bird icon for twitter


How the Drug War Outlaws Criticism of Immanuel Kant

an open letter to Professor Daniel A. Bonevac of the University of Pittsburgh

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher






March 13, 2024

ood evening, Professor Bonevac.

I am a 65-year-old philosopher in Basye, Virginia, writing to thank you for your fascinating discussion of Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason1 on the YouTube video posted in 20172.

I would like to suggest an idea that you may never have heard before, namely that there is another potential source of knowledge of which Kant seems to have been unaware, and that is the knowledge (both metaphysical and practical) that all tribal societies have claimed to receive via the use of those psychoactive substances which in the west we denigrate as "drugs"3. It will be argued that these states are "hallucinations," but this is surely just a Christian Science prejudice, for the filter theory of perception espoused by William James4 and Aldous Huxley5 suggests that the world that we see "on" psychoactive substances is but another aspect of that "real world out there" (the raw and "unprocessed" world of the physicist) which to Whitehead is but an inchoate world of atomic potential6.

I would argue, in fact, that a full understanding of Kant (and his potential limitations as an "intoxiphobic westerner7") cannot be undertaken without a thorough discussion of the philosophy of drug-induced states. As just one example, I took part in a "spirit walk" using peyote in Arizona in 2019, during which I saw (with eyes closed) a neon-green slide show of Mesoamerican imagery. The mere fact that the consumption of a cactus should bring about such culturally specific visions (when consumed in tribal territory, no less) should be fodder for endless philosophical discussions about metaphysics and the possibility (contra Kant) of gaining knowledge about the noumenal world. The goal of the vision, after all, appeared to be to teach me something, and indeed such plant substances are generally referred to as "teachers" by tribal healers8. At least in the tribes' minds, these drugs are definitely providing knowledge, albeit a kind of knowledge for which Kant does not seem to have made any allowance in his Critique of Pure Reason.

Unfortunately, the modern trend in academia is to "reckon without the Drug War9" and so to ignore the philosophical hints that such experiences seem to me to supply in such abundance, starting with the idea that there may be a third type of knowledge beyond both sensibility and understanding, knowledge that we acquire by obtaining surreptitious glimpses through the temporarily opened "doors of perception"5. As radical as this idea may sound, it really is just a restatement of what William James himself said about altered states over a hundred years ago in "The Varieties of Religious Experience":

"No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded"4.


I would argue then that the Drug War and prohibition are limiting our knowledge of Kant. And it is getting worse. The FDA is now seeking to regulate James's pet substance, nitrous oxide12, like any other drug and thus to place it too off limits to scientific (and philosophic) investigation. It is as if the government were thereby stacking the decks in favor of Kant by making it illegal to undertake experiments that might challenge his views about how we can know things as human beings.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic.



Notes:

1 Kant, Immanuel, The Critique of Pure Reason, (up)
2 Bonevac, Daniel, Kant's Transcendental Idealism, 2021 (up)
3 Schultes, Plants of the Gods:Origins of Hallucinogenic Use, 1979 (up)
4 James, William, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Philosophical Library, New York, 1902 (up)
5 Huxley, Aldous, The Doors of Perception / Heaven and Hell, Penguin Books, New York, 1970 (up)
6 Whitehead, Alfred North, The Concept of Nature, (up)
7 Quass, Brian, Intoxiphobia, 2023 (up)
8 Plant Teachers, (up)
9 Quass, Brian, How Scientific American reckons without the drug war, 2023 (up)
10 Huxley, Aldous, The Doors of Perception / Heaven and Hell, Penguin Books, New York, 1970 (up)
11 James, William, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Philosophical Library, New York, 1902 (up)
12 Quass, Brian, The Criminalization of Nitrous Oxide is No Laughing Matter, 2023 (up)



Next essay: Legalizing Opiates
Previous essay: God and Drugs

More Essays Here


William James Tweets

William James knew that there were substances that could elate. However, it never occurred to him that we should use such substances to prevent suicide. It seems James was blinded to this possibility by his puritanical assumptions.
So he writes about the mindset of the deeply depressed, reifying the condition as if it were some great "type" inevitably to be encountered in humanity. No. It's the "type" to be found in a post-Christian society that has turned up its scientific nose at psychoactive medicine.



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, How the Drug War Outlaws Criticism of Immanuel Kant: an open letter to Professor Daniel A. Bonevac of the University of Pittsburgh, published on March 13, 2024 on AbolishTheDEA.com. 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 abolishTheDEA.com. (philosopher's bio; go to top of this page)