Philosophical issues in psychedelic research: a review of some emerging themes

Serotonergic (or “classic”) psychedelics have struck many researchers as raising significant philosophical questions that, until recently, were largely unexplored by academic philosophers. In this talk, based on collaborative work with Jaipreet Mattu (University of Western Ontario), I will give an overview of four emerging lines of research at the intersection of academic philosophy and psychedelic science: selfless consciousness, psychedelic epistemology, psychedelic ethics, and spiritual/religious naturalism. In the past decade philosophers have debated issues concerning: (i) psychedelics and self-consciousness; (ii) the epistemic profile of the psychedelic experience; (iii) the ethics of psychedelics use; and (iv) whether spiritual or religious dimensions of psychedelic use are compatible with a naturalistic worldview.

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Dr Chris Letheby is a philosopher working on issues related to the therapeutic and transformative potential of classic psychedelic drugs. His doctoral research, conducted at the University of Adelaide, presented the first systematic analysis of psychedelic experience within the framework of 21st-century philosophy of cognitive science. He is currently a Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Western Australia and a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Adelaide on the ARC-funded project "Philosophical Perspectives on Psychedelic Psychiatry". His monograph Philosophy of Psychedelics is forthcoming with Oxford University Press.

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