Aidan Lyon, PhD
University of Amsterdam
Attention: A unified, philosophical account of the mind-revealing effects of psychedelics and meditation
In this talk, I’ll present a chapter from my book manuscript Psychedelic Experience (under contract with Oxford University Press, anticipated publication in 2020). The chapter gives a unified, philosophical account of psychedelics and meditation in terms of attention. After first laying out the basic conceptual foundations of the larger project of the book, I’ll present the details of the theory and how it accounts for known observations regarding psychedelics, meditation, and attention. Very briefly, the theory says that attention plays an important role in determining what appears in our awareness (i.e., what we experience), meditation improves the regulation of attentional resource, and psychedelics increases attentional resource (but potentially at the cost of its regulation). By deliberately directing attention to elements of the unconscious mind, meditation helps bring them into consciousness. And by giving us more attention that can end up anywhere, psychedelics help bring up novel and hidden elements of the unconscious mind into consciousness. In particular, I’ll discuss how all three things modulate the phenomenon of binocular rivalry. In doing so, I’ll use the theory to shed new light on how both psychedelics and meditation, via their effects on attention, induce psychedelic experiences, and thus reveal the mind.
Aidan Lyon is CEO and co-founder of DelphiCloud and Research Associate in the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation at the University of Amsterdam. He is also an external member of the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP).
He completed his PhD at the Australian National University on the philosophical foundations of probability and has degrees in mathematics and philosophy from the University of Queensland. He has held academic positions at the University of Maryland, the MCMP, the Tilburg Center for Ethics and Philosophy of Science, the University of Vienna, the University of Melbourne, the University of Sydney, and the Australian National University. He has also worked as a risk management consultant for the Australian Government and other clients since 2011.
Aidan’s research is primarily on the philosophical foundations of uncertainty and philosophical psychology. His company applies this research to help clients make forecasts in situations of high-stakes and extreme uncertainty. His current research interests focus on psychedelics and he is finishing up a book manuscript entitled *Psychedelic Experience* on the topic. The book presents a philosophical analysis of the concept of psychedelic experience based on the latest scientific research into psychedelics and meditation. A central thesis of the book is that a psychedelic experience is nothing but a mind-revealing experience, which is something that can occur without the consumption of any substances. It is argued that the careful and sustained practice of meditation is a better, safer, and more reliable way of inducing such experiences.