Drunk Debates: In Ancient Persia, People Decide Upon Important Matters By First Getting Drunk

By | April 11, 2017

In Herodutus’ discussion of the Persians, he wrote (Book I, chapter 133) that they decide upon important issues by first getting drunk. Once drunk, they start the debate and then come up with a decision. The next day when they are all sober, they decide whether they want to go through with the decision made. If yes, they go through with it. If they decide against it, they drop it and go back to square one which starts by getting drunk again. Herodotus also mentioned that they do the opposite: if they initially deliberate sober, they will make their final decision drunk.

Drunk Debates

Is this a good way to deliberate?

Those Persians might have been on to something. Aside from the the fact that it makes decision making a lot more interesting and fun, what they found useful in drunkenness was the lack of inhibitions. In a state of drunkenness one would be less reserved during deliberation in proposing bold ideas that one might hesitate to propose when sober. One would be also be less reluctant to step on other people’s toes. People might also be less prone to step in line behind the most charismatic voice, and so, instead of everyone falling behind the strongest personality, a broader consensus would be reached. Things would probably be a lot more contentious and rowdy, but it's worth it.

The opposite strategy of deliberating sober and then deciding drunk, seems not so great of an idea though. The impulsiveness of drunkenness would seem to just always impulsively conceding to whatever one agreed to while sober. It suggests that what the Persians had in mind was that one should consider something from multiple angles, by inducing multiple states of mind.

H/T Blogspot