Title, Name, Abstract, Speaker Information
Transpersonal gratitude and psychedelic experiences
Dr Taline Artinian
Abstract: The philosophy of gratitude has traditionally focused on a triadic concept of gratitude, examining the moral and phenomenological aspects of the relationship between giver, recipient and gift. Dyadic gratitude, i.e. thankfulness in the absence of a benefactor, has often been dismissed as a case of simple gladness that something is the case. In this talk, I discuss the ways in which accounts of psychedelic experiences inform our understanding and conceptualisation of a specific modality of dyadic thankfulness. I start with a brief discussion of the concept of transpersonal gratitude which I have developed to refer to cases of genuine thankfulness for a benefit without a benefactor.
I focus on the phenomenology of this unique modality of gratitude, in particular on the salience of the benefit and the feelings of connectedness, to compare them to psychedelic experiences of altered states of consciousness. The observation that both transpersonal gratitude and psychedelic experiences seem to go beyond the “reducing valve” of ordinary consciousness might, I suggest, give us further insight into the workings of a gratitude that transcends the personal on the one hand and on the other, help us describe some of the more ineffable elements of psychedelic experiences.
Bio: Taline Artinian is an associate lecturer in philosophy at the University of Exeter. She has recently completed a PhD in philosophy and has over a decade of professional experience as a clinical psychologist. Her interdisciplinary work has focused on questions of identity and the challenges of a meaningful engagement with the world after traumatic life experiences such as genocide and civil war. She has supported UNHCR projects in the Middle East, leading studies on the lives of migrant women and vulnerable persons. Her current philosophical research explores gratitude and its role in our understanding of the good life. She is also interested in environmental ethics, virtue ethics and character formation.
Power and the sublime in the drug writings of Aldous Huxley
Dr Robert Dickins
Abstract: How do writers use the notion of the sublime to communicate an experience with psychedelic substances? Does the context of their experience prefigure a particular construction of the sublime? And as a literary aesthetic, what function does the sublime perform in communicating the subjectivity of an experience? Using the mid-twentieth century accounts of Aldous Huxley, this chapter applies a Burkean reading of the sublime in order to address these questions in light of a dialogue between aesthetics, medicine, and power. As such, it posits the central role of the sublime in the formation of medico-literary narratives, and also acts as an introductory exploration into the aesthetics of psychedelic pharmacography more generally.
Bio: Robert Dickins, PhD, is a historian and publisher. He researches the history and literature of psychoactive substances, with a particular focus on medical and cultural readings in the twentieth century. His previous work has dealt with the role of writing in nineteenth century magical and spiritual communities. He is the founding editor of Psychedelic Press (2008-), and has been responsible for the publication of dozens of books and journals on the history, culture and science of drugs. The author of numerous chapters and articles, he is currently writing a monograph on the historical connection of religion and LSD in Britain.
Psychedelic Philosophy, Psychology, and Culture
Dr Lenny Gibson
Abstract: Albert Hofmann’s discovery of LSD is pivotal culturally. It makes possible for the first time mysticism as an experimental phenomenon. Simultaneously it also has opened up the emergence of psychedelics along diverse cultural avenues from spiritual inclination to eudaimonistic recreation.
Prohibition of psychedelics in recent decades has been no more effective in limiting psychedelic availability than was alcohol prohibition in the US in the early 20th century. Unfortunately, it has fostered black markets and organized crime, because regulation has brought the taint of harmful narcotics and stimulants to psychedelics.
Far-sighted researchers have legitimized psychedelics for treatment of so-called mental dysfunctions, but popular appropriation of readily available psychedelics has outdistanced psychiatry’s slow deployment of them. The Cartesian-Newtonian paradigm that limits research must give way to the Process paradigm of Alfred North Whitehead, which is exemplary for illuminating psychedelic experience.
The aim of seriously pursued psychedelic experience is discovery of the springs of well-being for people and for the human community. The future lies not in regulation, but in education. Psychedelic substances are as surely sacraments as tobacco for the Native Americans or wine as Christian communion. Some promising applications of psychedelics are: scientific and metaphysical research; community building in the manner of sacred groups and tribal shamanism; and expanded attitude and creativity necessary to address the planetary ecological crisis.
