When I wanted to quit smoking, I started to explore writings of philosophers – from ancient to modern as how they can help me. I found many writings but I am sorry to say that the cravings of nicotine was more powerful than the most-exalted philosophy. This is a fact and not some speculation and St. Augustine was right – “Flesh is weak.” What two centuries of philosophers could not, a nicotex gum did, temporarily.
Are philosophers worthless in solving our practical, real, day to day problem ?
Why people like to be intoxicated ?
There is no civilization – ancient or modern that did not have some mode of intoxication. This begs the question : why people have such pull towards various forms of intoxication ? There must be something in Man (not in intoxication) that draws it powerfully towards intoxication. One must remember that no intoxication is necessary for survival. Thus in Darwinian system, intoxication cannot be incorporated. One’s survival no way increases through intoxication. It is other way around as per medical science.
I think that the fundamental need for intoxication (and there is a huge worldwide business of it -legal and illegal – cigarette, beetle-leaf, chew-able tobacco, snuff, alcohol, cannabis, heroin, cocaine and other recreational drugs) is this : we want to escape or transmute the physical, mental, intellectual, societal, mortal, moral boundaries. Intoxication is a chemical way to change the bio-chemistry of the brain temporarily.
Why people are attracted to Art ?
I find in no way as how can our love of Art increases our chance of survival, at least in the higher species. I think Art is a form of intoxication, with chemical and other components which are less understood or least understood. Like intoxication, Art is also a luxury. And may be, because of this, Art and Intoxication capture Life so completely and in such a gripping manner.
Intoxication and Religion
Religions and intoxication share an ambivalent relationship. A Hindu, otherwise out of intoxication, does not disapprove ritual drinking during worship of goddess Kali. Same goes for many other religions. Here I think Schopanhuer was right – it is desire that reason legitimizes. He said it more clearly and beautifully – “we do not reason and desire something, we desire something and then rationalize it.”
Nietzsche on intoxication
This philosopher has something to say that I found closer to my heart. He said something like this : “drink a glass of milk when you would like to drink a glass of wine.” He was neither for milk or against wine. His argument goes deeper. He asked Man to cite a reason while looking at one’s whole life and find a single reason so that one should re-live the whole life again. In other words, if we are destined to come back again and again, what is the reason for which we would like to do this voluntarily ? Or, how do we justify our existence ?
Life and intoxication are both cyclical in nature. Nietzsche’s eternal return means the cycle is eternal and this is close to Buddha’s wheel. How to get out of this ? Intoxication is a temporary dis-embankment. All chemically induced methods are temporary.
I think intoxication is fundamental to existence. This is an area where we need more philosophers and sociologists to look into. Since intoxication has some relation with happiness, albeit temporary, one should inquire deeply into this facet of existence. Finally, intoxication is an individual experience – like sex, just like you cannot have someone else have a feeling of orgasm on behalf of you, similarly one cannot delegate intoxicated state to another person.
There is a school of thought and we cannot dismiss it out of hand, that argues that lasting human happiness lies neither in social, political or economic organization but manipulating human neuro-chemistry.