North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › Smoking is Good For You!

Smoking is Good For You!

A former member
Post #: 3
Objective thinkers approach issues in terms of black and white, true or false. In the field of ethics, the black or white is: is it beneficial to man's life or contrary to it? This requires evaluation, and therefore a mind capable of cognition, focused on reality. Since a man is the sum of his evaluations coupled with his cognitive method (his identity and psycho-epistemology), anything that acts against those two things is detrimental to his life and therefore immoral.

Alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana are drugs which alter your physiological and thus psychological state. Just as when a man stays awake for five days and finds his mind unable to focus, when nicotine is introduced into the body, the brain responds to it. Alcohol, if enough is consumed, can make a man incapable of thought and even kill him. Therefore, the consumption of alcohol (and drugs in general) requires ethical evaluation. As I stated, a man has an identity to the extent that his body and cognitive abilities exist, thus the ethical question concerning these drugs is this: does their use make man incapable of cognition and therefore existence?

The answer is obviously no. Man not only possesses volition in the realm of cognition, but the effects of these three drugs (when taken in moderate quantities) are not enough to dull or destroy his cognitive abilities. I cannot imagine the level of a mind who says that having a glass of wine or a cigarette makes them incapable of thought. Ultimately, it is a matter of mental focus as to whether or not a man can function using these substances. One can easily perform an integration or write an article before, during, or after having a drink or a smoke (marijuana included). These drugs alter man's psychological states, but so does having sex or enjoying a good meal. Man's primary focus in life is his happiness, a psychological condition in itself, and the pursuit of that is an end in itself. Certain drugs, depending on their nature, can be beneficial to a man's psychological state and thus beneficial to his life. Taurine, found in modern day energy drinks, is an example of this; when consumed, man alters his psychological state for his own benefit, either for his enjoyment or to fuel his cognitive abilities. Yet, if you consume enough taurine, it leads to a heart attack. If you consume too much of anything, it's unhealthy for you. That is why a man must understand his own body and his own mind when deciding to use these substances; he must be aware of his mental states and his physical limits. That is the crux of the Objectivist ethics, principals integrated with action for the purpose of life. Life is not a dull affair of moving from day to day, robotically identifying existence. True, one must adhere to reality with a methodical and precise fashion, but emotions serve just as important a purpose as thought in man's life. When one's ideas and actions align, emotions can be one of the greatest indicators of something positive or negative. Cognitive evaluation is, of course, required to achieve certainty.

I am not advocating "whim-worship," merely a call to analyze the context in which man lives and enjoys his life. If a producer's decisions in life, such as diet or level of exercise, lead him to only live to fifty as opposed to seventy, is that man any less moral than the one with the longer life span? Obviously, a contextual analysis is required - what were his principals and how did he apply them - which further proves my point: the use of these drugs requires a contextual analysis. How long a man lives has absolutely nothing to do with how good of a man he is. How much he drank, smoked, or cursed does not make him irrational, rather his reasons for those actions and their consequences are required to determine that judgment. Any reasonable human being would scoff at the attempt to call the inventor of the combustion engine or the skyscraper evil due to his enjoyment of something like alcohol or the fact that his lifespan was only thirty-eight.

If a man is using marijuana or alcohol to escape from reality, that is immoral. He is evading the responsibility of cognition and in the process destroying his identity. But if a man decides to take a drink of alcohol after a long day of work to enjoy its psychological benefits, what exactly is immoral about that? He is enjoying the nature of alcohol and its interaction with the human body, a sense of relaxation and enjoyment. To even reach this state of happiness, sober or not, that man requires principals and a healthy psycho-epistemology; use of these drugs otherwise will lead him, if he is focused, to the problems he is evading. This is what generates the irrational, emotional driven, response in drug users and is the source of addiction - to drugs or otherwise. One cannot fake happiness, just as one cannot evade reality; you think inside your own skull just as your body lives on planet Earth.

I smoke and drink. If you wish to say that I'm not an "Objectivist" - aka objective thinker - for this decision, then I do not wish to be associated with you. To make that claim is to claim that I do not understand principals and their relationship to my life, and is an attack on my intellect. And for those of you who "borrow" Rand's ethics to attack smokers, I remind you that Rand, the originator of the ethics you use, was a smoker, herself. To maintain such a contradiction is laughable. The characters in her books smoke and drink. It did not make her or them incapable of cognition; rather they enjoyed these substances for what they are, a combination of chemicals that your body responds positively towards, provided you have the moral means to enjoy your own psychological states.
Dan
dbclawyer
Allen, TX
Post #: 92
I smoke and drink. If you wish to say that I'm not an "Objectivist" - aka objective thinker - for this decision, then I do not wish to be associated with you. To make that claim is to claim that I do not understand principals and their relationship to my life, and is an attack on my intellect. And for those of you who "borrow" Rand's ethics to attack smokers, I remind you that Rand, the originator of the ethics you use, was a smoker, herself. To maintain such a contradiction is laughable.


