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“We Should Retain The Disease Concept Of Alcoholism Analysis Essay”
In “We Should Retain the Disease Concept of Alcoholism,” George E.
Vaillant asserts that alcoholism should be treated as a disease. I think the
author has done an effective job in proving his case by using his own personal
experience that gives him authority to make an argument in this issue and his
use of rhetoric.
In his argument essay, he sets himself up as the authority by discrediting
most academics and scholars who have been considered to be “the best and the
brightest” in discussing this issue. He claims they lacked personal
experience, the one qualification that was the most important in explaining why
alcoholism is not a disease. The effectiveness of using personal experience is
it gives the author merit while at the same time discrediting the scholars that
oppose his claim. It lets the reader know that Vaillant knows what he is talking
about and is able to give a valid argument.
In the writer’s reasoning, Vaillant gives support to his thesis by giving
refutations for each of the five objections that oppose his claim. He uses many
different rhetorical devices to prove alcoholism is a disease, such as
comparisons, figures of speech, rhetorical questions and an anecdote, as well.
Throughout the essay, the author effectively proves his point by using
comparisons. For example, in the author’s first refutation, he compares high
blood pressure, coronary heart disease and alcohol abuse. He explains that the
causes for alcoholics are similar to those diseases in that both are “differently
weighted for different people and include culture, habits, and genes.” By
making this comparison, it immediately makes the reader see the similarities
between alcoholism and other diseases.
He also uses repetition in the diseases he uses for comparison. An example of
this is the use of coronary heart disease and hypertension more than once in the
essay. The purpose of this is to help the reader understand these diseases more.
It also serves as a reminder to the reader on how these diseases play a major
role in alcoholism.
In one point, Vaillant tries to prove if alcoholics are labeled with a
disease, they will become more willing to take responsibility for self-care. To
prove this, he uses a rhetorical question of leprosy. He asks the reader, “Should
a doctor who knows that a person who has leprosy keep the fact secret lest the
patient be labeled a leper?” The obvious answer is no. It is important for
patients to acknowledge that they have a disease so they can take responsibility
for themselves. The same goes for alcoholics. He puts in the example of
Alcoholics Anonymous, placing alcoholism as a disease to support his argument.
The author also uses figure of speech to his advantage. In his argument, he
tries to point out that alcohol abuse causes depression, anxiety and poverty,
not the other way around. He states that “Fingarette reverses the position of
cart and horse.” It is this particular phrase that catches the reader’s
attention. He first refers to Fingarette as one of the academics and then
discredits her by his figure of speech that she reverses the position of cart
and horse. She obviously views psychological problems as a cause for alcoholism,
when it should be the other way around. Her idea of alcoholism is wrong,
therefore she cannot be viewed as an authoritative figure in this issue.
Vaillant ends his essay with an anecdote that shows a contradiction between
ideas of his associate. In the anecdote, he shows how personal experience is the
most important factor in discussing this issue. His associate first believed
that alcoholism was a behavioral disorder and not a disease but after thinking
about the tortured lives she had been studying, she realized that she had been
wrong all along. It leaves the reader knowing that if you have worked in a
clinic for about two years that you would come to the conclusion that alcoholism
has to be viewed as a disease.
In conclusion to my analysis essay, I discovered that the author is a very
intelligent person that cares for this subject. Before reading the paper, my
opinion on this subject was impartial. After reading, I became convinced by the
writer that alcohol is a disease. I thought his uses of authoritative language
throughout his essay helps lure the reader into agreeing with him. Right from
the beginning of his essay, he approaches his topic with authority. He tells the
reader that he has the qualifications to present a good and intelligent
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Alcohol abuse, Medical terminology, Substance dependence, Twelve-step programs, Disease theory of alcoholism, Alcoholism, Alcoholics Anonymous, Essay, Rhetoric, Disease, The Natural History of Alcoholism Revisited
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