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Critique of the Philosophy of Happiness

an open letter to Stanford Philosophy Department

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

April 16, 2022

n honest 'Philosophy of Happiness' is not possible in the age of the Drug War, especially when the said philosophy does not even acknowledge the existence of that war in its otherwise quite detailed introduction. For the Drug War is not value-neutral when it comes to happiness, but rather it is based on a highly debatable ideology: namely, that we have some sort of moral duty to be happy without using the criminalized substances that racist politicians have convinced us to refer to (or rather to denigrate as) 'drugs' -- and the even more debatable (indeed outright false) notion that the use of all such criminalized substances must end in poverty and ruin. To the extent that this latter belief is true, of course, it is because drug legislation is written with the goal of ruining the 'user' through loss of drug supply, loss of freedom, loss of job, loss of housing, loss of ability to get loans for education, loss of voting rights, loss of eligibility for welfare, etc. In short, legislation does most of the hard work of ruining the user, but the Drug Warrior is more than happy to superstitiously ascribe every bit of the user's downfall to the amoral substance that they have demonized as a "drug."

Yet, the introduction to this subject on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy website never mentions drugs but in a negative light, first by fretting that 'drug' use may bring about a kind of happiness that renders the user indifferent to the real world, and second by questioning the use of antidepressants which bring about a happiness which is expressed in ways that might be at odds with the 'user's' true original personality. Of course these are both important issues to cover, but they are scarcely the whole story. There is a whole world of drug use that involves neither the overpowering soma of Huxley nor the use of Big Pharma meds that change brain chemistry in unpredictable ways. There is the use of "drugs" to gain self-transcendence and to take a break from full-on reality. There is the use of "drugs" to focus the mind and to increase cerebral output. There is the use of "drugs" to appreciate mother nature, or music, or to better appreciate one's fellow human beings. There are even drugs to increase one's religiosity.

Take opium for instance, in the 19th century. In those days, one was not a scumbag for becoming happy through the occasional use of opium (happy both in using and, most importantly, in "LOOKING FORWARD to using opium") and even the regular users were referred to as "habitués," not as morally challenged "addicts" (the term which came into vogue only after the criminalization of the poppy). Yes, as many as 1 in 10 Americans were habituated to opium use in the early 1900s. But that's nothing compared to the fact that 1-in-4 American women are now chemically dependent on Big Pharma antidepressants today. 1 in 4. For the Drug War can outlaw specific psychoactive substances but it cannot outlaw the desire to be happy.

So how can we discuss an abstract philosophy of happiness in a world in which one's attempts to find happiness are strictly controlled by the federal government in this way? Stanford's apparent answer to this dilemma: Just ignore the government's role in controlling drug choices and pretend that we're studying happiness (its rarity, its causes, etc.) from a natural baseline, in a world, in short, where one actually has free access to the plants and fungi that grow at their very feet. Well, that's not the world we live in, and Stanford's course should not tacitly imply and/or assume that it is. When they do so, they are clearly implying that their "philosophy of happiness" presupposes the Christian Science ideology of Mary Baker Eddy, at least when it comes to psychoactive drugs, and this is a premise that should be acknowledged, not implied. Why? Because the idea that psychoactive "drugs" are bad is not a truth that naturally suggests itself to a person (at least not in the absence of daily Drug War propaganda), least of all to those who grew up say in a rain forest, surrounded by what they consider to be godsend plant medicine.

Sedation may mean happiness according to the self-interested definition of a Big Pharma chemist (the chemist who designed this very expensive poison for me, which was never originally intended for long-term use), but it is not happiness according to myself. For my philosophy of life (and what brings me happiness) is to know myself, and the world around me, to the extent possible, and to be as creative as possible and open to novel thoughts -- and not to be side-lined with drug-induced sleepiness.

Yet the government tells me that when it comes to psychoactive pharmacology, I can only improve my happiness through the use of the most dependence-causing substances on the planet, for many SSRIs are harder to kick than heroin (source: Julie Holland).

In short, a course about the Philosophy of Happiness should be all ABOUT the Drug War and its highly debatable assumptions about the definition of "true happiness" and how it is or is not to be obtained.

To ignore the Drug War in this course is like ignoring the fact that hammers have been outlawed when creating a course entitled A Philosophy of Nailing. Yes, there are other ways to "drive in" a nail than with a hammer, just as there are other ways to find happiness than with drugs (and/or with the mind-easing anticipation of their upcoming use). But there's still something very strange about creating a course about Nailing without even mentioning the 64,000-pound gorilla in the room, namely the fact that hammers in one's own society are actually illegal.

Finally, there is another soma than that mentioned by Aldous Huxley, namely, the naturally occurring psychoactive substance that inspired the entire Vedic religion. Had the DEA rushed in back then and outlawed soma, would we dare to write a philosophy of happiness in the ancient Indus Valley without even mentioning the fact that the history-changing soma plant had been outlawed?

