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The Morality of Alcohol

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In my country, we have a popular drink that has more than 80% alcohol content (I'm serious). I wager that this one is inherently immoral to take?
Woof. Have you seen a reputable verification of that? What I know about changaa is that it's in the ordinary realm, up to 50+%, but it also often contains large amounts of methanol.
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In my country, we have a popular drink that has more than 80% alcohol content (I'm serious). I wager that this one is inherently immoral to take?

In what sort of quantity is this drink supposed to be consumed? Are the people who drink it usually blitzed after just one drink?

While I don't know that they are inherently immoral to take, I rather doubt that there are a whole lot of moral people out there who more than once consume Thunderbird and certain other delightful beverages.

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They - notice i did not say 'we' [coughs] - take it in considerably high amounts. What they do before they get drunk is to put their home address in their shirt pocket, so that someone could take them home when they become, er - what's the word? - unconscious!

And of course there is no free lunch even there, so they always leave some money at home with someone (wife or child) to pay this 'cab' 'driver'.

I am talking about very, very poor communities in my country, by the way, so the 'cab' is actually a wheelbarrow!

[if some people drink to forget their problems, i think it's probably logical that we (Africans) have invented the highest alcohol content drinks in the world! - (is that quotable quote or what?)]

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I am talking about very, very poor communities in my country, by the way, so the 'cab' is actually a wheelbarrow!

[if some people drink to forget their problems, i think it's probably logical that we (Africans) have invented the highest alcohol content drinks in the world! - (is that quotable quote or what?)]

Yikes! That's horrible. Question: does the typical person in such communities have at least some measure of freedom and opportunity to make a better life for himself if he chose to do so? Or are such opportunities so scarce that a person without money, education or political pull is pretty much doomed to poverty and misery no matter how ambitious or moral he might be? What sort of other things can be purchased there for roughly the same amount as the cost of getting thusly blitzed? How much in the way of things such as food, rent or clothing would that amount typically buy?

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...?

Sorry i never answered your questions above (it's never nice for a forum to end with a question mark!).

The people in our poorest communities have indeed very little freedom and opportunity to improve their lives. Of course objectively, one might be able to see opportunities that they can't see, but that might be because one has had more opportunity to use one's mind more creatively - due to better education, exposure, etc? The only solution for Africa, really, is very, very, very radical capitalism - the type that has never been tried anywhere.

As for the price of the alcoholic drink? Dead cheap. So no - you can't even tell them they could have done something more useful with that money, or invested in something. it's very cheap because it does not require some rare skills, good organisation or imported raw materials to make it.

Are they therefore just doomed "no matter how ambitious..."?

Basically, yes.

*

(Apologies to the Admins - the discussion no longer sounds connected to the original question.)

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  • 1 month later...

[Moderator's note: The following have been merged into this thread. Their original thread was this one.]

First of all, I don't think any Objectivist has properly proven that the use of alcohol is either good or bad. Therefore, I do not think that you can judge her based on her use of alcohol until you prove that the use of alcohol is immoral (which it certainly cannot be since many of Rand's characters use alcohol throught her novels).

Am I wrong?

Edited by softwareNerd
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Well, there is using alcohol and there is using alcohol. Having a drink once in a while is way different from getting so drunk you can't walk anymore on a regulary basis :worry:

This is true, but I have yet to see an Objectivist validate the use of alcohol as either good or evil. And if we live in a world of absolutes, then if having massive amounts of alcohol is an immoral act, then having a minimal amount of alocohol would also be an immoral act.

Until he validates the us of alcohol as either good or evil - which would most likely require a logical proof, I do not think that he can judge her based on that topic alone.

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This is true, but I have yet to see an Objectivist validate the use of alcohol as either good or evil. And if we live in a world of absolutes, then if having massive amounts of alcohol is an immoral act, then having a minimal amount of alocohol would also be an immoral act.

Until he validates the us of alcohol as either good or evil - which would most likely require a logical proof, I do not think that he can judge her based on that topic alone.

I am not saying that alcohol itself is immoral as an absolute, I think the intent is also very important. I don't see the contradiction in saying that drinking a few drinks for relaxation is okay, while trying to sabotage your rational faculty by drinking way too much is wrong. It's dependant upon the context, and that part is very different in both scenarios.

Perhaps we should move this to the other thread, though :worry:

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This is true, but I have yet to see an Objectivist validate the use of alcohol as either good or evil. And if we live in a world of absolutes, then if having massive amounts of alcohol is an immoral act, then having a minimal amount of alocohol would also be an immoral act.

