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The semantic pharmacy and the magic of symbols


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This is a presentation for a talk I gave at Breaking Convention: a multidisciplinary conference on psychedelic consciousness.

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The semantic pharmacy and the magic of symbols

  1. 1. THE SEMANTIC PHARMACY AND THE MAGIC OF SYMBOLS<br />Thomas Teun Meijer<br />
  2. 2. Oxford English Dictionary on Drugs<br />Pronunciation:/drʌg/<br />1 a medicine or other substance which has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body[…]<br />2 a substance taken for its narcotic or stimulant effects, often illegally.<br />[…]<br />Phrases<br />do drugs<br />informal take illegal drugs.<br />on drugs<br />taking medically prescribed drugs:on drugs for high blood pressure<br />under the influence of or habitually taking illegal drugs.<br />Origin:<br />Middle English: from Old French drogue, possibly from Middle Dutch drogevate, literally 'dry vats', referring to the contents (i.e. dry goods)<br /> @Inphiknight<br />
  3. 3. Oxford English Dictionary on Medicine<br />Pronunciation:/ˈmɛds(ə)n, ˈmɛdɪsɪn/<br />1 the science or practice of the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease (in technical use often taken to exclude surgery).<br />2 a drug or other preparation for the treatment or prevention of disease:give her some medicine[count noun] :your doctor will be able to prescribe medicines.<br />3 (among North American Indians and some other peoples) a spell, charm, or fetish believed to have healing, protective, or other power:Fleur was murdering him by use of bad medicine.<br /> @Inphiknight<br />
  4. 4. Derrida on Drugs: Pharmakon<br />Translates as:<br />philtre<br />drug <br />recipe <br />charm <br />medicine<br />substance<br />spell <br />artificial colour<br />paint<br />Othermutations:<br />Pharmakos = <br /> - scapegoat<br /> - magician<br />Pharmacia = <br />- fairies<br />- taking of drugs<br /> @Inphiknight<br />
  5. 5. Plato on Drugs<br />“All translations into languages that are the heirs and depositaries of Western Metaphysics thus produce on the pharmakon an effect of analysis that violently destroys it, reduces it to one of its simple elements by interpreting it, […] The translation by ‘remedy’ can thus neither be accepted nor simply rejected. […] the idea of the correct use of the science or art of medicine, one would still run every risk of being deceived by language. Writing is no more valuable, says Plato, as a remedy than as a poison. […] the remedy is disturbing in itself. One must indeed be aware of the fact that Plato is suspicious of the pharmakon in general, even in the case of drugs used exclusively for therapeutic ends, even when they are wielded with good intentions, and even when they are as such effective. There is no such thing as a harmless remedy. The pharmakoncan never be simply beneficial.” <br />– from Jacques Derrida, ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’, in Dissemination, p.99<br /> @Inphiknight<br />
  6. 6. Writing on Drugs<br />“[…] Socrates compares the written texts Phaedrus has brought along to a drug (pharmakon). This pharmakon, this ‘medicine’, this philtre, which acts as both remedy and poison, already introduces itself into the body of the discourse with all its ambivalence. This charm, this spellbinding virtue, this power of fascination, can be – alternately or simultaneously – beneficent or maleficent. The pharmakon would be a substance – with all that that word can connote in terms of matter with occult virtues, cryptic depths refusing to submit their ambivalence to analysis, already paving the way for alchemy – if we didn’t have eventually to come to recognize it as antisubstance itself: that which resists any philosopheme, indefinitely exceeding its bounds as nonidentitynonessence, nonsubstance; granting philosophy by that very fact the inexhaustible adversity of what funds it and the infinite absence of what founds it.<br /> Operating through seduction, the pharmakon makes one stray from one’s general, natural, habitual paths and laws. Here, it takes Socrates out of his proper place and off his customary track. The latter had always kept him inside the city. The leaves of writing act as a pharmakon to push or attract out of the city the one who never wanted to get out, even at the end, to escape the hemlock. They take him out of himself and draw him onto a path that is properly an exodus: […]”<br />from Jacques Derrida, ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’, in Dissemination, p.70<br /> @Inphiknight<br />
  7. 7. Ants on Drugs<br /> @Inphiknight<br />
  8. 8. Society on Drugs<br />“Religion is the Opium of the masses.” - Karl Marx<br /> @Inphiknight<br />
  9. 9. The Pen is Mightierthan the Sword<br /> @Inphiknight<br />
  10. 10. Thomas’ voyage on the semanticsea:<br /><br />“Interweavingsymbolicstreams<br />with the embroideries of life”<br />twitter: @Inphiknight<br />Email:<br /> @Inphiknight<br />