Call for Papers: Book Symposium on Letheby’s Philosophy of Psychedelics

UPDATE 31st of August 2021:  Due to the late rollout of the printed versions, we have extended the deadline for abstracts to the 1st of October 2021.

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In early 2022, Philosophy and the Mind Sciences will publish a book symposium on Chris Letheby’s Philosophy of Psychedelics (OUP 2021). It will include a précis, several commentaries, and a reply by the author. We hereby invite proposals for commentaries for this symposium.

About the book: Recent clinical trials show that psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin can be given safely in controlled conditions, and can cause lasting psychological benefits with one or two administrations. Supervised psychedelic sessions can reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and addiction, and improve well-being in healthy volunteers, for months or even years. But these benefits seem to be mediated by “mystical” experiences of cosmic consciousness, which prompts a philosophical concern: do psychedelics cause psychological benefits by inducing false or implausible beliefs about the metaphysical nature of reality?

This book is the first scholarly monograph in English devoted to the philosophical analysis of psychedelic drugs. Its central focus is the apparent conflict between the growing use of psychedelics in psychiatry and the philosophical worldview of naturalism.

Within the book, Letheby integrates empirical evidence and philosophical considerations in the service of a simple conclusion: the “Comforting Delusion Objection” to psychedelic therapy fails. While exotic metaphysical ideas do sometimes come up, they are not, on closer inspection, the central driver of change in psychedelic therapy. Psychedelics lead to lasting benefits by altering the sense of self, and changing how people relate to their own minds and lives—not by changing their beliefs about the ultimate nature of reality. The upshot is 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). Controlled psychedelic use can lead to genuine forms of knowledge gain and spiritual growth—even if no “cosmic consciousness” or transcendent “divine reality” exists.

You can find a preprint of the précis here: psyarxiv.com/ztewb/  or under the DOI 10.31234/osf.io/ztewb

About the author: 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’.

About the symposium: The symposium will consist of a précis by Letheby, several short commentaries (approx. 1,000-3,000 words), and replies. You can find a preprint of the précis here: psyarxiv.com/ztewb/  or under the DOI 10.31234/osf.io/ztewb .

The symposium is being edited by Chiara Caporuscio and Sascha Benjamin Fink and will feature invited commentaries by Lisa Bortolotti, Chiara Caporuscio, Anya Farrenikova, Matthew Johnson and Aidan Lyon.

We hereby invite proposals for additional commentaries. Proposals should be between 100-300 words and prepared for blind review. They should indicate clearly which aspect(s) of the book the commentary will focus on and outline the argument to be made or the main ideas to be discussed. Proposals are due by 1st of September, with decisions to be made by 10th of September 2021.

Full commentaries (around 1,000-3,500 words), based on the proposals, will be due on 15th of October 2021.

After this, commentaries will go through a review process, with final versions due by the end of the year. Around three proposals will be considered for inclusion in the book symposium and sent out for review.

Manuscripts will only be sent out for review if the proposal was accepted. However, acceptance of the proposal does not guarantee publication of the full commentary.

Please submit your proposal to lethebysymposium@phimisci.org.

Please send any questions you may have about the symposium to caporuscio@phimisci.org.