Insight Conference
Arne Harms, Dr. Phil.
3:15pm - 3:45pm
Track 4: Rudolf-Virchow Room


Psychedelics as Virtue Ethics

This talk explores the consumption of psychedelics as ethical practice. It departs from considering ethics in the field of psychedelic research and practice in terms of harm reduction or cultural appropriation. Instead, I engage psychedelic consumption ﴾and encompassing performances﴿ as moments of attempting to craft selves and to transform subjectivities in order to reach toward the good. This angle helps to refine, I suggest, debates on Bewusstseinskultur and on the potential of psychedelics to facilitate the ‘betterment of well people’ ﴾Bob Jesse﴿ by employing concerns of the study of virtue ethics to psychedelic practice. I will argue that a number of contexts of using psychedelics involve, what Foucault calls, ‘technologies of the self’ employed toward the cultivation of virtue. Both technologies and virtues are shaped by social constraints. While the way selves are worked and virtues aimed for frequently spills out into the ordinary. From a research perspective, attention to psychedelics as virtue ethics helps to rethink what psychedelics do, how they are situated socially, and how psychedelics come to matter in biographies and lifeworlds. It also helps to problematize the fraught distinction between therapeutic, recreational, and spiritual use by demonstrating common grounds across them. From a practice perspective, the attention to psychedelics as virtue ethics might enable revising consumption set‐ups so as to facilitate ethical practice.


PostDoc Researcher

Arne Harms, Dr. Phil.

Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle, Germany
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