The Science, Technology and Medicine Seminar (STMS) series, hosted by the Medical Ethics and Humanities Unit, promotes cutting edge cross-disciplinary research that straddles the arts, sciences, and medicine.
The aim is to provide a friendly forum to debate and test new ideas, papers, chapters, book projects and grant proposals, as well as topical issues and individual research.
If you are interested in joining the seminars, please let us know.
We welcome suggestions for future presentations and discussion topics.
For further information about STMS activities,
please contact Dr. Ria Sinha at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 3917 9073.
19 December, 2023 (Tuesday) | 4:00-5:30 pm | CPD-2.45
Title: “Psychedelic Therapy as Form of Life” by Professor Nicolas Langlitz and Dr Alex Gearin
Abstract: In the historical context of a crisis in biological psychiatry, psychedelic drugs paired with psychotherapy are globally re-emerging in research clinics as a potential transdiagnostic therapy for treating mood disorders, addictions, and other forms of psychological distress. The treatments are poised to soon shift from clinical trials to widespread service delivery in places like Australia, North America, and Europe, which has prompted ethical questions by social scientists and bioethicists. Taking a broader view, we argue that the ethics of psychedelic therapy concerns not simply how psychotherapies are different when paired with psychedelic drugs, but how different kinds of psychedelic therapy shape and are shaped by different values, norms, and metaphysical commitments that amount to different forms of life. Drawing from the published literature and interviews with seven psychedelic therapists working in clinical trials in the United States, Germany, Switzerland, and Australia, this article opens the black box of the treatments to consider the values and informal debates currently animating the therapies. Considering questions of patient autonomy, mechanisms of therapeutic action, and which therapies are best suited to pair with psychedelic substances, we examine the ethics of psychedelic therapy as a form of life. To bring this out in fuller relief, we conclude by comparing and contrasting this emergent form of life with ayahuasca use in Amazonian shamanism.
Professor Nicolas Langlitz, a medical doctor by training, is an anthropologist and historian of science and medicine who uses ethnographic fieldwork to think through philosophical questions. He wrote three books: Chimpanzee Culture Wars: Rethinking Human Nature alongside Japanese, European, and American Cultural Primatologists (2020, Princeton University Press), Neuropsychedelia: The Revival of Hallucinogen Research since the Decade of the Brain (2012, University of California Press), and Die Zeit der Psychoanalyse: Lacan und das Problem der Sitzungsdauer (2005). He is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Psychedelic Humanities Lab at The New School for Social Research in New York.
Dr. Alex K. Gearin, Ph.D., is a medical anthropologist researching psychedelic substance practices across the globe. He has published on the intercultural ethics of medical tourism, spirituality and individualism among psychedelic healing groups, and metaphor and therapeutic literacies in psychedelic medicine. His forthcoming book Global Ayahuasca: Wondrous Visions and Modern Worlds (Stanford University Press, 2024) explores the psychoactive plant brew “ayahuasca” in Peru, Australia, and China. His work is featured in Current Anthropology, Social Science & Medicine, Frontiers in Pharmacology, The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, and other outlets. He is Assistant Professor at the Medical Ethics & Humanities Unit, HKUMed.