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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Do psychotropic drugs enhance, or diminish, human agency?

Rami Gabriel
Originally posted September 3, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Psychological medications such as Xanax, Ritalin and aspirin help to modify undesirable behaviours, thought patterns and the perception of pain. They purport to treat the underlying chemical cause rather than the social, interpersonal or psychodynamic causes of pathology. Self-knowledge gained by introspection and dialogue are no longer our primary means for modifying psychological states. By prescribing such medication, physicians are implicitly admitting that cognitive and behavioural training is insufficient and impractical, and that ‘the brain’, of which nonspecialists have little explicit understanding, is in fact the level where errors occur. Indeed, drugs are reliable and effective because they implement the findings of neuroscience and supplement (or in many cases substitute for) our humanist discourse about self-development and agency. In using such drugs, we become transhuman hybrid beings who build tools into the regulatory plant of the body.

Recreational drugs, on the other hand, are essentially hedonic tools that allow for stress-release and the diminishment of inhibition and sense of responsibility. Avenues of escape are reached through derangement of thought and perception; many find pleasure in this transcendence of quotidian experience and transgression of social norms. There is also a Dionysian, or spiritual, purpose to recreational inebriation, which can enable revelations that enhance intimacy and the emotional need for existential reflection. Here drugs act as portals into spiritual rituals and otherwise restricted metaphysical spaces. The practice of imbibing a sacred substance is as old as ascetic and mindfulness practices but, in our times, drugs are overwhelmingly the most commonly used tool for tending to this element of the human condition.

The info is here.

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