The fundament required to support these applications is education to their right use, that they may help fulfill our responsibility to our human future and the sacred understanding of the world as a personhood.
Bio: Leonard Gibson is an independent scholar and the founder of Dreamshadow Group, Inc., a Vermont-based nonprofit that fosters the creative application of exceptional experience. He holds a PhD in philosophy from Claremont University and a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. Lenny trained and certified in Holotropic Breathwork with Stanislav and Christina Grof. He has over 55 years of experience working with exceptional experience, including teaching and psychotherapy. He is also a farmer and amateur musician.
“Philosophy may not neglect the multifariousness of the world – the fairies dance, and Christ is nailed to the cross” (Whitehead, Process and Reality, 338)
Dr Michael Halewood
Abstract: Throughout his work, A. N. Whitehead makes it clear that neither the mind nor consciousness can be taken for granted. Rather, experience, in the broadest sense of the term, should comprise the starting-point for philosophical investigation. As opposed to traditional approaches to the Philosophy of Mind, such experiences do not emanate from or reside in the mind, brain or consciousness. Nor are they always clear and distinct, rational or logical. Instead, Whitehead attempts to outline the processes through which experiences arise, and which may or may not lead to consciousness, judgement and action. Importantly, no experience is ruled in or ruled out.
With regard to the burgeoning field of the Philosophy of Psychedelics, the term “psychedelic” has its etymological roots in the Greek words for “soul” and “manifest” or “make clear/apparent”. In this talk, I will suggest that Whitehead would ask us to take both these terms seriously. That is to say, Whitehead’s conception of the soul as an occasional element of experience, and which is certainly not an enduring entity, focuses on questions of intensity and novelty. The soulful and, I will argue, psychedelic aspect comes from the entertaining or enjoyment of possibilities and propositions unhindered by questions of truth, falsity or correspondence to reality. Questions of appearance and reality fade into the background to be replaced by questions of the breadth, narrowness and intensity of experience. This would suggest that the philosophy of psychedelics involves a making clear of the operations of an occasional soul.
Bio: Michael Halewood is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Essex. His latest book – Language and Process. Words, Whitehead and the World – is published by Edinburgh University Press in January 2020.
From the shadows into the neon light – the psychedelic-psychiatric paradox
Prof. Christine Hauskeller
Abstract: Psychedelics have been controlled internationally since the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic substances. Constituting the most heavily regulated category because of the perceived health and social risks, psychedelics were criminalized and conducting research on them made very difficult. Now the balancing of risk versus benefits is reassessed.
I draw on contemporary understandings of capitalism in Critical Theory and Foucault’s theories about the roles of governance to examine this medico-juridical re-alignment around psychedelics. The assumptions are that at least the following three phenomena contribute to this realignment: Firstly, we live in a phase of capitalism in which the relationship between the political and societal order and individuals is framed as more liberal; in that context, secondly, the risks of psychedelic states of consciousness and their effects on individual and social functioning are reassessed; and finally, global procedures of harmonizing medical research and treatments are being developed. Today, the power of psychedelics to alter states of mind and pacify individuals is at best a minor threat to the social order, as long as they can be tightly regulated – i.e. so long as they can be brought firmly under the control of medical institutions, and to the extent that pharmaceutical industries can benefit from their use.
Bio: Christine Hauskeller is professor of moral and political philosophy at the University of Exeter. Her theoretical background is in Critical Theory and her recent work on different themes in the philosophy of medicine. She has been a Principle Investigator on a phase III clinical trial for a specific stem cell therapy (€6 Million, EU FP7, Health, Grant No. 278967), studying the many ethical and governance aspects of clinical translation in practice. Christine is a member of several medical research ethics commissions and has developed the Matrix approach for studying the complex relationships between power, economics, individual and societal needs and ethics in medical innovation. Her other interests include feminist philosophy, humanitarian ethics, relationships between epistemology and moral judgment.