Daniel,

I am curious if a particular conversation gave rise to this post generally or the last paragraph (partially) quoted above. If so, would you share it with us?

Dan
A former member
Post #: 4
My younger brother accused me of being irrational because I had a cigarette in front of him.

Two "objectivists" I know at one point in time accused me of the same vice.

Dallas banned smoking in restaurants.

Everyday I hear from people who try to convince to quit for my sake.

I thought a proper response to these acquisations and a defense of these habits by Objectivists in general would be a good topic for an essay. Ethics, and therefore reason, is vital to a man's life. If he cannot defend his actions rationally, then he's in for a spot of trouble. Besides, for an "objectivist" to maintain such a puritanical stance is a contradiction and is an attack on one's rationality. The tone was chosen based on the fact that it is a completely irrational judgment of a human being to call them immoral for drinking/smoking, and thus evil, but it is also a logical fallacy, which is equally evil.
A former member
Post #: 120
[Daniel Casper said]
I smoke and drink. If you wish to say that I'm not an "Objectivist" - aka objective thinker - for this decision, then I do not wish to be associated with you. To make that claim is to claim that I do not understand principals and their relationship to my life, and is an attack on my intellect.

I agree with the gist of the posting. There are all sorts of "vice squad" people out there who love to moralize about what a person does to help him to relax and enjoy life. And I find that smoking helps me to concentrate when I'm involved in a serious discussion or when I'm working on an intellectual problem or writing a thoughtful essay. I even drink a caffinated drink while doing this.

I don't think the problem is so much people who voice their opinions about these matters, since one can politely tell them one is not interested in hearing it; the real dangers are the actual swat team vice squads who will rip a man's house down if he is engaged in smoking and drinking and cursing, while in the process of gambling in his own home; as recently happened in the DFW area -- and it was shown on TV with no outcry being given against such procedures.

I understand that gambling in a private residence with the house taking some of the winnings is illegal; and I'm not advocating doing this so long as the law stands. However, the roots of the law needs to be questioned, and the root is those people who want to control what is a vice (in their opinion) at the point of a gun.

Rights are a moral issue, and if we continue to let the moralizers create laws that effect our lives merely because they think something is immoral, then we are permitting them to do something that is both immoral and uncivilized -- the initiation of force to get their way.

Whether they are Christian Thugocrats or overzealous health freaks, they have no right whatsoever in forcing us to live a certain way just because they deem that such a way is moral. I have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; so long as I am not forcing those who disagree with me into living a certain way.

I expect the same civilized respect from others.

This is part of what I was referring to in a recent essay on this board concerning the dam of civilization that is cracking all around us. If the moralizing swat vice squad has the legal authority to break down a home in order to stop something they think is immoral and that they made illegal; then it may not be long before the moralizing swat team tries to shut down Objectivist meetings on the grounds that living rationally instead of faithfully is immoral and ought to be illegal.


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Santiago Valenzue...
sanjavalen
Dallas, TX
Post #: 153
I'd be one of those "vice-squad" members who think its irrational to smoke and/or drink.

However, its hardly an issue I'm going to preach on. I'll be brief, and before I start let me emphasize that I'll only show any interest about the issue (or even really bring it up except as a joke, or if brought up in my presence) once the world is a capitalist paradise. Until then, I think its fair to say I have better things to worry about than you taking a few years off of your life in order to relax.

To enjoy something is not a primary justification for something. Enjoyment is an emotional reaction, your subconscious mind reacting to something it has integrated as being good. Obviously, this can be for good or for bad reasons. So what you should ask yourself is - for what reason does the psychological state of (some) alcohol or cigarettes bring me enjoyment? Is this a rational reason, given the destructive effects that they have? The answer I have come up is a resounding "no."

Still, I won't ask you to go against your own judgement of whats in your best interests (and you - properly - wouldn't listen to me anyway.) I will, however, urge you to set aside some time to consider the source of the enjoyment these substances bring, and if it comes from a rational source or if it would be more beneficial to consider less harmful alternatives as a means to relax or focus the mind, or whatever other benefit these substances bring you.

As I said though, I consider it a minor issue at best. Its not something that I have a great deal of passion about, as your own life if yours to shorten at your discretion. I does sadden me a bit that such intelligent people would voluntarily do that, but other than say what I have, there's nothing else I can do. Certainly you should know I don't sanction the choice as rational; but as well, neither would I wish to not speak with you for that reason.

Cheers.
A former member
Post #: 121
[Santiago said]
I'd be one of those "vice-squad" members who think its irrational to smoke and/or drink.

