The Grateful Dead and Philosophy
Getting High Minded about Love and Haight
Edited by Steven Gimbel
Volume 28 in the Popular Culture and Philosophy® series
Once in a while, you get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if you look at it right. The "technicians of ecstasy," the beloved "band beyond description," have already transfigured the collective consciousness; their harmonies continue to reverberate through all the corridors of the mind.
Here, twenty-one philosophers and devoted Deadheads ponder some of the implications of the Dead Experience, for art, ethics, conflict, community, and cosmos. Many philosophical traditions, Eastern and Western, help to illuminate the achievements and the importance of the Grateful Dead.
"The Grateful Dead and what it amounted to was multifaceted. There was music, there was lifestyle, and with that lifestyle came a philosophy that evolved through experience. That philosophy, of course, was different for each individual in the family. But the process by which it came into being defined the difference between philosophy and ideology, in so far as it rested on experience. It continuously evolved and to this day continues to define itself."
—Bob Weir, founding member of The Grateful Dead
"Who knew? The Grateful Dead, some of whom were voracious readers in many fields, including philosophy, never really thought too much about the implications of our music and the way we made it—we were too busy making it. Through reading this fascinating and comprehensive book, I've discovered deeper meanings in our work than I previously could have imagined. Many thanks to the authors, editor, and publishers!"
—Phil Lesh, bassist for The Dead
"A Grateful Dead concert had a way of setting you up with a koan or an aphorism and then opening up an improvisational musical space in which to ponder it. Lives were changed at Dead shows; decisions were made; creativity was inspired. Grateful Dead music continues to influence people's thinking and being, long after the band stopped performing. The Grateful Dead and Philosophy is a natural."
—David Gans, author of Playing in the Band and host of The Grateful Dead Hour
"Generations of Deadheads became amateur philosophers when confronted by this multifaceted cultural phenomenon—they just knew that the Grateful Dead Experience meant something deep and magnificent, and part of that feeling was the sense that what they were experiencing resonated with so many poles of Western thought, hearkening back even to archaic humanity. It's a delight to see how many of these facets Steve Gimbel and his co-authors plumb in this remarkable volume, from fundamental questions of existence to how the band's work engages with some of the greats. Fans, philosophers, and students of popular culture will appreciate the models and outline that The Grateful Dead and Philosophy provide of the immense riches of the band's work as well as the complexity, color, and appeal of the subculture surrounding it."
—Nicholas Meriwether, editor of the book All Graceful Instruments and the scholarly journal of Grateful Dead studies, Dead Letters
Steven Gimbel is Professor of Philosophy at Gettysburg College. His publications range over the philosophical foundations of relativity, the environmental ethic of the American Nazi Party, the logic of ordinary language, the geometry of M. C. Escher, and issues of sportsmanship in the Kasparov–Deep Blue chess match. Visit Steve's blog, Philosopher's Playground, at .philosophersplayground.blogspot.com