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SPEAKERS

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CHRIS LETHEBY PhD
Philosopher

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.  In his thesis Letheby argues that an ‘entheogenic conception’ of psychedelics as agents of epistemic and spiritual benefit is both consistent with philosophical naturalism and plausible in light of current scientific knowledge.  Having been awarded his PhD in early 2017, he is currently teaching philosophy at the University of Adelaide and logic at Eynesbury College, while continuing to conduct research on philosophical issues relating to psychedelics.

Chris is also the winner of the 2017 Breaking Convention Humanities Research Award.  See the Awards page for more details.

ABSTRACT: THE EPISTEMIC INNOCENCE OF PSYCHEDELIC STATES

One recent development in epistemology, the philosophical study of knowledge, is the notion of ‘epistemic innocence’ introduced by Bortolotti and colleagues. This concept expresses the idea that certain suboptimal cognitive processes may nonetheless have epistemic (knowledge-related) benefits. The idea that delusion or confabulation may have psychological benefits is familiar enough. What is novel and interesting is the idea that such conditions may also yield significant and otherwise unavailable epistemic benefits. I apply the notion of epistemic innocence to research on the transformative potential of psychedelic drugs. The popular epithet ‘hallucinogen’ exemplifies a view of these substances as fundamentally epistemically detrimental. I argue that the picture is more complicated and that some psychedelic states can be epistemically innocent. This conclusion is highly relevant to policy debates about psychedelic therapy. Moreover, analysing the case of psychedelics can shed further light on the concept of epistemic innocence itself.