Karl Marx: Materialism, Dialectics, Epistemology and Psychedelics
Dr Fernando Huesca Ramon
Abstract: Karl Marx was a revolutionary theorist. Concerning philosophy he broke with metaphysical tradition and focused on sharp scientific and political critique concerning concrete present social struggles. In economic analysis he rejected Ricardo and Say on value theory and macroeconomics and constructed new dialectical concepts that had active concrete human beings in sight. Regarding epistemology, he exposed how colonial material processes impoverish territories concerning ideas and practices and concomitantly criticized civilized moral “superiority.” On the scientific theory of history he constructed the materialist conception of history, which can be read as a counterpart on Kantian and Hegelian theory of history and their idealist theologies of freedom. Marx’s scientific method implies a materialist ontology – Hegel’s logic applied to current scientific discourses leads to a monist ontology and a multi-level narrative concerning the historical and social construction of human nature – a historical approach to social research and a radical conception of social praxis and evolution; two fundamental subject matters in Capitalism are surplus value and commodity fetishism. In the end, Marx’s demonization of opium obeys to his approach to the sociology of working-class daily life. A hardcore bohemian himself, and a disciple of a great drinker and smoker, namely, Hegel, Marx had no moral prejudices towards working-class substance abuse habits themselves. He was worried in the way the human body was forced to the time and material requirements of machines and the world of industrial capitalism.
From a materialist and historical perspective a la Marx, the main problem, at least a substantial one for praxis, concerning psychedelics, mental health, drug policy and health institutions, is the commodity-form in economic discourse and practice. Therefore every Marxian approach to psychedelics – in regulated markets and institutions, or in ancestral uses – should should take into account the limitations of markets and capitalist institutions concerning human welfare and social health.
Bio: Fernando Huesca Ramon (BUAP, Puebla, Mexico)
Beauty, truth and goodness: Are psychedelic ‘insights’ symptomatic of convergent cognitive bias?
Dr Lindsay Jordan
Abstract: Psychonauts often speak of ‘the psychedelic experience’ as replete with profound, unifying insights of truth, beauty and goodness. Yet Aldous Huxley describes experience—any experience—as “not what happens to you, but what you do with what happens to you”. Beautiful knowledge has legs—it goes places and draws crowds—but some (e.g. Sabine Hossenfelder) blame the post-1960s stagnation of physics on a cognitive bias towards simple, elegant theories. If this is the case, might psychedelics be culpable? The cosmologist Carl Sagan and the theoretical physicist Richard Feynman are among those who have cited psychedelics as influential on their contributions, or at least this is how their accounts have been interpreted. However, it makes equal sense that those with a cognitive bias towards the convergence of beauty and truth would find this value in taking psychedelics (and hence, extol the virtues of doing so). We can deduce that Sabine Hossenfelder is not in this category, nor perhaps Rosalind Franklin, who produced the X-rays of DNA in which Francis Crick saw the beautiful double helix.
One only has to spend time among the so-called psychedelic ‘community’ to surmise that there is nothing intrinsic to the phenomenology of the 5-HT2A receptor agonists that determines how one thinks about truth, morality, or beauty. What can be assumed is that would-be psychonauts have above-average tolerance of risk and openness to experience, and it follows that these personality traits, among others, will influence what they make of—and learn from—their experience. New data have shown that psychedelic therapy for treatment-resistant depression (TRD) leaves patients a little less neurotic and a little lessintroverted, but still decidedly on the neurotic and introverted side of the mean. Looking at the same data, it is no great surprise that TRD patients who volunteer for psychedelic therapy are a little more open to experience than average at baseline, and the therapy appears to reward and enhance that openness.
Hence, given what we know psychedelics can offer pathologies of the human condition (ie. not a radical transformation so much as a standardised nudge), what might they contribute to philosophy? If Daniel Dennett took 5-MeO-DMT, would he realise that consciousness is not an illusion? If John McDowell took LSD, would he appreciate that there is such a thing as unconceptualisable experience? Or would they interpret the experience in accordance with their existing values and preconceptions?
Through this paper, while conceding that psychedelics have the potential to stimulate greater interest in philosophical questions, I argue that they have limited potential to change the course of philosophy.