I would disagree with this (the absolute thing). Eating chocolate is not necessarily irrational or immoral, but stuffing myself with pound upon pound until I am phsically ill and can no longer stand the sight of it is. Alcohol is no different fundamentally than any other food or beverage. True, it has a certain effect on the body, but so do many other foods, and as peoplehave noted, the effect of alcohol is similar to things that are in fact unrelated to food, such as lack of sleep. I think the bottom line is that it is possible to use alcohol both in a rational and an irrational manner. The important considerations are the pleasure one derives from it, the impetus behind the pleasure, and the detrimental effects of the drinking. It's a cost/benefit analysis, and not one that I think can be declared always good or always bad.

In retrospect, I agree with the first sentence of yours I quoted- like a ham sanwich, or more relevantly, coffee, alcohol is neither inherently good nor inherently bad. It is the manner and purpoe of the use that determines the morality.

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I would disagree with this (the absolute thing). Eating chocolate is not necessarily irrational or immoral, but stuffing myself with pound upon pound until I am phsically ill and can no longer stand the sight of it is. Alcohol is no different fundamentally than any other food or beverage. True, it has a certain effect on the body, but so do many other foods, and as peoplehave noted, the effect of alcohol is similar to things that are in fact unrelated to food, such as lack of sleep. I think the bottom line is that it is possible to use alcohol both in a rational and an irrational manner. The important considerations are the pleasure one derives from it, the impetus behind the pleasure, and the detrimental effects of the drinking. It's a cost/benefit analysis, and not one that I think can be declared always good or always bad.

In retrospect, I agree with the first sentence of yours I quoted- like a ham sanwich, or more relevantly, coffee, alcohol is neither inherently good nor inherently bad. It is the manner and purpoe of the use that determines the morality.

I agree wholeheartedly with this.

Student, would someone becoming very drunk on a regular basis really not bother you, especially if you were in a relationship with them? I don't see how it could be a value, in any way, and I have a lot of difficulty viewing it as anything other than a very bad thing. It may not nullify all the good in a person, but it does signify that something is wrong with them, if they seek to escape the responsibilities of thinking in such a way on a regular basis.

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I have yet to see an Objectivist validate the use of alcohol as either good or evil. And if we live in a world of absolutes, then if having massive amounts of alcohol is an immoral act, then having a minimal amount of alocohol would also be an immoral act.

There is no such thing as "validat[ing] the use of alcohol as either good or evil," for the same reason that there's no such thing as establishing whether the use of physical force is good or evil. One could conceivably consume alcohol for moral or immoral reasons — just as one could use a firearm to commit a robbery, or to defend one's life against an attacker.

When evaluating human behavior, one must always look to why a particular person chose to perform a particular action, at some particular moment in time. Was the person acting in a manner consistent with his life and well-being — or in blind disregard of it? Do his actions make sense, given the circumstances under which he was acting? Did he know what he was doing? Did he seek to understand the meaning and consequences of his actions? (And if not, does he have a policy of thinking and seeking to understand generally?)

Morality is always a matter of basic principles and context, not concrete-bound rules or commandments.

Granted, it's hard to imagine any legitimate reason for a person ever wanting to become "wasted." But just because a certain action is almost always immoral, it doesn't mean that a smaller degree of that same action is also wrong, albeit to a lesser extent.

(Freshly-squeezed orange juice, generally speaking, is extremely nutritious and life-serving. Trying to chug down a gallon of it in one sitting, though, could kill you.)

To put it another way: We do live in a world of absolutes — but not intrinsic moral values.

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This is true, but I have yet to see an Objectivist validate the use of alcohol as either good or evil. And if we live in a world of absolutes, then if having massive amounts of alcohol is an immoral act, then having a minimal amount of alocohol would also be an immoral act.

We do indeed have moral values that are absolutes--contextually. One of the fundamental characteristics of Objectivism is that in epistemology as well as morality, conclusions should be arrived at objectively, not intrinsically. To say that alcohol is immoral or moral would be implying an intrinsic quality to the entity, apart from any individual. But morality is not a quality apart from us, it arises through us, and is therefore personal for each individual. The "contextual" part that you may have left out in your post is the effect of the amount of alcohol on the individual.

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  • 4 months later...

(Mod's note: Merged with earlier thread. sN)

I am pretty sure that Objectivism frowns upon drug use. But I am confused about alcohol consumption. At various times in Atlas Shrugged, heros and heroines drink in celebration. Yet, it is an evil motive of Lillian to see her husband, Hank, very intoxicated. Does one always have to limit their consumption so that their mind is clear and that reality is not left? Is alcohol only appropriate in celebration (in a similar way that parties are only for people that have something to celebrate)?

Edited by softwareNerd
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I am pretty sure that Objectivism frowns upon drug use. But I am confused about alcohol consumption.

Why is it important to make a moral distinction between "drug use" and "alcohol consumption" (aside from the current legal issues)? I've always considered alcohol consumption just another form of drug use.

