“Seeing Snakes: On Knowledge, Delusion and the Drug Experience.”

In Dale Jacquette (ed.), Cannabis - Philosophy for Everyone: What were we just talking about? pp. 35-49 (2010)
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Advocates of psychedelic drugs argue that they can induce experiences that are of great spiritual and philosophical value, and that they have the potential to ‘expand consciousness.’ But can drugs, as William James (1842-1910), Aldous Huxley (1894- 1963), and Timothy Leary (1920- 1996) argue, allow us to see beyond the horizon of ordinary perception — that is, see things as they really are? To put the philosophical question more generally, can an artificial change (by the means of drugs, electrical stimuli, or psychosurgery) to the brain— to the mind’s material foundations — reveal knowledge through the resulting experience? And could such a change actually provide an authentic religious experience, or rather, knowledge of what it is like to have an authentic religious experience? Or are such claims of instant enlightenment merely a mystical façade?
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