why would anyone want to achieve ANY state of consciousness through any means other than their consciousness? If you can't achieve the state of consciousness you desire, there is a reason. Bypassing the problem by means of a drug is like healing skin over dirt.

Since the effect in both cases is presumably heightened consciousness we could hardly say taking a drug to achieve that state is "interference with consciousness."
I don't know what you mean by "heightened consciousness". I said the drug would make you more alert and focused. When I said "interference with consciousness" I meant it in the broadest sense: that is, interfering with your ability to use your mind by means of providing a mental crutch that forces it into a certain state.

(And all along I have been assuming that there are insignificant side effects to this hypothetical drug.)

Insignificant, or not existing; what does it matter in either case?

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Alertness and focus is not accomplished by "sheer will" but by proper use of one's mind. For instance, if you can't seem to concentrate on an activity, but it is in your self-interest to do it, you need to discover what is preventing you from concentrating. Or, you could pop a pill or drink something that enables you do focus on it without altering your method of thinking.

With the first solution, you learn something about how to use your mind better to deal with reality. With vigilance the solution will be permenant. On the other hand, if you use a drug to achieve that same state of mind, once the drug wears off you are back where you started.

You mean we’re not allowed to go back for refills?

You may have completed the task you wanted, but you are mentally as incapable of dealing with that situation as before.

Only if we misplace the phone number of the pharmacy.

You will be harming yourself in the long run by evading the responsibility of controlling your own thinking.

As far as I can see, people who improve their mental acuity with drugs are controlling their own thinking. After all, no one is forcing them to take the drug

You will be impairing your ability to use your mind and interact with reality.

So there is a side effect you haven’t told us about?

It is no different than achieving your happiness through productive accomplishment, versus injecting heroin.

I see. People who take a drug to be productive are as bad as people who shoot smack and lie about all day in a stupor.

In the most abstract sense, I am asking: why would anyone want to achieve ANY state of consciousness through any means other than their consciousness?

If you can't achieve the state of consciousness you desire, there is a reason.

Okay, what’s the reason?

Edited by Tom Robinson
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I still don't understand the argument for never drinking an alcoholic beverage.

These are the grounds I've seen so far:

1. Drinking is harmful to your physical health.

a. It attacks your liver.

b. It can cause you to be overweight

2. Drinking is harmful to your ability to focus, in any quantity:

a. One drink has a noticeable effect on the ability to focus of all people.

b. Since man must keep his mind focused on reality at his 100% potential, drinking, which acts as a detriment to his ability to focus, is immoral.

My thoughts:

Certainly #1 is an issue. First, let's put aside the fact that there is a large body of evidence that drinking small amounts of certain types of alcoholic drinks can have beneficial effects on one's health. Now, I think we can all agree that people who drink in excess expose themselves to the health risks in a. and b. However, I'm going to need to see significant evidence before I buy into the proposal that drinking in small amounts (what we are talking about here) can pose serious health risks.

Now, #2. In the Ayn Rand Lexicon, it states "'Focus' designates a quality of one's mental state, a quality of active alertness." It then goes into depth explaining that being focused is not synonomous with thinking or concentrating. Being focused is a prerequisite to thinking/concentrating.

If it was true that drinking one drink destroyed your ability to focus, that would mean that after one drink, people would not simply be finding it hard to think, they'd be unresponsive to reality (which of course would make drinking immoral). But, I simply have never observed this. I can drink a beer or two (spaced out appropriately) and be 100% fully aware of reality - reality at that time usually being my dining experience or the good conversation that I am having with a buddy of mine.

Since I disagree that any quantity of alcohol lowers one's ability to focus fully, i.e. to remain fully aware of the facts relevant to the context that person is in, I do not agree w/ the "drinking alochol is immoral" argument #2.

Also, given that alcohol does provide value to people (as a tasty beverage, etc.), I find it perfectly moral to drink for the proper purposes.

On a side note, if one could smoke marijuana in small amounts without it acting as a detriment to their ability to focus, and if smoking marijuana wasn't as physically unhealthy as it has proven to be, I'd say that smoking it wasn't immoral. However, I doubt that marijuana can actually be smoked without producing a high (except for stoners, who have built up a tolerance).

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However, I'm going to need to see significant evidence before I buy into the proposal that drinking in small amounts (what we are talking about here) can pose serious health risks.

Same here. I have never seen such evidence, and all of the reading I have done points to beneficial effects in those who have high blood pressure or heart ailments. Contrary to popular belief, though, there is no scientific evidence of benefits for those who have no such conditions.

If it was true that drinking one drink destroyed your ability to focus, that would mean that after one drink, people would not simply be finding it hard to think, they'd be unresponsive to reality (which of course would make drinking immoral).  But, I simply have never observed this.  I can drink a beer or two (spaced out appropriately) and be 100% fully aware of reality - reality at that time usually being my dining experience or the good conversation that I am having with a buddy of mine.

I'm in agreement here as well. It is widely agreed upon by all sorts of medical experts that the average person can have about one drink an hour with no cognitive effects whatsoever (the exact amount per person depends on a number of factors such as body wieght and metabolic rate). On average, it takes about an hour to fully metabolize one serving of alcohol.

Drinking alcohol is not immoral. Intentionally getting drunk is. I'll point straight at Dagny Taggart and Hank Reardan as examples that even Miss Rand's heroes sometimes enjoyed a drink or two. They had wine at dinner together, and celebrated some occasion or another (I can't recall) with a glass of brandy.

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