Bio: Lindsay Jordan is a full time senior lecturer at the University of the Arts London, where she leads a postgraduate programme in the philosophy and practice of higher education. She recently successfully defended her doctoral thesis, which explores ideas of the university and considers how higher education and research may flourish in a progressively disenchanted world. Lindsay is interested in altered states of consciousness and their contribution to human flourishing and fulfilment. Her autoethnography of psychedelic experience and doctoral study won the 2017 Breaking Convention student essay competition, and she has a chapter in the book Psychedelicacies on what it means for a psychedelic experience to be educational. Working with theologian Mark Schunemann, she has been leading a series of seminars on the philosophy of psychedelics at the Psychedelic Society’s London headquarters.
A Primer in Psychedelic Psychiatry
Dr Franklin King
Abstract: This talk will introduce attendees to the fundamentals of psychedelics in psychiatry and clinical neuroscience. A brief history of the use of psychedelics in psychiatry will be followed by a review of the pharmacology, physiology, current clinical and research directions of psychedelics and briefly touch on mechanisms.
Bio: Dr. Franklin King IV, MD, is an Instructor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a staff psychiatrist within the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders clinic and the Acute Psychiatry Service at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. He serves as the Director of Training and Education in the newly-inaugurated Center for Neuroscience of Psychedelics. His clinical and research interests include psychosomatic illness, anxiety, existential concerns and psychotherapeutic enhancement of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapies.
Psychedelics and knowledge-how
Dr Chris Letheby
Abstract: Carefully conducted psychedelic experiences can lead to durable psychological benefits in psychiatric patients and healthy volunteers. A philosophically interesting question is whether these experiences can also confer significant epistemic benefits, i.e. increase subjects’ knowledge or improve their knowledge-related capacities. In this talk I argue that psychedelic experiences in controlled settings often lead to the acquisition of a kind of ‘ability knowledge’, or ‘knowledge how’. By disrupting the cognitive processes involved in self-modelling, psychedelics increase mindfulness-related capacities for taking an open, curious, non-reactive stance toward one’s thoughts and feelings. Through experiences of unbinding, decentering, and letting go, psychedelic subjects learn new attentional skills; they learn how to relate to their own minds in novel and beneficial ways similar to those cultivated in mindfulness practice.
Bio: 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 Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Western Australia and Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Adelaide on the Australian government-funded project ‘Philosophical Perspectives on Psychedelic Psychiatry’. His monograph Philosophy of Psychedelics is forthcoming in 2021 with Oxford University Press.
Are psychedelic drugs distorting?
Dr Ole Martin Moen
Abstract: Psychedelic drugs have gained increasing attention in recent years. In spite of being found to be relatively safe, and in some areas beneficial, the use of psychedelics is nevertheless prohibited and subject to widespread disapproval. What might justify the opposition? In this paper I consider a philosophical objection that, although it is often implicitly assumed, has not been considered explicitly, namely that psychedelics are distorting: that they cut users off from reality, making them see things that do not exist and believe things that are false. I argue that although psychedelics can play a distorting role, the view that they are reliably and systematically distorting (which they would need to be for the objection to be forceful) depends on implausible premises about human cognition. Once we reject those premises, we should be open to the view that although the use of psychedelics might be epistemically risky, it could also be a means to gain new knowledge. I suggest a naturalistic model for psychedelic knowledge gains that I call the Imagination-Conceptualization Model. Finally, I explore some implications of this model for psychedelic research and for the legal regulation of psychedelic drugs.
Bio: I finished a PhD in Philosophy at University of Oslo in 2013, with a dissertation on intrinsic value. I have since shifted my main focus from theoretical to applied ethics. I’m Principal Investigator of “What should not be bought and sold?”, $1million project funded by the Research Council of Norway. I run a podcast, Moralistene, together with Aksel Braanen Sterri, and I regularly discuss ethical issues in both national and international media. In 2015 I co-founded Humanistskolen, a non-profit charter school in Oslo with sixty full-time students (age 13–16). This is the only secondary school in Norway that specializes in philosophy and critical thinking. I teach critical thinking and serve as chairman of the board. On the non-academic side, I’m a queer parent and an aspiring novelist.
