« Critic's Context | Main | A Few Reads »
Wednesday
Apr092014

Logicism

Sometimes it's better to let generalizations about life slide than to challenge them and argue their validity. How many times have you heard someone say, "She's so smart; she went to Stanford" or something like, "I love drinking Dom Perignon because I enjoy drinking the best." When people draw questionable conclusions like that they're usually reassuring themselves, rather than trying to convince you of anything.

It's comfortable living in a world built on logicism. Life seems more manageable when you know for certain that:

90 points = good wine. 95 points = better wine.

$75,000 a year salary = successful. $200,000 a year = really successful.

UC Davis degree = smart. Harvard degree = really smart.

You get the picture.

But most of us understand that these generalizations aren't so much based on general truths as they are on our ideas of what we wish were true. We want to believe in them because, if or when we achieve them, we can feel good about ourselves -- and about the quality of our lives. If you take that security blanket away from someone it can be quite a messy experience.

I've noticed lately that explaining to whisky newcomers the vast scope of what's possible in the industry can result in one of two reactions: utter awe and excitement for what's possible, or fear, anxiety, and dread for the uncertain. It's a lot like life itself. A large number of people looking for help with wine or spirits do not want to move outside of these generalizations because it's too much to think about. Drinking shouldn't be that complicated, in their minds (and it shouldn't!), but that doesn't mean they don't want to drink good stuff, either. That's where big brands can offer their bit of comfort. Drinking good whisky is easier when Macallan 18 and Johnnie Walker Blue are the best, just like it's easier to feel secure about your experience when you subscribe to a similar set of mathematical logicisms:

$40 = good whisky. $200 = really good whisky.

12 years old = good whisky. 18 years old = really good whisky.

And so on.

But I'll be damned if I'm going to take that security away from anyone. The philosophical opposite of logicism is intuitionism: a school of thought that believes all these mathematic conclusions are just creations of the human mind, rather than founded on reality. I'm not sure I'd go that route either. When it comes to whisky, and even life in general, I listen to Ferris Bueller, who once said:

I don't condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter. -Isms in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself.

If you're looking for comfort, validity, and authenticity with your drinking experience, it begins with you.

-David Driscoll