ADDENDUM April 27, 2022

I thought I was complaining about one course, but I have searched the entire literature on happiness at Stanford and there appears to be no happiness-related course or intensely annotated paper that even mentions the Drug War, let alone speculates how it may conduce to unhappiness. This is why it's so hard to make a philosophical dent in the Drug War, because no one acknowledges that it exists. How does the Drug War prevent happiness? By denying the depressed either a vacation from self-doubt (with drugs like opium and psychedelics) or a way to override that self-doubt with raw motivation (with the coca plant). This reveals that Stanford views psychoactive drugs from the Christian Science perspective of Mary Baker Eddy, and yet that ideology seems so natural to them that they do not even consider it to be a bias.

ADDENDUM June 24, 2022

Nor is philosophy "above" drugs. Marcus Aurelius wrote his meditations under the influence of generous helpings of opium. Plato's view of the afterlife was inspired by a draft of the psychedelic kykeon at Eleusis. These philosophers never felt it necessary to acknowledge their indebtedness to plant medicines because it never occurred to them that there was something wrong or particularly novel about using them -- unlike the Drug Warrior, who sees the use of psychoactive plant medicine as a defining moment in one's life on planet Earth, one which immediately taints the user on moral grounds and casts doubt on everything that they henceforth do and say in the world.

The Links Police

Do you know why I pulled you over? That's right, because you were about to drive right by these related essays on the topic of happiness and the Drug War.

Critique of the Philosophy of Happiness
In Praise of Doctor Feelgood
The Politically Incorrect Cure for the Common Cold
Using Opium to Fight Depression
The Therapeutic Value of Anticipation

Next essay: The Menace of the Drug War
Previous essay: 'Intoxiphobia' by Russell Newcombe

More Essays Here

Some Tweets against the hateful war on drugs

This is why the foes of suicide are doing absolutely nothing to get laughing gas into the hands of those who could benefit from it. Laughing is subjective after all. In the western tradition, we need a "REAL" cure to depression.
Over 45% of traumatic brain injuries are caused by horseback riding (ABC News). Tell your representatives to outlaw horseback riding and make it a federal offence to teach a child how to ride! Brought to you by the Partnership for a Death Free America.
Addiction thrives BECAUSE of prohibition, which outlaws drug alternatives and discourages education about psychoactive substances and how to use them wisely.
That's the problem with prohibition. It is not ultimately a health question but a question about priorities and sensibilities -- and those topics are open to lively debate and should not be the province of science, especially when natural law itself says mother nature is ours.
Materialist scientists are drug war collaborators. They are more than happy to have their fight against idealism rigged by drug law, which outlaws precisely those substances whose use serves to cast their materialism into question.
If NIDA covered all drugs (not just politically ostracized drugs), they'd produce articles like this: "Aspirin continues to kill hundreds." "Penicillin misuse approaching crisis levels." "More bad news about Tylenol and liver damage." "Study revives cancer fears from caffeine."
Today's war against drug users is like Elizabeth I's war against Catholics. Both are religious crackdowns. For today's oppressors, the true faith (i.e., the moral way to live) is according to the drug-hating religion of Christian Science.
In fact, that's what we need when we finally return to legalization: educational documentaries showing how folks manage to safely incorporate today's hated substances into their life and lifestyle.
Drug Warriors never take responsibility for incentivizing poor kids throughout the west to sell drugs. It's not just in NYC and LA, it's in modest-sized towns in France. Find public housing, you find drug dealing. It's the prohibition, damn it!
The best step we could take in harm reduction is re-legalizing everything and starting to teach safe use. Spend the DEA's billions on "go" teams that would descend on locations where drugs are being used stupidly -- not to arrest, but to educate.
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The problem with Modern Drug Reform Efforts
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The Mother of all Western Biases
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The Drug War as a Litmus Test for Philosophical Wisdom
The Philosophical Idiocy of the Drug War
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Without Philosophy, Science becomes Scientism
Materialism and the Drug War
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Heidegger on Drugs
In Praise of Thomas Szasz
Join Philosophers Against the Drug War
Libertarians as Closet Christian Scientists
Majoring in Drug War Philosophy
Rationality Uber Alles
Scientism and America's Drug War hypocrisy
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Nietzsche and the Drug War
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Psychedelics and Depression
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John Locke on Drugs
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What We Mean When We Say 'Drugs'
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front cover of Drug War Comic Book

Buy the Drug War Comic Book by the Drug War Philosopher Brian Quass, featuring 150 hilarious op-ed pics about America's disgraceful war on Americans

You have been reading an article entitled, Critique of the Philosophy of Happiness: an open letter to Stanford Philosophy Department, published on April 16, 2022 on For more information about America's disgraceful drug war, which is anti-patient, anti-minority, anti-scientific, anti-mother nature, imperialistic, the establishment of the Christian Science religion, a violation of the natural law upon which America was founded, and a childish and counterproductive way of looking at the world, one which causes all of the problems that it purports to solve, and then some, visit the drug war philosopher, at (philosopher's bio; go to top of this page)