Phil-100A-Hndt-1-F-10 - Phil 100A Ethics F 10 Professor...

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1 Phil 100A: Ethics F 10 Professor Aaron Zimmerman Handout #1: The Morality of Drug Use and Prohibition Relevant Factors : Our moral evaluation or criticism of drug use would seem to depend on many things. These include the drug used (caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, Prozac, marijuana, heroin); the purpose for which it is used (medication, recreation, work, suicide); the context in which it is used (working, driving, relaxing, dancing, working out); and any independent obligations (parental, legal, or civic) the user might have. For instance, it is perfectly consistent to believe that there is nothing wrong with a dying man smoking marijuana to help relieve his stress, where, in contrast, a parent acts immorally when shooting heroin in front of her kid. The same might be said of drug prohibition . Maybe it’s okay to prohibit or even criminalize the use of some drugs in some contexts, whereas the prohibition or criminalization of other drugs is unjust. 1. Why You Shouldn’t Use Illegal (and many Legal) Drugs In general, the drugs we’re going to discuss are sufficiently harmful to make their use imprudent for most people in most contexts. For this reason you shouldn’t smoke anything, snort anything, or inject anything (unless you are a diabetic). And you shouldn’t drink alcohol to excess. The Imprudence of Drug Use (1) In most cases, regularly using a prohibited drug significantly increases the probability of disease, developmental deficits, lost opportunities, premature death and other bad consequences. (2) In most cases, the long-term negative consequences whose probability is increased by drug use are significantly greater in degree than the short-term benefits of drug use. (3) You shouldn’t greatly increase your chances of experiencing significant negative (long-term) consequences to secure significantly lesser (short-term) benefits. Therefore, (4) In most cases, you shouldn’t regularly use prohibited drugs. Notice “in most cases.” E.g., this argument says nothing about a dying person’s use of drugs. 2. From Imprudence to Immorality What is imprudent or bad for you on the whole isn’t obviously immoral. Is there a good argument from the imprudence of drug use to its immorality ? Suppose that John smokes cigarettes or marijuana from the ages of 18-25 and this causes him to get lung cancer and die prematurely and painfully at 45. And suppose that if John hadn’t smoked at all he would have lived to 80 in relative health. (25% of pack-a-day smokers die 10-15 years earlier than they would have otherwise; Husak, p. 49.)
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2 The Immorality of Imprudence ? (1’) John’s early (18-25-year-old) self knew that by smoking he significantly increased the risks of his harming his later (45-year-old) self to a significant degree, a degree much greater than the pleasures of smoking.
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This note was uploaded on 11/11/2010 for the course PHIL 100A taught by Professor Mcmahon during the Fall '09 term at UCSB.

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Phil-100A-Hndt-1-F-10 - Phil 100A Ethics F 10 Professor...

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