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Why Philosophers Need to Stop Dogmatically Ignoring Drugs

an open letter to Matthew D. Segall PhD

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

March 18, 2024

atthew D. Segall seems to be one of those rare philosophers who at least senses that altered states have relevance when discussing Kant and Whitehead, though he never broached the subject on his discussion about Whitehead two years ago for the Darlington Trust. One can only assume that it's still verboten to discuss this subject in mixed company -- i.e., an audience that may contain as many materialists as panpsychics. This is a shame, however, since William James himself specifically tells us that altered states must be investigated in order to understand ultimate reality: it is a matter of our philosophical duty, in fact. As he writes in "The Varieties of Religious Experience" (which, in case you're keeping score at home, is actually a transcription from a series of lectures given by James):

No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded. How to regard them is the question--for they are so discontinuous with ordinary consciousness."

Yet disregard them we must because of Drug War ideology and the social and political pressure to confirm thereunto. It's not just that the field of philosophy has been censored. That would be bad enough. But the censors have instilled so much fear into the hearts of their victims that philosophers decline to even admit that they are censored, let alone to complain about the fact. It is more than their jobs are worth to even admit that demonized substances exist, let alone that they could tell us something about ultimate reality and the nature of human understanding. This is why I say that we live in a dark ages with respect to philosophical investigation, which, by the way, is something that only I am free to point out because of my lowly status as an academic outsider.

For here is the inconvenient truth:

Anyone who reads Whitehead or Kant must be immediately struck by the applicability of altered states to their discussion of epistemology (unless the only thing said reader knows about drugs is what the government has told them). Kant tells us, for instance, that we human beings have one way of learning about the sensible world, and that is through the conceptual categories that we all share collectively. Well, here is where a perky young freshman in the front of the classroom should raise his or her hand and shout: "But didn't William James say otherwise?" And then, after the gasps and sighs have finally subsided, the whippersnapper would quote the great psychologist to the effect that:

Rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different."

"How then," continues the upstart, "can we opine advisedly about epistemology without at least contemplating James's thesis about altered states?

And that know-it-all is onto something! Both Kant and Whitehead advance a kind of filter theory of reality, whereby we see only what our senses permit us to see, i.e. a practical reality. And yet when James at least partially demonstrates this theory in concreto with the help of "drugs," philosophers completely ignore the fact. Indeed, the Harvard bio of William James does not even mention his work with nitrous oxide, aka laughing gas.

No discussion of Kant and Whitehead should fail to mention altered states. William James said we should investigate these. Why do almost all philosophers pretend that drugs do not exist, even Whitehead, who took James' place at Harvard?!

Even as we speak, the US is attempting to outlaw laughing gas. I have written about this to hundreds of philosophers, and none of them respond. No one complains about this censorship of philosophical investigation.

To answer my own question: We live in a new dark ages wherein academics pretend that drugs do not exist and so have nothing to tell us about psychology or philosophy. "Drugs" has joined "The Book of the Damned" by Charles Fort.

In psychology, this unspoken hatred of "drugs" leads us to refuse to give MDMA and laughing gas to the suicidal. Meanwhile, we let folks use drugs to kill themselves (euthanasia) but not to make themselves want to live.

That's it, thanks, Matthew. I enjoyed your YouTube chat on Whitehead for the Darlington Trust, BTW -- though I was rather irritated by the frequent commercial interruptions which often appeared midsentence. ;)

Oops. Sorry, one more idea: We need a university to host a Department of Drug War Studies, the mere existence of which will remind the hoi polloi that this is not a niche issue, indeed the Drug War was responsible for the election of Trump.

Author's Follow-up: March 17, 2024

picture of clock metaphorically suggesting a follow-up

Well, I managed to alienate Dr. Segall. He took my posts as a criticism of his own presentations, whereas I was trying to point out that he was one of the few philosophers whom I have seen discussing the topic of drugs openly. But it is worth noting that even Matthew did not mention the word "drugs" in his YouTube address about Whitehead for the Darlington Trust in 2022.

So we got off to a bad start on Twitter -- and then I was told that Whitehead DOES talk about drugs. He is the Whitehead scholar so I will take his word for it. But Whitehead wrote before the Drug War had changed the word "drugs" into a catchall for all things disreputable. He did not talk about drugs as we understand them today -- indeed he could not because he did not live in our time with our understandings (or rather misunderstandings) of that concept. Whitehead's expositors certainly do not mention drugs. Even Segall did not mention the word "drugs" in his address -- that's forbidden because of that bad rep that the word has acquired. So I really felt like I was being gaslighted by being told that all is well, that drugs are being fully considered viz. Whitehead -- or -- when it comes to philosophical investigations.

This is surely not what Segall meant to say but it was what came across in his tweet -- which is why Twitter should not be used to discuss philosophical niceties. But in my defense, I tried to contact Matthew first by email, but his webpage, as far as I could see, provides no way to contact him except by social media.

I was left with the impression in our Twitter barrage that Segall does not believe that philosophers are censored in the age of the Drug War, which to me is just total gaslighting. All academia is massively censored. It's not enough to say that they discuss things that could be interpreted as referring to drugs.

I would love to discuss these things in person, but until I get those letters behind my name, I remain a non-entity.

One of the biggest problems of the war on drugs is that everyone underestimates the extent which it has censored academia. Indeed, in a forum for Bernardo Kastrup, I was told that I should reserve my talk about drugs for forums which focus on that subject, as if drug prohibition was an isolated issue without any impact in the real world.

Most Americans have thought for decades now that the Drug War is an issue only for evil "druggies" and "scumbag" dealers. They are now learning that they cannot have democracy AND a Drug War, that they have to choose. For the Drug War resulted in the election of Donald Trump by throwing millions of his minority opponents in jail -- which was one of the racist purposes of the Drug War from the very beginning. And so, as Julian Buchanan tells us, the Drug War has succeeded -- for its goals were always to destroy democracy and empower rich racists.

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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.

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You have been reading an article entitled, Why Philosophers Need to Stop Dogmatically Ignoring Drugs: an open letter to Matthew D. Segall PhD, published on March 18, 2024 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)