But I doubt if you would want to initiate force against those of us who choose to do so; which was the thrust of my position.

And I don't think it is irrational. Smoking or drinking definitely doesn't interfere with rational thinking if done in moderation, and they can be helpful. Besides, no one has made a definite causal connection between smoking and a shortened life -- as there are plenty of elderly people who smoke and have been doing so for most of their lives. Likewise, there was a study done that indicated that drinking a little alcohol can help to eliminate getting dementia as one grows older. In other words, the health effects have not been fully resolved.

What do you think about the swat team practically breaking down houses in order to stop some people from enjoying gambling? They weren't hurting anyone. There were some complaints that there was excessive noise coming from the houses when gambling was going on, but that is hardly an excuse to rip the front of those houses off.

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$­$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Philosophic essays based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand

www.appliedphilosophyonline.com­

Applied Philosophy Online .com

Where Ideas Are Brought Down to Earth!

tmiovas@appliedphilosophyonline.com

All rights reserved 2006 by Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

Santiago Valenzue...
sanjavalen
Dallas, TX
Post #: 154
(Tom said?)
But I doubt if you would want to initiate force against those of us who choose to do so; which was the thrust of my position.

Of course not. I was more responding to the original post than your own.

And I don't think it is irrational. Smoking or drinking definitely doesn't interfere with rational thinking if done in moderation, and they can be helpful.

My problem with alcohol and other drugs of that type is that even one drink has a measurable effect on your consciousness, even if it is so small so as not to really matter. That effect is not necessarily a positive one; the relaxation you get comes at the price of efficient thinking. I like thinking, a lot! So I am against that on principle, that any decrease in my thinking efficiency (even one that is not immediately percievable) is not a benefit to me.

Besides, no one has made a definite causal connection between smoking and a shortened life -- as there are plenty of elderly people who smoke and have been doing so for most of their lives. Likewise, there was a study done that indicated that drinking a little alcohol can help to eliminate getting dementia as one grows older. In other words, the health effects have not been fully resolved.

Regarding smoking, I think that we must go on the best information we have available at the time. At this time, the best science says that there is some connection between smoking and the shortening of your lifespan through heart disease, cancer and other illnesses. There are exceptions - you mentioned some, in fact - but they are just that. Exceptions. As a population, smokers seem to have significantly shorter lifespans than nonsmokers.

Regarding drinking, well, I'm against it in principle, the reasons for which I outlined just a moment ago.

What do you think about the swat team practically breaking down houses in order to stop some people from enjoying gambling? They weren't hurting anyone. There were some complaints that there was excessive noise coming from the houses when gambling was going on, but that is hardly an excuse to rip the front of those houses off.

Oh, sure. I'm not saying any of this should be outlawed; heck, I'm certainly not for the outlawing of anything you want to do to yourself. You have the right to your vices, after all. But I do not think it prudent to simply stand by and say "A-OK" if the subject is going to come up.

Like I said (and I will reiterate this every post so as to avoid any misunderstanding,) it doesn't mean you're irrational as a person. Someone who is perfectly rational can make a wrong choice; human beings aren't infallable, omniscient beings, after all. I just disagree that this particular choice is a rational one. I wish to outline why in the hopes that some of you (I know a lot of people here smoke and/or drink) might reexamine the reasons why they do so.
A former member
Post #: 37
Smoking a cigarette a day is not universally harmful. I have known of people who smoked two packs of unfiltered cigarettes for upwards of fifty years, and never had health problems (at least not in relation to the supposed effects of smoking). Each individual must approach his health issues differently because each individual's body has different (sometimes drastically different) physiological reactions to different substances. To claim that smoking cigarettes shortens a man's life is a blind assumption.

Drinking also depends on each individual's physiological makeup. I once knew a man who could have several drinks and barely feel the effects most would have after one. I once knew a woman who would have one beer and experience what most would after having five shots of hard liquor. Ultimately the point is not, "Is drinking bad?" The point is: "Is the way I'm drinking good for my life?"

If a man is objective, a drink is a celebration; it is something which brings him physical pleasure and mental ease; most importantly, it symbolizes how his enjoyment of life is the final result of his objectivity, integrity, and hard work. The same goes for cigarettes. The same goes for anything worth experiencing. I question the psychological motives of a person who is against pleasure because that pleasure is derived from something deamed "intrinsically" negative.
Lathanar
Lathanar
Dallas, TX
Post #: 231
I can understand Santiago's point but think the issue comes not from the simple use and the resulting effects on the body, but the reasons why. No action is irrational by itself without the context of the reason. There's that whole area of pesky hedonism and deriving value using physical pleasure as a standard instead of one's life as a man. Not simply one's life, we do lots of things that endanger our lives all the time so that we can enjoy life as a man. A rational man would not drink to the point where his reason is impaired for the hell of it, he'd need a good reason. A rational man can enjoy the taste of beer/wine/liquor, as he can any other drink or food without impairing his reasoning skills. Cigarettes, harder to defend, I'm not a smoker so I'll leave it to them, although the effects of cigarettes upon man's reason is rather negligible.

