Chris Letheby
Lecturer in Philosophy

Physicalism and Psychedelic Consciousness.

In psychedelic experiences people often seem to encounter non-physical realities of some kind – perhaps a cosmic consciousness or a realm of “discarnate entities”. Those who subscribe to the philosophical position of physicalism hold that no such realities exist. If this is the case, then experiences of this kind are purely physical processes of some kind (perhaps physiological, functional, or computational). Is this plausible? I will argue that, while complete explanations are a long way off, physicalism has the resources to explain experiences of this kind. One important resource I will emphasise is the so-called “controlled hallucination” view of conscious experience.

Dr Chris Letheby is a Lecturer in Philosophy at The University of Western Australia. His areas of specialisation 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, and a Spanish translation is out now from Editorial Bauplan.