Consider the activity of smoking itself. Is there anything we can say about it, morally, insofar as it affects only the smoker himself? Set aside for the time being the questions about possible harms to others. Conceivably, one could argue that smoking is morally praiseworthy. This would fit most naturally into a virtue ethics framework. Hockney would no doubt like us to see him as a genial fellow, who takes his pleasures where he finds them, does not impose his views or himself on others, and has sympathy for the underdog and an appreciation of the ramshackle. The opposite of a prig, in fact. And his smoking could be understood in relation to his character as a genial fellow.

The difficult part here would be in establishing whether the activity of smoking was intrinsic to his character as genial fellow, or accidental. If intrinsic, this would presumably mean that he would be less genial without his smoking, and one could inquire as to why this would be so. Most likely, it would be because he would be tenser, or more irritable, or less tolerant of the failings of others and their own particular foibles and habits.
Disentangling this from the consequences of dependency on nicotine, either chemicalor psychological or both, would be difficult. Evaluating the moral significance of this from a virtue ethical point of view would also require us to consider the interdependence of the virtues his smoking enables him to actuate with other virtues (such as virtues of moderation and self-denial,even-temperedness and so on). If a consequence of stopping smoking was to become less genial, then we might say that the smoking was a necessary condition for the geniality; equally, we might say that while we value the geniality, we disapprove of the irritability displayed when he is deprived of his tobacco. And this would connect the tobacco as much to a vice as to a virtue. In other words, it is not that smoking is morally praiseworthy as such, but rather that it points us to particular moral features of Hockney (and people generally) underlying the habit and practice of smoking. The same would apply to other activities, such as eating good food or drinking fine wine.


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