Is Whiskey Good or Bad?

A friend found the ambiguity of a Winston Churchill quote {below} to be useful.  It shows that the same central fact can generate alternate meanings.  That must be confusing.

I doubt Churchill said it, but it is a useful example of the “relativistic fallacy,” a technique that attempts to establish that something can be true for one person but not for another.  The technique aims at the subjective position of the listener.  Tell them something as part of a package that they want to hear or maybe more commonly, tell them what they will believe.

The subject matter for the fallacy must always be opinion, or derived knowledge where not all the information available has been fully considered.  It is an often used, if fallacious, form of political argument.

Sometimes people disagree about what “objective” data. Sometimes interpretation is different. Two meanings from the same data. That seems wrong, but as Walter Frick points out in a recent HBR article, data is messy and prone to observer subjectivity.

What to Do When People Draw Different Conclusions From the Same Data

Frick sees crowd sourcing analysis as a useful way to eliminate subjectivity.  The real point is that data points may be objective, but humans collect and analyze them. We all have biases, some of which are invisible to us.  Data may not have objective meaning because the biases affected collection, analysis, or both.

Be aware that we are not immune t biased or ambiguous presentations.

Sir Winston’s comment on whiskey is a classic example of how presentation can both describe and obscure meaning. The essence of relativism.

“If you mean whiskey, the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean that evil drink that topples men and women from the pinnacles of righteous and gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, shame, despair, helplessness and hopelessness, then, my friend, I am opposed to it with every fibre of my being.”

“However, if by whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the elixir of life, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean good cheer, the stimulating sip that puts a little spring in the step of an elderly gentleman on a frosty morning; if you mean that drink that enables man to magnify his joy, and to forget life’s great tragedies and heartbreaks and sorrow; if you mean that drink the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of pounds each year, that provides tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitifully aged and infirm, to build the finest highways, hospitals, universities, and community colleges in this nation… then my friend, I am absolutely, unequivocally in favour of it..!!!”

“This is my position, and as always, I refuse to compromise on matters of principle.!!!”

I can agree with that and it matters not a whit what my position is going in.


Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.

One Comment on “Is Whiskey Good or Bad?

  1. Pingback: More on Whiskey | moneyFYI

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