Daan F. Oostveen, PhD candidate
Towards a new materialism in psychedelics studies
The current paradigm in the research on psychedelics is very much influenced by Cartesian dualism. Often, psychedelics are researched from a reductionist neurobiological perspective, or from an idealist perspective in which psychedelic consciousness constitutes a realm outside the physical world.
In philosophy, we have recently witnessed the rise of a new movement in metaphysics: New Materialism. New materialism both rejects the dualism of mind and body as it had been understood by Descartes, and the metaphysical skepticism to acquire knowledge of reality as it has been understood by Kant. New Materialism also attempts to move beyond the reductionist materialism of scientism. On the one hand, New Materialism attempts to show how the phenomena we perceive as “mental” are in itself already “embodied” and “material”. On the other hand, it shows how “matter” does not consist of lifeless atoms, but that in fact values, life, feeling and subjective sensations such as desire, fear and memory are inherently part of it.
Since the research on psychedelics appears to be stuck in a dichotomy of scientific materialism and idealism, I argue that it could benefit from a New Materialistic approach. This approach favors a Spinozist parallelism, in which any action of the mind is necessarily an action of the body as well, without any primacy of one over the other. If anything, it is precisely the psychedelic experience that might open up an intimate understanding of the intertwined parallelism of mind and body.
Daan F. Oostveen (Eindhoven 1985) is a PhD candidate at VU University Amsterdam, a PhD research fellow at Renmin University of China in Beijing and a university teacher at Utrecht University. He studied Comparative Philosophy, Literature, and Buddhist Studies at Ghent University in Belgium. His research interests include multiple religious belonging, contemporary Buddhism, psychedelics studies, French postmodernism, Nietzsche, contemporary Daoism, Chinese religion, critical plant studies, and critical theory of religion.