Sunday, May 21, 2006

Hashish and Illumination

I just read an interesting essay on Walter Benjamin that explores the possibility that drug experimentation illuminated Benjamin's thinking: "The missing link in Benjamin's work seems to have been supplied, at least in part, by the experience of rausch, the chemically induced trance state of intoxication."

One question immediately flashed through my mind: is this why I can't finish my paper on Steve Stern and Nathan Englander? Do I need hashish (I'm not really even sure what that is)?

Probably not, and if so I suppose I'm not destined to generate work on par with the brilliance of Benjamin, for whom "each sentence seems to bear almost scriptural weight, fitting for a man who conceived of a present 'shot through with splinters of messianic time.'"

This was something I didn't know about Benjamin, and it makes me wonder about others -- what about Blanchot and Derrida? Are their illuminations also elucidated by a special enhancer? I hate to think so...

4 comments:

Casey said...

It'd be like the baseball players on steroids, wouldn't it? Did you ever check out that link on my blog-roll to "Dan?" He's in our undergraduate philosophy program and is interested in how mind-altering drugs may change/enhance thinking. It's a _little_ sketchy, but sometimes very interesting.

nedric said...

Hi - I found this blog through a Levinas link. I think it's cool.

I remember from the Derrida film that he collapsed from an over-dose of sleeping pills, but I doubt those would "enhance" his illuminations as much as calm his nerves. Maybe that is more his "enhancement"? An unhealthy dose of anxiety.

Smoke said...

Drugs are just bad, you should try to use Herbal Alternatives as a temporary replacement to loose the dependance!

Luke said...

In the case of Derrida, as a child of the 60's I can testify that his philosophy was definitely influenced by LSD. The paradoxical (addeled?) notion that writing preceded speech, for instance, is a typical artifact of that drug: LSD scrambles the part of the brain that distinguishes between before and after, cause and effect.

I definitely would not advise taking this drug if you want to continue your academic career.

As for hashish, it has the same active ingredient as marijuana. In the search for truth or insights into reality it has about as much value as alcohol. In venus veritas is a truth that only the inebriated believe, seldom their interlocuters.

My advice is to stick with literature -- which you seem to be doing, and steer as far clear from criticism and critical theory as possible, which, seeing as you are trying to get an English PhD may not be far. Sontag's diary in the NYT has a nice quote where she says about a piece of literary criticism she is writing that she "didn't believe a word of it." That is the proper spirit for that kind of activity with rare exception. Good critics are even rarer than poets, and there are none living of which I am aware. Good luck!