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How am I not myself?: The self in the psychedelic experience

Poster presentation

A frequently reported aspect of the psychedelic experience is that of self-dissolution (the phenomena is also referred to as “ego-death” or “ego-dissolution,” but for simplicity I shall use the term “self-dissolution”). During these experiences the normal sense of self is said to dissolve. One is said to experience oneself as a ‘not-self’. This seems to generate a “performative self-contradiction”: also known as a Moorean paradox, these are absurd assertions of the form “P and I believe that not P”, for example “It is raining, but I believe that it is not raining.” In this particular case the contradiction is generated by a self experiencing itself as a not-self. This paper seeks to resolve this contradiction by clarifying the nature of the self in the psychedelic state. This goal requires answering three interrelated questions: “Who am I?”; “What is the experience of self-dissolution like?” & “How am I not myself?”. The first two questions laid the groundwork to answer this central question and thusly resolve the Moorean paradox raised at the outset. Here I will argue for the insolubility of the minimal self. Whilst the psychedelic experience can, and sometimes does, dissolve the narrative sense of self, which is associated with the experience of time and of numerically distinct entities in the world, I will claim that the minimal self, the pre-reflective world immersed self-givenness of experience cannot be suspended by the psychedelic experience. As all experiences require an experiencer and all accounts of self-dissolution are based on experiences had by someone, then some dimension of selfhood must be maintained. The turbulence of the psychedelic experience can temporarily dissolve our sense of self as temporal and separate, whereas the experiential aspect of givenness, the minimal self, endures.



September 5th 2019




Danny Forde

Danny Forde

University College Cork more about the speaker

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