Integrating Cannabis into a Philosophical Way of Life
How can we use cannabis well? To use cannabis well is to use it wisely. This means integrating cannabis into a philosophical way of life. Ancient philosophical schools (like Stoicism, Buddhism, and Platonism) defined ways of life. It would be hard to fit the full range of uses of cannabis into Stoic or Buddhist ways of life. But Platonism welcomes all the major uses of cannabis. These include uses that are medical, artistic, spiritual, ascetic, and sacramental. Both theists and atheists can be Platonists. Platonism has the metaphysical resources needed to make sense of the experiences induced by cannabis. And it has the ethical resources needed to help us use cannabis well. So I will focus on integrating cannabis into a Platonic way of life. The Platonic way of life involves the ascent of the self from the Platonic cave up to the Platonic Good.
2. Anxiety and Pain
Cannabis is often used to reduce anxiety. When we experience negative conditions (like anxiety, pain, and depression), we are living in Platos cave. By arguing that anxiety refers to non-being, Heidegger showed how anxiety has philosophical meaning. By treating anxiety, cannabis is a philosophically significant plant. Non-being can also play a role in Platonism as a kind of Platonic Zero, which motivates the Platonic One. Cannabis has also been used to treat another philosophical condition, namely, pain. Pain has imperative meaning: painful parts of our bodies generate commands to relieve those pains. Cannabis (mainly, THC) reduces the force of those commands. Using cannabis to treat pain requires doing work on your self. The Platonists outlined a scientific way of working on your self. You do self-experimentation. This is self-hacking. Its the best method for learning to use cannabis well.
Platos cave is a place of suffering and impairment. Since the suffering in the cave comes from illusions, and illusions are generated by our brains, the cave can be used as a metaphor for neurological illness. One of the most common neurological illnesses is depression. Depression is one of the chains that can keep you imprisoned in Platos cave. One of the most common reasons people use cannabis (mainly, THC) is to treat depression. There are several major theories of depression. One of these states that depression comes from dysfunction in the endocannabinoid signaling system in our brains. Some studies say cannabis treats depression; others show that it makes depression worse. The difference seems to be dosing. THC is biphasic: it produces one kind of effect at low doses, but the opposite effect at high doses. Using cannabis to hack depression requires careful attention to many variables.
4. Against Compulsion
Our lives are naturally structured by the cyclical urges of our bodies. When our bodies are healthy, these urges emerge from the autonomous operations of our bodies. But our bodies can suffer from illness which induce compulsions. These are compulsive disorders (like epilepsy or restless legs syndrome). These compulsive disorders generate alien or heteronomous urges. They are commands which seem to emerge from an alien presence in the body. These commands have the force of necessities. Philosophers use possible worlds to think about necessities. Your modal landscape is a space of possible future bodies and their worlds. Bodies with compulsive disorders have distorted modal landscapes. They are trapped in valleys. More Platonically, they are imprisoned in Plato?s cave. Cannabis is useful in treating a wide variety of compulsive disorders. Along with its uses to treat anxiety, pain, and depression, these uses suggest that cannabis is an anti-compulsive. Cannabis smooths out disorderly compulsions and makes orderly compulsions more purposive.
5. The Ascent to Health
Chronic diseases like arthritis limit our options. They limit our possibilities, so that we live in rugged modal landscapes. Arthritis is a deep and painful valley. According to the modal theory of moods, our moods track the flatness of our modal landscapes. Low mood (depression) corresponds to low flatness. Low flatness is high ruggedness ? we get trapped in rugged landscapes. But high mood (euphoria) is high flatness. It?s easy to move around on a flat landscape. Rugged landscapes also shape our awareness of our possibilities. Philosophically, disorders like depression are diseases of modal knowledge. Cannabis decreases the ruggedness of our modal landscapes. It makes them flatter and so is modally liberating. Although this liberation can be illusory for people with chronic diseases, it is a beneficial illusion (a Platonic noble lie) that can have genuine positive consequences.
6. Asceticism and Renunciation
There are two kinds of asceticism. Disruptive asceticism renounces the dominant social order. The disruptive ascetic abandons their social relations and rejects the dominant social norms. Disruptive asceticism is part of the Cynical way of life. Another type of asceticism is constructive. Constructive asceticism seeks to build new and more ideal communities. Constructive asceticism is part of the Platonic way of life. Cannabis is often used in both disruptive and constructive asceticisms. Ascetic uses of cannabis occur among Hindu sadhus, among Rastafarians, and among American hippies. When cannabis is used ascetically, it is often said to arouse a divine energy in the body, which helps move the ascetic to a spiritually superior mode of life. However, the use of cannabis in disruptive asceticism can become excessive, leading to extreme and ethically problematic renunciation. The use of cannabis in constructive asceticism is ethically regulated by the goal of building a greater community. It helps cement social bonds in ascetic communities. More generally, cannabis has many prosocial uses.
