Nicolas Langlitz: Psychedelics and Philosophy | Who Shaves the Barber? #45

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Psychedelic substances, such as psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, and ayahuasca, do much more than generate sensory hallucinations. Users often come away with a sense of having gained deep insight into the nature of reality – even if what that insight is, and what is so special about it, can be hard to communicate. Anthropologist Nicolas Langlitz associates it with the “perennial philosophy” – an old idea, popularized by Aldous Huxley, that all world religions communicate the same basic truth. Years after writing the book The Perennial Philosophy, Huxley tried mescaline and LSD and became convinced that psychedelics provide a shortcut to the kinds of mystical experiences that would put us in touch with that basic reality – what he called the “world mind”. Langlitz is skeptical that psychedelics really do communicate some kind of metaphysical truth. In this interview, we discuss what psychedelics do reveal, if anything, and what the relationship is between experience and knowledge.

Next week: Kit Fine: Metaphysical Ground



Topics discussed

0:20 – Intro to Nicolas Langlitz
1:05 – Anthropology and philosophy
10:06 – Nick’s research on psychedelics
22:23 – Perennial philosophy (Huxley)
29:20 – Indescribable?
33:09 – Materialism and mysticism
41:14 – Diversity v. unity of psychedelic experience
47:40 – Validity and expression of the psychedelic experience
59:50 – Place of psychedelics in society


Neuropsychedelia: The Revival of Hallucinogen Research since the Decade of the Brain (Langlitz)
Is There a Place of Psychedelics in Philosophy?: Fieldwork in Neuro- and Perennial Philosophy” (Langlitz)
Heaven and Hell (Huxley)
The Doors of Perception (Huxley)

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