Friday, February 3, 2023

Cognitive Enhancing Drugs and Contemporary Performance

As a composer, let's advance our thinking for a moment into a taboo directive of performance notes for the instrumentalist/vocalist/performer.

I have looked at many of the fascinating ethical and philosophical issues that are raised by the use of enhancing drugs. But throughout all this writing, there is one topic that I have studiously avoided. This is surprising given that, in many ways, it is the most fundamental topic of all:  do the alleged cognitive enhancing drugs actually work in the improved performance musicians?

One reason for avoiding this topic is that philosophers like to pursue hypotheticals: to imagine possible worlds and trace out their logical implications. And this can be all well and good, but, there is a danger that it leads one to commit the “vice of in-principlism”. 

That is: the vice of talking about enhancement purely in terms of “well if, in principle, cognitive enhancing drugs worked, then the following would be true…”. 

This is a vice because there are many real-world substances that are alleged to have an enhancing effect. And it’s important that in all our philosophizing we don’t ignore the real-world.

As composers, I say "Ahhh, so melancholy when we consider our vice-performers."

Can one imagine prescribing medication as part of a score?  Asking the performer to ingest a Schedule 2, 3 or 4 substance to crate a new landscape?

Just questions for now.

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