The unconscious in zen and psychedelic experience
Prof. Steve Odin
Abstract: This presentation focuses on ‘the Unconscious’ in Zen and Psychedelic Experience. First, I discuss D. T. Suzuki’s interpretation of Zen satori or enlightenment and its expression in the Zen arts as a function of the Unconscious. For Suzuki the Zen unconscious is not the personal unconscious of Freud or the collective unconscious of Jung, but what he calls the cosmic Unconscious, understood as the dharmakaya of emptiness, voidness or absolute nothingness. Next, I discuss Suzuki’s criticism of drug-induced satori as described in The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley and other sources.
Bio: Steve Odin joined the University of Hawai’i in 1982 after completing his PhD degree in philosophy from State University of New York at Stony Brook. He has taught as a visiting professor at Boston University (1989), Tohoko University (1994-95) and the University of Tokyo (2003-04). His research and teaching areas include Japanese philosophy, East-West comparative philosophy, American philosophy, Whitehead’s process metaphysics, phenomenology, environmental ethics, and aesthetics. Among his publications are Process Metaphysics and Hua-Yen Buddhism (1982), The Social Self in Zen and American Pragmatism (1994), Artistic Detachment in Japan and the West: Psychic Distance in Comparative Aesthetics (2001). His latest book publication is titled, Tragic Beauty in Whitehead & Japanese Aesthetics (2018), and he is currently writing a book entitled, D. T. Suzuki on the Unconscious In Zen, Zen Art & Zen Aesthetics. Among his awards are one-year grants for teaching and research in Japan, including two Fulbright Awards (1994-95 and 2003-04), Japan Foundation Award (2001-92) and National Endowment for the Humanities (1987-88). Also, he has received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching at the University of Hawaii (1986). He is a member of the UH Center for Japanese Studies.
Altered Consciousness After Descartes: Whitehead’s Philosophy of Organism as Psychedelic Realism
Dr Matthew D. Segall
Abstract: Rene Descartes’ famous meditations set the stage for the last few hundred years of modern thinking regarding the nature of human consciousness. His idea of a disembodied rational ego set over and above a natural world refined in terms of geometric extension alone has left an enduring mark not only on contemporary philosophy of mind but on the common sense of modern rational adults. Many moderns are thus led to consider their psychedelic experiences of ecstatic dissolution of the mind/matter barrier as mere hallucinations. But what if Descartes’ experience of a deceitful demon, and the ontological alienation that resulted, was itself the paranoid hallucination? This paper reinterprets Descartes’ Meditations as a bad trip, and in an effort to take the metaphysical implications of psychedelic experience seriously, turns instead to the organic philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead in search of a more adequate account of mind’s relationship to a now living Nature.
Bio: Matthew T. Segall, PhD, is assistant professor in the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program at California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, CA where he teaches courses primarily on German Idealism and Alfred North Whitehead’s process philosophy. He is the author of Physics of the World-Soul: Whitehead’s Adventure in Cosmology (2018) and has published journal articles and book chapters on a wide range of topics including panpsychist metaphysics, media theory, the philosophy of biology, the evolution of religion, and psychedelics. He blogs regularly at footnotes2plato.com and tweets way more than he should as @ThouArtThat. His current obsessions include the panpsychist turn in contemporary philosophy of mind and its implications for the scientific study of the origins of life and consciousness.
Spinozism and the psychedelic amor Dei intellectualis
Dr Peter Sjöstedt-Hughes
Abstract: Spinoza was branded both as a figure “God-intoxicated” and as the most monstrous of atheists. Such polarity was characteristic of a man who, without equal, equalized apparent contraries: theism-atheism, mind-matter, freedom-necessity, past-future, good-evil. He was thus above all a monist, the absolute monist whose general solution to Descartes’ dualism was final: mind and matter are not two substances that mysteriously interact but are rather two (of an infinity of) expressions of the same substance – a substance he names God or Nature. God is Nature.
