Drunk: Intoxication, Ecstasy and the Origins of Civilization

May 06, 2024
Psychology 1312
Edward Slingerland, University of British Columbia


Edward Slingerland is Distinguished University Scholar and Professor of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia. His research specialties and teaching interests include Warring States (5th-3rd c. B.C.E.) Chinese thought, religious studies, cognitive linguistics, ethics, and the relationship between the humanities and the natural sciences. His publications include several academic monographs and edited volumes, approximately fifty refereed articles in top journals in a wide variety of fields, and two trade books, Trying Not Try: Modern Science, Ancient China and the Power of Spontaneity (Crown 2014) and Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization (Little, Brown 2021). He is also Director of the Database of Religious History (DRH; religiondatabase.org).


Drawing on evidence from archaeology, history, cognitive neuroscience, psychopharmacology, social psychology, literature, and genetics, this talk will argue that our taste for chemical intoxicants is not an evolutionary mistake, as we are so often told. In fact, intoxication helps solve a number of distinctively human challenges: enhancing creativity, alleviating stress, building trust, and pulling off the miracle of getting fiercely tribal primates to cooperate with strangers. Our desire to get drunk, along with the individual and social benefits provided by drunkenness, played a crucial role in sparking the rise of the first large-scale societies.

This lecture will take place at 4 pm in Psychology 1312 on the UCSB campus and is free and open to the public.