Philosophical Approach to Addiction
Bruce Wilshire’s book, Wild Hunger, offers a compassionate and unique understanding of the roots of addiction in our society. The book explores the connection between addiction and modern detachment from our primal needs and the natural world.
Wilshire investigates the social structure we live in, how it can be unaccommodating for human health and happiness. He also builds a conversation around the possibility for recovery and how to cope with this reality.
Bruce Wilshire was a brilliant professor of philosophy at Rutgers University. He was interested in the influence of Native American thought on American philosophy. His circle of thought was akin to Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James, and Charles Sanders Peirce—pushing ideas of pluralism with traces of transcendentalism and an awe at the natural world’s power and beauty.
Ecstatic Connectedness and Addiction
In the prologue of Wild Hunger, p. x, Wilshire write:
I think that addictions stem from breaking the participatory bond our species has had with regenerative source, with wild Nature over the ages—kinship with plants and animals, with rocks, trees, and horizons. Even terror is a bond with what terrifies. In such moments, we are “out of ourselves,” ecstatic, spontaneous, full of the swelling presences of things. Addictions try to fill the emptiness left by the loss of ecstatic kinship. They are substitute gratifications that cannot last for long—slavishly repeated attempts to keep the emptiness at bay.
He argues that, as humans, we have primal needs and we develop addiction when these needs are denied. Apparently, we require the ecstatic kinship he describes. Of course, don’t think he is just some hippy telling you to hug a tree. He also goes into the science and psychology of addiction and what addiction does to the neurotransmitters in the brain.
Higher Power for Recovery in Nature
He thinks our society has led us so far from our natural circadian rhythms of sleep, eating, exercise, hunting, gathering, and so on, that we experience an inherent struggle to feel whole. The need to “find one’s life significant” is central to this struggle. Indeed, Nature and the unstoppable natural cycles of our world could be interpreted as a kind of higher power in this book—offering purpose and something greater than the self.
Wilshire says he believes, “that finding excited significance in one’s self as moral agent is a primal need, and that other needs may bend in the wake of it, even the need to take a drink”(116). This idea is very related to our knowledge of how the brain categorizes addictive substances as something required for survival, on par with eating and sex.
There is a sense of wonder and awe that you will find in this book—a refreshing and unique way to look at addiction and recovery.
Find Your Own Way to Recovery
Of course, addiction cannot be defeated alone. If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, you are not alone. There are millions of others who have gone through this. There are also a lot of people out there who want to help you get through. To learn more about recovering from addiction and what resources are available to you, call (877)670-8451.