Yet we humans do not see this deific Nature in its unified state. We bifurcate Nature into mind and matter, restrict mind to complex animal matter, and then puzzle over their relations. Errors human, all too human – results of our prosaic cognitive apparatus. Spinoza, however, culminates his masterwork, the Ethics, with a declaration that beyond this standard human form of knowledge gained through senses, and through reason, there exists a rare, third kind of knowledge – intuition – that becomes cognizant of fundamental essences sub specie æternitatis, under the aspect of eternity: from the perspective of timelessness. In these exceptional insights we feel ourselves eternal, and in this lies our immortality: not as a soul enduring beyond the corpse, but as a mind collapsing into eternity, even if such eternity is fleeting. The vertex of such intuitive experience Spinoza names ‘the intellectual love of God’, amor Dei intellectualis.
This eternal love is a bliss that sees God or Nature – reality – in its essential eternal perfection. It is an experience that seemingly divulges a rare cognizance of Spinozism in its general unitive, monistic framework, and is an experience that bears the authenticity stamps of the ‘mystical experience’: As well as touching upon immortality, it appears noetic, ineffable, passive, and transient (meeting William James’ criteria); it also encompasses experiences unitive, timeless, and beyond good and evil (meeting Bertrand Russell’s criteria). Even psychiatrist RM Bucke includes Spinoza’s peak experiences in his classic 1901 tome, Cosmic Consciousness, a consciousness that ‘destroys sin, shame, the sense of good and evil…’
I shall explore the idea that a variant of amor Dei intellectualis may be catalysed through certain psychedelic substances – notably 5-MeO-DMT – via a comparative analysis of psychedelic phenomenology and Spinozan ontology. In turn the question will be raised as to whether such psychedelic states could be understood and thus integrated through the lens of Spinozism; and furthermore, whether Spinozism could be realised experientially through such psychedelic substances? The psychedelic-Spinozist symbiosis starts here.
Bio: Peter Sjöstedt Hughes, PhD, is a philosopher of mind and metaphysician, currently working as a research fellow and associate lecturer at the University of Exeter. Peter’s doctoral thesis was on ‘pansentient monism’, his variety of panpsychism that takes inspiration from the thought of AN Whitehead, amongst others, and applies it to analytic issues concerning mind-matter identity and mental causation. Peter is the author of the book Noumenautics, the TEDx Talker on ‘psychedelics and consciousness’, and he is inspiration to the inhuman philosopher Marvel Superhero, Karnak. Peter is also part of the independent publisher, Psychedelic Press, and is on the team of the Breaking Convention conference. He is a director of the Philosophy of Psychedelics conference at the University of Exeter. www.philosopher.eu
Journeying in the realm of the unconscious: Jung’s Liber Novus and psychedelic experience
Abstract: Carl Jung’s influence on popular culture, psychology, and religious studies is without comparison. The 2009 publication of his visionary journal Liber Novus, ‘The Red Book’ has provided scholars with a new understanding of the role of altered states of consciousness in his works. In this paper I explore the impact of Jung’s visionary experiences and their influence on his life and works. In addition, I analyse the relevance of Jung’s approach to the ongoing discussion on psychedelics. Fundamentally, Jung regarded exceptional experiences, that he referred to as the ‘confrontations with the unconscious’, as a vital tool for regulating the psyche, but also warned against the dangers of disillusionment. His caution, as well as his curiosity and imagination offer us a fresh take on altered states of consciousness. Through detailed examination of dreams, visions, and intuition Jung provides a holistic and soulful perspective on the current discussion on psychedelic experiences. His approach makes central the question of the inherent needs of each person, and the responsibility that the encounters with the unconscious bring about. Later, Jung highlighted gradual introspective search as the most important tool for understanding the unconscious. Drawing on relevant literature, I argue that in exploring visionary realms, and by integrating them using his creativity, Jung has created a useful frame for analysing psychedelic states. His example sets altered states into a context which promotes the deeper examination of their meaning and relevance in the life of the individual. Furthermore, his outlook brings into discussion the role of personal mythology, the importance of symbolic interpretation and art as means of navigating the unconscious.
