The philosophical question is whether the environment affects the ethical salience of experiences of nature- and interconnectedness. Can lasting ethical change, i.e. changes in attitude, perspective and action arise equally well from encounters with imagined and real living environments?
Psychedelic art and iconographies portray both unusual and typical images of nature, be it plants, forests, animals, often animated lives objects entangled and grown into one another. Reporting of intense experiences within and of nature abound in trip reports, too. This leads psychologists to believe that psychedelics can enhance meaningful nature-connectedness (e.g. Kettner et al. 2019).
Assuming that individualization, the human distancing and disenchantment of nature are a major cause for states of alienation and mental suffering, being in nature is increasingly part of therapeutic protocols. Similarly nature-connectedness via psychedelics is couched as possibly curative element in psychedelic medicine. But wouldn’t this require sensual openness and encounters with the natural world? If so the settings used in current clinical research are fruitless as sensory experiences are guided toward visualizations the participant’s memories or phantasy produce, probably increasingly influenced by expectations of what a psychedelic nature experience ought to look like.
There might be good clinical reasons to direct the participants attention inwards. But I doubt it often elicits experiences of connectedness that lead to practical, effective ethical change.
Christine Hauskeller is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Exeter, UK. She holds an M.A. in Philosophy, Sociology and Psychoanalysis (University Frankfurt on Main) and a Ph.D. in Philosophy. Christine is an expert in the philosophy of science, especially medicine, ethics and applied ethics. Research interests focus on constellations of knowledge and power, of epistemology and normativity. After two decades working on life sciences, she now works on emerging psychedelic medicine, animism and concepts of nature, as well as decolonising approaches in psychedelic studies using methods and concepts from Critical Theory and Feminism. Christine co-founded the Exeter transdisciplinary research group on philosophy and psychedelics. Among her recent publications are the books The Matrix of Stem Cell Research (Routledge 2020) and Philosophy and Psychedelics. Frameworks of exceptional Experience (Bloomsbury 2022) and the article ‘Decolonization is a metaphor towards a different ethic. The case from psychedelic studies’. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews. Open access @ https://doi.org/10.1080/03080188.2022.2122788.