If you’re a philosopher, you have no excuse for not trying psychedelics.
You might be a great philosopher and make incredible contributions to the field. If you’ve never tried a hallucinogenic drug, there’s always something that you’re missing. I can have a conversation about metaphysics with you and be amazed by your arguments. Nonetheless, at the back of my mind will be the fact that you don’t have the psychedelic insight. As someone who has it, that’s something I can’t ignore. It’s relevant to all metaphysical and epistemological questions, and to all issues that depend on metaphysical and epistemological assumptions – in other words, to all philosophy.
The psychedelic experience is something like sight. It’s not one experience, but a medium for a specific kind of experience. Close your eyes for a moment. Can you remember what vision is like? Sort of. You can conjure images in the mind’s eye. But now open your eyes again. Is vision exactly what you pictured when you closed your eyes? Not even close. The psychedelic experience is like that – you can sort of remember what it’s like. But you don’t understand it unless you’re currently in it. For this reason, the psychedelic experience is impossible to explain. If you’ve never had it but have heard stories, you understand it as well as a blind man understands color from descriptions.
A quick glance through user testimonials will show you that everyone who trips gets something different from it. Even so, there’s something distinctive about the psychedelic experience. We might all disagree on how to best describe that distinctive characteristic. But almost all will agree that, whatever it is, it is relevant to any broad view of reality.
Imagine there’s a philosopher who has a knockdown argument for, let’s say, dualism. You see a problem with his argument and formulate what you think is a strong counterargument. You present it to the dualist and he refuses to look at it. He maintains that he’s correct about dualism, but he’s categorically opposed to even hearing your rebuttal. That’s what a philosopher who refuses to trip sounds like to those of us who have. How can we take you seriously when you refuse to look at available and relevant data?
You might fire back that I should be able to demonstrate what’s relevant about the psychedelic experience. Unfortunately, I can’t unless you try it. That’s just the facts – I wish it were otherwise. You can believe the millions of us who have tried it, or you can assume we’re all either deluded or involved in a conspiracy. I’ve tried it, so I know.
There are a few reasons someone might refuse to do psychedelics. One is a concern about long-term mental health. Rest at ease. LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, mescaline, and DMT are absolutely safe drugs to consume. They do not make you go crazy. Taking them every once in a while is not in any way harmful to your body or mind. On the contrary, they have therapeutic value in alleviating addiction and depression. It doesn’t take a long time on Google to see that these are essentially undisputed facts.
Another concern is doing something stupid while on a trip. There are ways to secure against that. And stories of trippers doing something dangerous are overblown and mythologized.
The remaining concerns are social and legal. You can either let those stop you or not. How important is philosophical inquiry for you? Enough to risk social and legal repercussions? That should obviously depend on the level of risk. In this case, it’s actually quite easy to obtain and use LSD and psilocybin mushrooms without anyone finding out. Just ask the internet. It’s not hard.
I’ll end with this: I don’t mean this argument abstractly. It’s a real challenge. Either try an entheogen, accept that you’re not especially serious about philosophy, or give me a counterargument.