Aristotle and Weed
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What Would Aristotle Think About Legalizing Marijuana?
What would Aristotle think about legalizing Marijuana? When attempting to speculate on how Aristotle would feel about this inquiry, I feel that only one thing must be addressed. What kind of person does marijuana make me, and does the legalization of marijuana increase or decrease a person’s ability to be happy and good?
What Kind of Person
According to Aristotle, the difference between animals and humans is our ability to rationalize and utilize reason. Man is at its most basic level rational animals. Non-rational beings only possess vegetative and appetitive aspects of their mind, whereas humans retain the most important, according to Aristotle, portion of the soul: the rational part. The reason that this is the most important is that it allows us to ascertain genuine happiness. Therefore, since animals and even children do not possess the rational facet of the soul, they cannot achieve true happiness. As humans, our advantage over non-rational beings is our ability to be happy, as defined by Aristotle. Happiness, he states, “is apparently something complete and self-sufficient, since it is the end of the things achievable in action.” (NE 1097b20). So for Aristotle to approve of the legalization of it, marijuana would have to be something that would advance the happiness of humans and promote reason on the part of the soul.
So does marijuana foster sensible choices and assist humans in our quest for happiness? Well, when analyzed from a philosophical viewpoint, no. Using drugs diminishes our ability to utilize reason when faced with decisions. It modifies our mindset and transforms us from rational animals into just plain simple animals. Drugs can force one to talk with slurred speech, visibly alter their perceptions of what is going on around them, and even take their freedom of will. So the fact that marijuana decreases human ability to be rational, reasonable, and thus happy, I would have to say that Aristotle would disapprove for most cases. However, medicinal marijuana does promote happiness.
If someone has a disease in which the use of marijuana could numb his or her pain, I think that Aristotle would say that this is ok and good because it is assisting him or her in his or her quest for happiness, even if temporary. So where would he draw the line between vice and virtue? I think that Aristotle would support the system that we have today. Excess would be allowing everyone to purchase marijuana. Lack would be banning it completely because it does have some benefits for the medical community. I think that the Mean would be allowing it to be used for medicinal purposes only and not for public access because repeated use does not promote rationalization and happiness. In conclusion, I think that Aristotle would not support the further legalization of marijuana for personal use. Aristotle would, however, not take action to ban it any further either. I think that he would be content with how the system is today. Marijuana does have some medicinal benefits to people with painful diseases in that it creates, although fleeting, happiness. For normal people, however, repeated use of marijuana results in a deteriorated capacity to make rational decisions. It weakens our soul and forces us to become irrational animals. This fact forces me to conclude that Aristotle would neither further nor reduce the current legal status of marijuana.