Wellness is usually defined as a kind of excellence that exceeds health. It is super-health. Wellness can also be thought of as an optimal way of living, a way of living that achieves existential beauty. Plotinus conceived of the body as a musical instrument dedicated to playing beautiful music. He also portrayed the self as a statue in the process of being sculpted. Your task was to create a beautiful sculpture, a beautiful life, like a statue of a god or goddess in a temple. Nietzsche thought of the self as a self-shaping work of art. Thus Platonists think of wellness in aesthetic terms, as practices aimed to optimize the beauty of your character and life. Cannabis can help people achieve wellness. The practices of wellness are often referred to as spiritual practices. They include meditation and yoga. Ganja yoga incorporates cannabis into the practice of yoga. Wellness includes excellent social relations, and cannabis can be used to facilitate greater sociality. The recreational use of cannabis is a prosocial use.
Optimization produces physiological excellence (that is, wellness); but wellness can still be thought of as a kind of health (super-health). Enhancement goes beyond optimization. Enhancement means extending the powers and functions of your body beyond their natural levels. Enhancement raises your body above the human level towards the heroic level. It makes you resemble a hero like Hercules or the heroine Atalanta. Since Platonism aims at deification, the Platonic way of life includes the use of biomedical technologies for enhancement. Many bioactive molecules are used for enhancement purposes. Among them, many cannabinoids are used for enhancement. When cannabis is used for enhancement, it usually follows a biphasic dose pattern: low doses enhance, high doses degrade. Platonists value beauty and artistic creativity, and there is some evidence that THC can be used to enhance artistic creativity. Enhancement remains mostly in the realm of possibility. When we think about enhanced versions of ourselves, we are thinking about possible future versions of ourselves.
The Olympian deities include gods like Zeus and goddesses like Athena. They are superhuman animals. The Greek myths describe divinizing substances that could turn humans into deities. It is possible that drugs can transform us into superhuman animals. The transhumanists are searching for such drugs today. Following David Lewis, modern Platonists say the deities live in other possible worlds: they are possible superhuman animals. Although we cannot be physiologically like them, our brains can simulate their experience. We can know what it feels like to be divine. We can simulate the feeling of blissful invulnerability. Due to mutations in her endocannabinoid system, the Scottish woman Jo Cameron does not feel any pain or anxiety; she feels as if she were invulnerable. Of course, she is not invulnerable; she is merely hallucinating being a goddess. During possession trances, humans dissociatively simulate divine persons. Since Plato valued possession trances, the Platonic way of life includes the use of bioactive molecules to induce possession trances. But here is a negative result: when possession trances are carefully distinguished from other religious states of mind, it does not look like cannabis or any other drug induces possession trances.
The proper functions of some organism are those for which it has been most finely tuned by evolution. Its proper functions are its highest perfections. The endurance running hypothesis states that humans are most finely tuned to perform long distance running. Our physiological adaptations for endurance running support our highest cognitive functions. Human endurance running is associated with persistence hunting, which is a coordinated social endeavor. Our adaptations for endurance running support our highest moral functions. Thus we realize our highest perfections when doing endurance running. When we realize our highest perfections, the form of the human participates in the form of the Good. Many long distance runner?s experience the runner?s high. When we experience the runner?s high, we are maximally realizing or actualizing our highest perfections. The runner?s high signifies the participation of the human in the Good. Since the Good is holy, the runners high is holy.
The runners high is produced by activation of the endocannabinoid system. But the cannabis high simulates the runners high. Just as the runner?s high arouses the ecstatic self, so the cannabis high also arouses the ecstatic self. When you are high on cannabis, you participate in the Good. The cannabis high is what it feels like to perceive the Good. Since the Good is holy, the cannabis high participates in this holiness. Any use of cannabis that is consecrated to the Good is sacramental. Many people use the cannabis high for sacramental purposes. They use it in both religious and irreligious contexts. When cannabis is used sacramentally, it reveals that the divine power of the One animates all things. Nature contains a system of ecstatic unities in glorious communion with each other. So the human mind high on cannabis perceives that nature sings a hymn to the Good. Since the sacramental use of cannabis can involve high doses, it should be situated in rituals designed for safety.
|3 August 2021|