“You Can’t Ban Car Accidents” : A Moral Investigation into Tobacco

Since 2007 there has been a problem, we all know what it is but we can’t seem to find the right way to talk about it. Pirsig to the rescue….


It’s immoral for a biological pattern of value to control society. But it’s also a bit immoral if that society tries to dominate the intellectual paterns of value necessary to make such determinations. True, intellectual patterns of value are supposed to assist in improving and preserving, as well as dynamically advancing society. But does tobacco do that much harm to society. does it intrinsically threaten society’s existence in any way–in any way that can be demonstrated to be worse than, say, guns, ammo, car accidents, aeroplane crashes”? divorces, beatings, robberies and so forth. Pirsig makes clear in Zen that prudes who just sit around moralizing about licentious habits such as smoking are a bit ridiculous, but by the time of Lila, Pirsig’s thesis is very much more advanced. The intellectual patterns that are attempting to be upheld–the ones that are even more moral than a society–like a Nation, are not under threat by tobacco. Freedom of speech and freedom of gathering as assembly is, however, impinged on. But even that isn’t the worst of it. What I’m trying to say is, why tobacco?

Why single that out, especially as it also appears to have a SOCIAL VALUE.

In another part of his thesis, Pirsig argues that there is and still is a conflict between EUROPEAN and INDIAN VALUES. Indeed, the whole american personality has been created and informed by Indian values, shaped in speech, dialect and also humour.

That still has not been acknowledged.


Seems to me that the prejudice against tobacco holds a secret grudge against the Indian, after all, who made the pipe smoke sacred in the first place?

And, as Pirsig points out, who gave the notion of “all men created equal” to Europe?

So, following a Metaphysics of Quality seems to make it a lot easier to say: ‘We’ve really shot ourselves darn good in the foot on this smoking issue folks’

Society controls biology through police and guns and laws, and in cases of outright lunacy, it has to step in. That’s right. It’s more moral for a society to do that. But that doesn’t mean that society gets to run the whole show. The intellectual patterns of value are there for that, and it is clear that in this health-conscious period, where society is slowing slipping back to the only stable moral period it can recall–the Victorians–intellect has capitulated where it ought to have not. So, by legislating “for health” intellectuals have inadvertently made an immoral move as biology has been privileged over society AND intellect! And when one pattern of moral value two steps down from intellectual patterns of value triumphs, that’s very immoral indeed.

So,  the biological that the law is trying to preserve (namely us-human) is an old Victorian moral system that says “what’s fashionable” should be preserved at all costs, and because the Health Fad is exactly that, A FAD from California, it’s immoral to have that biolgical pattern of values control society and intellect.

About thelampostphilosopher

I'm a writer who has come out on the side of R. Pirsig. I think that QUALITY is best left undefined but I am glad Pirsig defined it, and I think that the first division of Metaphysics is better when cleaved into DYNAMIC and STATIC, instead of subject-object metaphysics. I think he's also right about the Victorians AND the EUROPEAN-INDIAN CONFLICT OF VALUES, which involves everyone these days.
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