sunnuntai 20. maaliskuuta 2016

Part 8: Some thoughts on morality, disease and addiction

Getting back to more personal views on the issues, I've been thinking a lot about the classifications surrounding vaping and nicotine use. It basically all starts with morality.

To me, the question of morality is very simple. A moral act is something that increases wellfare and well-being or decreases harm. A rather straight-forward risk-benefit analysis. I realize this is a somewhat nihilistic position on the concept, but to me it seems to be the only definition that really matters in a pragmatic sense.
Most importantly, this does preclude statements of immoral behaviour simply on the basis of what is and suggests that the consequences are the primary consideration, whether or not the net benefit of an action or behaviour is positive or negative. In a sense, it seems to me that being moral is the result of evolutionary processes that has led to us as a species being extremely social, the existence of empathy and acting on that impulse.
This is exemplified in the principle of harm reduction. What we should do is determined by evaluation if an action is likely to cause more harm or reduce it.

Ascribing meaning beyond these simple terms is usually an addition of personal bias, subjective views and the dilution of objective consideration. What matters, is well-being and welfare and not what some people might consider offensive or "unwanted", absent any considerations into evidence of actual harms and often at the expense of well-being and welfare of other people. The problem with most claims of morality in different ideologies is that the concepts are too varied, so things need to be boiled down to the core to have a coherent definition, so discussions about the same thing are even possible.

The problem with the concept of disease in the context of my interests, is that it gets muddled with inconsistent notions of morality. There seems to be a concentrated effort to redefine nicotine use to be a chronic disease, instead of voluntary exposure and behaviour. 
It's a sort of dehumanizing practice, treating the symptom instead of the person kind of thing, that is rightfully frowned upon in medical practice.
Defining use as a disease that needs treatment completely takes out major factors, choice and preference, leaving behind the notion that it's all involuntary and forced upon the "victims" by things like advertising, flavor options, even exposure to the mere sight of nicotine use which are all orchestrated by amorphous and malicious entities like "big tobacco" and the like.

I don't know why this happens, but often it does seem that there's a necessity to bypass personal freedoms and rights, in order to promote their preferred brand of "morality" under the guise of protecting the people. Seems to me like an illusion of grandeur. The pretense of power to know what is correct behaviour to other people, while ignoring that they are in fact people.

Addiction is the other side of this coin. It's a concept that instantly invokes concepts of compulsory actions, involuntary behaviour and inevitably results in the injection of a moral duty because the people are "unable" to stop. 
The huge issue though is that there is no coherent definition of addiction, much less "nicotine addiction" and thus the ability to even pretend to measure it is largely invalid. It suffers from the exact same problem morality does, it means different things to different people and most of them cannot agree with each other what it is, what to do about it and even if anything should be done about it. Unfortunately, it's a very complex phenomena, so making a simplistic statement about it is likely not going to be correct or useful, without including things that are not problematic. The conventional wisdom seems to be far too broad and leads to statements like "half the population is addicted". If such a systemic issue exists, surely we can at least pretend defining the term so we can discuss it?

For now, I can only leave this consideration hanging with questions that everybody should be asking themselves:
"Is the continued use of nicotine by somebody any of my concern to begin with?"
"What evidence is there to support my views, do I have a right to impose my views on others and above all, what are the predicted impacts of doing so?"

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