Final Thoughts on Smoking

February 26, 2008

Having spent the last week arguing that smokers are making a great choice by giving themselves cancer, I should probably retreat to a more balanced position. My point was not that everyone always behaves optimally and therefore should keep on doing whatever they are doing. It is possible to make mistakes in one’s choices, and there are certainly people who would be better off if they changed their behavior. My purpose in starting this discussion was to establish that mistakes can go in either direction: both too much and too little consumption are genuine possibilities. Thus, just as it’s possible that a person who does smoke shouldn’t, it’s possible that a person who doesn’t smoke should.

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3 Responses to “Final Thoughts on Smoking”

  1. hayley Says:

    ok unsurprisingly, it is my opinion that you´re going about this wrong by virtue of omission of variables. My objection is in your semantic treatment of ¨Can¨ and ¨Cant¨, whose definition is not finite as you might suggest (i.e. determined only by the amount of effort which, if passing the critical threshold, puts all the eggs in the ¨can¨basket). You discount the potency of character, psychology, and will, which seem as real to me as ability. Also, even if we were to accept your definition, you neglect to mention the prospect that the needed amount of effort may not be socially, psychologically, or corporally administerable(¿real word?) Meeting of this session of the peanut gallery adjourned.

  2. hayley Says:

    *yes I used ¨wrong¨as an adverb modifying the verb
    ¨going¨
    *yes I know this is, well, wrong
    *no I´m not taking it back, what´s done is done

  3. Thomas Says:

    Alright: the idea that some people should smoke is ludicrous.

    But you have eloquently shown us that it is a necessary corollary of the notion that people act according to their preferences. Smoking is a behavior, hence it is in line with preferences, hence even though it’s probably not a great choice, it’s certainly a good thing for *some* people all things considered. There is a non-zero optimal amount of smoking out there. It’s what they want to do, after all.

    My objection is fundamentally the same as Hayley’s: oversimplification, omission of variables. Beyond preference, there are a host of social, psychological, and environmental factors that influence how people act. Like I said before, it is entirely possible and indeed quite common that someone decides to quit but “can’t”

    Yay peanut gallery!


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