- Travis
Old Toad
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 369
Hi Daniel,

I think your post is interesting, and it raises several different issues.

The Human Body
At a purely physical level, I think we are hard-pressed to defend smoking and drinking as being "life" promoting. For example, to my knowledge these are usually not administered to hospital patients, where the focus is almost exclusively on the physical body and the body is otherwise under some other major physical stress.

Even Ayn Rand died of lung cancer, no matter how rational she was. Also, on such an issue, even if the philosophy does not change, the body of scientific knowledge does advance. I do not know much of the science regarding smoking, but I could imagine that Ayn Rand, in her day, having a scientific context and advice, could come to a different conclusion on such an issue if given a more advanced scientific context. I do not think she defended smoking on the immutable philosophical grounds. As a college friend of mine once joked: "Its a good thing for Objectivists she didn't do intravenous drugs."

I think the science regarding all of these will continue to advance and help us make rational judgments about what substances we can enjoy putting into our bodies. It is conceivable that some substances might even help us think better.


Enjoyment & Relaxation
On the enjoyment level, I think there are many activities that people engage for enjoyment that are more immediately risky that sitting down with friends and having a cigarette and a beer.

Scuba diving, for example, is one of my personal favorites. Putting compressed air into one's body? Not necessarily a good idea. Hiking in the Grand Canyon is another. In either sport, one could slip off the "edge" to oblivion. That's even part of the "thrill" that makes it enjoyable. I don't think very many Objectivists would say these are irrational pursuits, however.

Certainly, a person can take into account the state of knowledge regarding the risks, take such precautions as may reduce those risks, and proceed to enjoy a physically risky activity.

If I happened to die while scuba diving or hiking, I don't think most people would call me irrational. (Well, maybe they would, but at least not for that.)

And like Santiago, I also like thinking -- a lot. But I also like relaxing now and then, too, even relaxing my mind a bit. Occasional relaxation is important for good thinking.


"Infringing" on Others
You mention that "Dallas banned smoking in restaurants" and seemed annoyed by this.

Of course, I do not think Objectivists would consider it a proper function of government to regulate that activity in a private restaurant, which should be left up to the owners of the restaurant.

But smoking is annoying to non-smokers. Smoking gets on the smoker's clothes and he carries the smell with him and spreads it around. I also get annoyed, for example, by older ladies who probably have lost some of their sense of smell and tend to put on way too much perfume. I ride in an office elevator every day. Whew! :(

And when is the government going to regulate overbearing perfume in elevators, anyway?

Of course, a person has the "right" in many places to go around smelling like an ashtray, wearing overbearing perfume, etc. (i.e., it is allowed by the property owner).

A smoker can rail that he doesn't smell that bad, that others should get over it, etc., etc. But I don't think most smokers really appreciate how really bad it smells to non-smokers. I would guess smokers are de-sensitized to the smell.

Ayn Rand wrote: "You can evade reality [as in you don't want to hear how it is perceived by non-smokers], but you cannot evade the consequences of evading reality."

Whether it is killing the smoker or not, it is "killing" the non-smoker.

This puts a strain on a relationship between a smoker and a non-smoker, not on the basis of "individual rights" but on the basis of "smells." A non-smoker can certainly suffer the smell, but he does it only because he is "stuck" in the elevator or the person is otherwise of greater value to stand next to, preferably outdoors.

These issues of "invading" another's atmosphere are usually not raised by a person drinking alcohol next to another (unless he drinks to reeking excess).


Don't Want to be Told Your Irrational

Hey, that I understand. I do not smoke, but I do drink in moderation and am very careful not to "drink and drive." To me, a good glass of wine is like a delicacy, an explosion of many flavors, something to be savored. I do not want to be told I am irrational for enjoying such an experience.

But whether we want to hear it or not, we cannot escape the fact that smoking and drinking most likely do take their toll on the body and mind.

So please come over to my place, enjoy a glass of beer or wine with me (in moderation) and feel free to smoke on my patio (this is not a government regulation, just the host's house rule). I won't lecture you, but in the context of an Objectivist-friendly environment, I think we should all be free to politely and rationally question the sanity of what any of us is doing to ourselves and to others around us. I think it would be enjoyable to talk about this more.

-- Todd

1st Disclaimer: This is not the "official NTOS stance" on anything, just my personal thinking in response to Daniel's post. ;)

2nd Disclaimer: I've had two cups of coffee, too, so my brain is buzzing --not sure that is a good thing.
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