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Alchohol, when consumed responsibly, does no damage to the consumer; it also does not put others at risk.

Drugs, on the other hand, like cocaine, do permanent damage and can cause death even in very small amounts. Also, a small amount of alchohol will not significanlty impair one's faculties.

Alchohol use is absolutely wrong within a certain context and morally neutral within another context.

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Alchohol, when consumed responsibly, does no damage to the consumer; it also does not put others at risk.

Drugs, on the other hand, like cocaine, do permanent damage and can cause death even in very small amounts. Also, a small amount of alchohol will not significanlty impair one's faculties.

Alchohol use is absolutely wrong within a certain context and morally neutral within another context.

Laszlo, Alcohol is actually a drug. Any drug when "consumed responsibly" will likely not put others at risk. The problem is that alcohol, like many drugs is often abused and that abuse is dangerous to the user as well as others. There really is no principled way to explain why alcohol is legal and other drugs like marijuana are not.

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Alchohol, when consumed responsibly, does no damage to the consumer; it also does not put others at risk.

Drugs, on the other hand, like cocaine, do permanent damage and can cause death even in very small amounts. Also, a small amount of alchohol will not significanlty impair one's faculties.

Alchohol use is absolutely wrong within a certain context and morally neutral within another context.

Drugs, when consumed responsibly, do no damage to the consumer; they also does not put others at risk.

The problem with your argument is that it ignores the fact that either can be used irresponsibly. You haven't defined what "responsible" alcohol use is, so I don't know how to compare it to responsible drug use. In fact there is no valid distinction between alcohol, in general, and drugs, in general, with respect to the morality of their use. A small amount of alcohol will impair your faculties, just as a small amount of marijuana will. And comparing light beer with heroin is entirely inappropriate -- it's better to compare downing a giant mug of Bacardi 151 and a puff on a doobie. In fact, the question of morality of intoxicants has little to do with whether you're talking about "drugs" versus alcohol, it has to do with the social setting and purpose.

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If you look at all the effects alcohol has, primarily on your central nervous system, it is quite amazing how powerful the stuff is. It enters cells very, very easily and that's why relatively small amounts can end up doing quite a lot.

I do not think there is a good distinction to be made between alcohol and other types of drugs; on all grounds I can think of they do not differ in essentials. Just because the concentration at which you notice the effects is different does not make it less dangerous. No one consumes cocaine in similar amounts as they consume alcohol, and that is the main problem. You can very easily get a relevant concentration of alcohol in your body after having a few drinks and because many people consider it to be harmless they are more likely to cross the line into the area where it does affect various functions of your body in significant ways.

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My point was that one can have a small amount of alchohol without major impairment of faculties and with no harm to one's long-term health. One cannot have a small amount of cocaine.

I'm not sure I can dig the stats up to prove this, but as anecdotal "evidence" I would offer that in my experience as a law enforcement officer (and incidentally the son and brother of alcoholics), alcohol usage is every bit as damaging to individuals and to society as any "drug". It is my opinion that this problem arises largely because it is socially acceptable to drink alcohol and because people don't think alcohol is as dangerous as other "drugs". Alcohol has ruined many lives, enhanced depression, has led to suicide, fatal car accidents, domestic violence, assaults, robberies, etc., etc.

In browsing the web, I'm finding references to cocaine as having limited medicinal qualities as an anesthetic, but has been largely replaced by synethic drugs. This article from the British Medical Journal also suggests that a small number of people have used cocaine recreationally with little to no negative effects.

Edited by RationalBiker
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  • 1 month later...
Heroin isn't even slightly comparable to alcohol. It is many times more addictive and causes permanent alterations and damage to brain chemistry. People on heroin are literally incapable of feeling any pleasure whatsoever except through the drug. It burns out the brain's receptors, damaging your ability to feel.

No such comparison should be attempted. This is either ignorance of heroin or highly dishonesty.

Well, let me put any reservations you have in my knowledge of heroin aside as I announce that I was once a junkie myself.

Opiates are validly comparable to alcohol because we are discussing its capacity to take away from what would otherwise be a full awareness. If the differential was health dangers, I might - instead - bring up cigarettes. But i don't even believe that would be necessary because excessive and/or long-term alcohol use, as you will find if only by a quick google search, accomplishes all of what you have described heroin being capable of only more rapidly.

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...excessive and/or long-term alcohol use... accomplishes all of what you have described heroin being capable of only more rapidly.

Perhaps, but my point is that short-term use of heroin is a health risk. Although, not nearly as bad as, say, methamphetamines. And I will grant that there are a lot of myths about heroin out there; mostly perpetuated by junkies who want an excuse to get their next fix.

Theodore Dalrymple was most enlightening on this subject.

Edited by Inspector
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