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'What is Psychedelic Experience?' - HPS Seminar

Arts West North Wing 553 (Discursive Space)

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Fiona Fidler

fidlerfm@unimelb.edu.au

Dr Aiden Lyon (Philosophy, University of Maryland)

Recently, there has been an explosion of scientific research into the effects of psychedelic substances. Initial results indicate that psychedelic experiences can treat psychological problems such as depression, PTSD, and drug addiction. Initial results also seem to be shedding new light on the structure of the mind and the functional structure of the brain. For example, a common phenomenological component of psychedelic experience is the dissolution of the ego, and recent research suggests that this correlates with a reduction in the orthogonality of the default mode network and the task positive networks.

The concept of psychedelic experience has thus now made its way out from the wild 60’s counterculture and into serious contemporary scientific research. This research is also leading to the development of new theories. For example, it has lead some researchers to develop the theory that different conscious states correspond to brain states with different levels of entropy and that psychedelic experiences correspond to brain states with higher-than-usual entropy.

Like any concept that has recently transitioned from folk theorising to  scientific theorising, the concept of psychedelic experience needs to be examined carefully. In this talk, I’ll do this by raising the question “what is psychedelic experience?” and developing an answer to it.