Bio: Johanna Hilla Sopanen is an independent researcher in Psychology and Religious studies (past: University of Groningen). She wrote her Master’s dissertation with Dr Bernardo Nante on the Red Book during an internship at Fundacion Vocacion Humana, a Jungian center in Buenos Aires. Last summer, she taught a course on the interlink between Depth Psychology and the psychedelic experience, offered by ‘Psychedelics Today’ forum. Her other interest include Transpersonal Psychology, Ecopsychology, Holotropic Breathwork, Process philosophy, and Western Esotericism. She is on the board of the Dreamshadow Group, Inc., a nonprofit organization focused on transpersonal education and Holotropic Breathwork.
Reconfiguring drug policy through the prism of human rights
Abstract: In this talk I’m going to argue for the decriminalisation of psychedelics on the basis that the prohibitive drug laws are philosophically untenable, empirically unsubstantiated, and, consequently, that such prohibition breaches our human rights, such as the right to freedom of thought, aka cognitive liberty. There have been some important gains globally in terms of challenging drug policy from a human rights perspective in recent years and I want to track this progress, as well as discussing the significant challenges that remain, particularly in the UK. I’ll also be engaging with critiques of this approach, such as the charge of psychedelic exceptionalism, or the over-individualism of a rights-based approach, with a view to hopefully persuading you that, rather, this strategy can lead to social justice, to the collapse of prohibition for all.
Bio: Charlotte Walsh is an academic lawyer at Leicester Law School, University of Leicester, where she runs a Critical Criminology course, with a particular focus on drug policy. Her research specialism is the interface between psychedelics and the law, viewed from a liberal, human rights-based perspective. She has published widely on this subject – in journals and edited collections – along with being a regular speaker at psychedelic conferences and festivals. Charlotte has been involved with legal defence work in this realm over the years, along with advocacy for policy reform.
Dr Michel Weber
Arguments for the psychedelic cure of western philosophy
Abstract: Philosophy of mind has been crippled, since its very beginnings, by two main prejudices. First, the blind implementation of the traditional Western logical framework, that boils down to the Boolean version of Aristotelian logic (i.e. the togetherness of the principle of identity, the principle of contradiction, and the principle of excluded middle). Second, the perennial neglect of crucially relevant empirical data, in so far as, in most arguments, sense-perception is reduced to sight alone (Whitehead claimed this before Jonas but after Biran).
As a result, taking into account data coming not only from the other external senses (exteroception), but also from internal senses (interoception and proprioception), as well as what is gathered in altered states of mind, completely redefines the stakes, both from the systematical (hence logical) and the empirical points of view.
Doing so reopens the epistemological and metaphysical (lato sensu) puzzles and, unsurprisingly, brings us back to a different anthropology: the first humanism, that manifested itself in perhaps its most acute form with the Renaissance. Humans should not be considered as the centre from which all meaning should radiate (this being the second humanism of the Modernity or the Classical Age), but as an expression of the micro/macro-cosmic correlation.
Bio: Dr Weber is Director of the Centre for Philosophical Practice (Brussels) and Adjunct Professor at the Department of Educational Foundations of the University of Saskatchewan. He is the author of fifteen monographs (e.g. The Political Vindication of Radical Empiricism, 2016) and the (co-)editor of some fifty books (e.g. with Will Desmond, Handbook of Whiteheadian Process Thought, 2008). Over the years, he has studied and taught most of the therapeutic disciplines (in the broad sense of the term) that have made the history of Western thought. To mention only those that have been the subject of some of his publications, and sometimes of a practice: the Whiteheadian, Socratic and Pythagorean philosophies, hypnosis, brief and systemic therapies, psychoanalyses (Freud, Lacan, Jung), ethnopsychiatry, ethology, gnosis, alchemy, and Amerindian shamanism. His current research program mainly addresses the Ayurvedic understanding of the anchoring of the mind in the body and of the expression of the body in the mind. A sample of his works is available here: http://chromatika.academia.edu/MichelWeber.
——Abstracts are subject to change.