Philosophical issues in psychedelic research: A review of 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.


Dr Chris Letheby is a Lecturer in Philosophy at The University of Western Australia (UWA). His areas of specialization are philosophy of mind, philosophy of cognitive science, and philosophy of neuroscience. His research to date has focused mainly on the use of classic psychedelic drugs in neuroscience and psychiatry. In several articles and a book, Letheby has argued that a traditional conception of psychedelics as agents of insight and spirituality can be reconciled with naturalism, the philosophical position that the natural world is all there is. His monograph Philosophy of Psychedelics was published in 2021 by Oxford University Press.

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