The philosophy of intoxication

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It is handed down that some philosophers must have been very fond of alcohol. First of all, Marx and Hegel come to mind, two opposing thinkers who have one thing in common: they drank while writing or wrote while drinking.


But there are also other escapades: one inevitably thinks of Charles Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin and Aldous Huxley, who integrated their own experiences with intoxicants into their philosophy or even wrote explicit works about them.

A special role in this topic is certainly played by Nietzsche, who called alcohol the "European poison" and attested to its greatest damage to culture in general. This may have been due to his own health, whereby he actually resorted to other intoxicants such as hashish or opiates, and perhaps not only to relieve his chronic pain.

For inebriation as such - symbolized by the Greek god of wine, of intoxication, but also of madness and ecstasy - occupies a central element in Nietzsche's work. At the end of his creative phase, Nietzsche himself signs his letters with "Dionysus" or "the Crucified".

Ideas about intoxication can already be found in antiquity. While Plato, for example, rejected intoxication because it blurred the senses and the mind, it was the Epicureans who saw actual added value in intoxication. This never meant mere intoxication, but rather the attempt to expand the boundaries of the sober mind. In modern times, in turn, numerous views on intoxication can be found and often these are now accompanied by documented self-experiments. In the 19th century, it was above all Nietzsche who thought about man's relationship to his potential exhilaration.

Nietzsche’s concept of the Dionysian spirit is rooted in the ancient Greek god Dionysus, who was known for his ecstatic, wild, and uninhibited behavior. Nietzsche believed that this type of behavior was reflective of a certain kind of spirit that is characterized by an intense passion for life and a disregard for conventional social norms. This Dionysian spirit is seen as a form of liberation from the everyday constraints of life, allowing us to feel more alive and in touch with our inner selves. Nietzsche argued that this kind of spirit can be found within intoxication and the creative arts, and that it can be a source of inspiration and enlightenment, although this is done in interplay with the antagonist, the Appolonian spirit.

These ideas were formulated much more concretely in the 20th century, with particular emphasis on the aspects of social outbreak as well as that of expanding one's own cognitive boundaries. Some thinkers should be highlighted here:

Charles Baudelaire believed that intoxication was an important part of life. He saw it as a way to escape from the monotony of everyday life and as a means of creative inspiration. Baudelaire argued that intoxication was a way to bring pleasure into life and to bring excitement, beauty, and joy. He argued that intoxication could lead to new ways of thinking, new ideas, and new types of creativity. He also argued that intoxication could be a way to explore the depths of the unconscious and could help people to reach a higher level of spirituality.

Walter Benjamin's ideas about intoxication were similar to those of Charles Baudelaire. He believed that it could open up new ways of thinking and lead to new forms of creativity. Unlike Baudelaire, however, Benjamin argued that intoxication could be dangerous and that it should be approached with caution. He believed that intoxication could lead to escapism and that it could be a form of self-destructive behavior if it was not properly controlled.

Benjamin's self-experiment with hashish was a form of self-experimentation he undertook in 1927 in order to explore the effects of hashish on his own mind. He used the drug to explore how it altered his perception of time and space, as well as to better understand its effects on the creative process. He described the experience as a “profoundly illuminating experience” and wrote about his findings in an essay titled “On Hashish”. He found that the drug allowed him to perceive time in an entirely new way and to reach a level of creativity he had never experienced before

Aldous Huxley was a proponent of the use of psychedelic drugs as a means of exploring the depths of the unconscious. He argued that the use of such drugs could lead to a heightened level of creativity, insight, and self-awareness. He argued that they could also lead to a greater understanding of the spiritual aspects of life. While Huxley was an advocate of such drugs, he also cautioned that they should be used responsibly and in a controlled environment. He argued that they should be used as part of a spiritual journey, rather than as a means of mere anesthesia or an attempt to escape from reality.

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