It is generally accepted that a person is permitted to use a drug to augment their creativity ranging from coffee, alcohol, to psychotropic and hallucinogenic drugs. People using drugs often create beautiful paintings, pieces of music, or write great literature. While these people’s creations are still considered beautiful, an interesting question to consider is the degree to which the creators can be praised. While these persons should be praised for creating great paintings, music, or literature, might this praise be mitigated because the person is on drugs? Consider cases where a person is using drugs and does something bad, while the person is regarded as being blameworthy, in some instances this blameworthiness is mitigated by their being under the influence of drugs. Although this person is blameworthy having done something bad, their being on drugs is at least considered as being a reason that, under certain conditions, lessens their responsibility. Yet, if being under the influence of drugs mitigates, even if to a minor degree, a person’s responsibility for a bad action, it then seems reasonable that being under the influence of drugs would also mitigate the degree of praise given to someone for creating a work of art. The drug and the effects it has on a person do, to some degree, play a role in the creation of the work of art.
To be clear, I am not arguing that persons under the influence of drugs should not be praised for creating great paintings, music, or literature, or that being under the influence of drugs exculpates the wrong-doer. Instead, I am pointing out that in regards to the use of drugs there is an asymmetry between drug use and the degree of being blamed for a wrong action and the degree of being praised for a creative action. It is interesting and difficult to figure out why this is the case. In part, a reason for this asymmetry might be because of the complexity of really knowing how to assess the degree to which altering our neurological capacities plays a role in our assessment of people’s actions, as evident by arguments concerning the use of pharmaceuticals and authenticity. It might also turn out that my claim of an asymmetry makes a kind of attribution error. My assessment of a person’s creative action under the influence of drugs credited the drug as playing a bigger role in the creative process than they really had. For example, the use of drugs may be to “loosen up” or “relax” the person, but the creative impetus comes from the individual, not the drug; alternatively, the use of drugs “loosened up” or “relaxed” a person and the bad actions were done of their own accord.
Whether or not my assessment of a person’s creative action under the influence of drugs is incorrect, it would be interesting for future investigations to not only look at the role pharmaceuticals and other substances have in the creative process but also the role they play in the assessment of a person’s creative action.