#97 Phenomenology for Psychedelic Researchers
I’m happy to announce my first published journal article from late October 2021. The title of my paper is Phenomenology for Psychedelic Researchers: A Review of Current Methods & Practices (see link below). The reason I wrote this paper is because it seemed odd to me that philosophers, particularly those studying consciousness, rarely speak about chemically altered states, i.e., those induced by psychedelics. People who make it their business to research consciousness, to know consciousness, or rather, to be informed about all things consciousness according to the most recent research, don’t really comment on psychedelic-induced consciousness alteration. Why is this so? Why are analytic philosophers of mind and phenomenologists quiet on psychedelics? Why do scholars from many other fields comment on and research psychedelics, some of them self-experimenters, and yet it seems that philosophy is immune to psychedelic research, both theoretical and practical?
Philosophy is not exempt from psychedelic research. In fact, I argue that philosophers studying consciousness should spearhead this research. I’m for researcher self-experimentation, but let’s park for a moment that seemingly crazy idea. Even if self-experimentation is not for you (that is, for you philosopher reading this now), why don’t we see philosophers speaking more on this topic? I can think of only a handful of philosophers asking serious questions regarding the philosophy of psychedelics. To my knowledge, at least of what I’ve read from Peter Sjöstedt-H and Chris Letheby and others, few if any are doing phenomenology of psychedelics. Phenomenology isn’t concerned whether the phenomenon under investigation is real or not, so even if we find out for certain that psychedelic visions are hallucinations, why aren’t phenomenologists studying the structures of psychedelic-specific states anyway? These visions seem to have profound effects on those who experience them, corroborating the claimed therapeutic potential of these substances by frequent users and patients.
I wrote this paper because there’s no effort within phenomenology to motivate phenomenologists to study the structures of psychedelic states of consciousness. If you’re reading this, here’s your motivation: no one’s doing it! No one is making it their business to specialize in phenomenology of psychedelics or phenomenology of non-ordinary perception. It’s like the Wild West of philosophy. The territory is so vast and unresearched that anyone going into this field will discover something, will stake some claim on those yet-to-be-discovered insights that await those who choose to rationalize altered perception. We humans haven’t discovered everything about everything. Any student of philosophy of science or history of science knows that scientific discoveries happen all the time and in the most unlikely places. Therefore, if so few people are philosophizing or phenomenologizing about psychedelics, there are greater chances for those first handful of researchers to make the biggest discoveries, or I should say, the “easiest” discoveries because they will require little effort; they will be so obvious to discover in retrospect if one but seek them out. You see, if no one had ever ventured in X direction, for example, whoever goes in X direction is bound to discover that which lies in X direction.
Anyways, there’s my stream of consciousness rant about the direction I believe philosophical psychedelic research will head, culminating in candid researcher self-experimentation, where I believe the most profound insights are waiting to be gleaned. I can tell you this: I consider myself part of this “candid researcher self-experimentation cohort.” I don’t believe these substances will remain stigmatized for much longer, perhaps another generation, two generations tops. And thus, I’m playing my cards accordingly, coming out now before it’s trendy and legit to do so.
Finally, I learned a lot from this first publication. There are some minor styling mistakes I overlooked or that were changed last minute without my knowledge; however, the main article content is intact. I don’t have the academic support from a university, supervisors, or the like. It’s a more challenging path I’ve chosen for myself, but one that’s more exciting in my opinion. With that said, I will do a PhD in about 6 years from now. But first I must publish several articles and books, in other words, to lay the foundation upon which to build my dissertation. Do keep that in mind: everything I publish from now until 5-7 years ahead will solely be for foundational purposes to serve my PhD dissertation and the direction in which I want to take psychedelic research. I hope you enjoy my first article.
Houot, A. M. (2021). Phenomenology for Psychedelic Researchers: A Review of Current Methods & Practices. Journal of Consciousness Exploration & Research, 12(3), 224-241.