The Phenomenon of Late-Night Drunken Philosophy

I can’t remember what I was going to write about. Something profound I’m sure. Probably would have changed your lives.
A new Enlightenment would have begun outside St Aidan’s College bar, via a group of educated Durham students, talking late into the night.
Unfortunately I remember more vividly the rounds of snake-bite and gin & tonic, and somewhat more dimly the promise to write a piece for Palatinate. The brilliant theory/idea I was going to explain here has been lost forever.
Was I going to tackle Cartesian dualism? Our true purpose in life? Or even, the fastest time you can down a bottle of wine? (Six seconds; that I do remember)
Rather than try and recreate these Deep Profound Thoughts from these drunken, late night conversations, I will attempt to delve into the very root of them. Why is it that after a few pints suddenly we are experts on Kant’s categorical imperative, or brain chemistry, or the world’s economic crisis?
It appears that by day we are apathetic and unopinionated, yet by night, fuelled by vodka, or too much sugar, we are passionate advocates of Communism (works in theory, never in practice), are Boris Johnson’s greatest fan, and have this remarkable ability to sustain conversations about subjects we know very little about. We discover new truths about things that we would never have discussed by day.
There’s a tendency to demonize drunken conversations, but they can hold lessons for us all. Looking at them in a Freudian light one can interpret them as you would dreams or Rorschach ink blots: cloudy reflections of inner desires and fears.
However, its perils should be noted, for there are times when you stand the chance of making a complete fool out of yourself by loudly ranting about the most pointless or embarrassing of subjects in front of bewildered spectators.
Let’s not forget too those drunken confessions where you tell your friend that you’re actually completely in love with them, only to regret it the next day.
Drunken conversations hold many side effects, some healthy, others less so, and they’re not always fun. But in our busy lives – where being politically correct is the norm – because of cultural or even language difficulties, we seldom really express ourselves, about our true loves, interests and passions, or experiment with how far our minds can be stretched via those Big Questions.
These conversations cleanse us, flush out emotions, and challenge our intellectual limits.
Suddenly we are free to talk. Naturally though, this clearly highlights one of society’s main problems.
Too much drink, and too little debate and letting out of emotion, is not very healthy – dehydrating even, to continue that metaphor.
They must also be shared experiences. A one-person drunken conversation is not so much deep and interesting as an inebriated monologue, usually lying somewhere along the spectrum between heart-breakingly honest and touching to completely pathetic, or coming from someone smashed, literally lying in the gutter.
A true drunken conversation requires at least two individuals. This is where the magic enters. Somewhere in the shared experience emerges something transcendental, something that rises above normal comprehension and compassion.
We need this sort of thinking to try out everything we learn in our degrees too. Particularly for Arts subjects and Psychology, ideas are everywhere, yet we need the alcohol or the late nights and the comfort of a group of friends to add our own personal opinions to the vat of Deep Profound Thoughts.
Drunks are said to be out of control – but whose control? Surely it is because of this lack of restraint and political correctness that great ideas, answers and solutions to the world’s problems come to the fore.
The greatest pity nevertheless, is that these answers, these wonderful solutions, however substantial at 4am, fade by the morning. People often wish that they had recorded themselves whilst drunk, just to capture these insights.
The other night in a particularly contentious theological debate, not at all fuelled by our old friend Jack Daniels, I would have given anything to have my examiner in the room at that ungodly hour, instead of marking my written Theology paper.
The same level of profundity and meaning can never truly be retrieved, so you have to treasure it for what it was.
I encourage all of you to speak your mind more, to talk to the random local in Beni’s chip shop at the end of a night out about the meaning of life, to ask for advice, to enter into free, dynamic debate about philosophy, politics, aliens, and ghosts.
But for God’s sake (the existence of whom is another fine topic of conversation in the late hour), don’t get too hammered and spill all your secrets and big ideas to the love of your life, or to a tree. So grab a beer, a mate, and get talking.

2 thoughts on “The Phenomenon of Late-Night Drunken Philosophy

  • riveting schtuff

  • I did a Master’s in France, and I noticed something odd about the way French students behaved when they got together socially. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, until one day it struck me all at once. The way they behave/talk to each other (without being drunk) is the way British students behave/talk to each other *only* when they’re drunk.

    And I suspect the French style is the case in most places. The question then becomes: why must British students be drunk in the first place in order to have intellectual conversations? I agree with the author that these conversations are a good thing, and to be encouraged, so I’d be interested to know why he thinks we need to be drunk (and why he is encouraging us to at least get a bit half-cut) to have them. One instinctive response is that it’s too embarrassing otherwise, but that just begs the question.


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