To Drink or Not to Drink, What Is the Question?

Many decisions are multidimensional and often comprise psychological, practical and moral considerations. Let’s take the matter of drinking alcohol.

If the person asks, “Why do I drink?” embedded in this question are psycho-biological considerations. It could be an addiction or a habit. It may involve wanting to fit it or simply the enjoyment of feeling heady.

“How do I stop from drinking?” she is raising a practical question. The answer may turn on which answer fit the first question.

But if the person asks, “Should I to stop drinking?” she is asking a moral question.

Ethical considerations arise when you try to evaluate actions in terms of “right” or “good.” Is this the right thing to do? Was it a good thing to do? What effect does the drinking have on others? Is there a benefit, what are the harms?

In the drinking example, the question becomes ethical when the person wondered whether drinking was desirable. Certainly, the person desires to drink. The implicit question is, Is this desire desirable?


To answer this question, a series of other questions follows, such as: What effect does drinking have upon the person? How does it affect his health and character? What effect does it have upon others? Is this the best way to spend money? What pleasures are solitary and private? Whose business is it, anyway, that the person chooses to drink?

The simple question, “Ought I to stop drinking?” doesn’t have a simple answer. Whether to drink is entangled in a web of questions that become progressively philosophical and abstract. Yet the question remains embedded in a real situation and the answers demand particular actions having real consequences in the lives of real people. So the drinking question is psychological, practical and moral, each part requiring related but distinct responses.


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