Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press (2021)
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: this "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.
Philosophy of Psychedelics is an indispensable guide to the literature for researchers already engaged in the field of psychedelic psychiatry, and for researchers-especially philosophers-who want to become acquainted with this increasingly topical field