Psychedelic world-making. What psychedelics can teach us about cognition and perception. An enactive cognitive science perspective in comparison with buddhist philosophy

Monday, November 8, 2021, 18:15 - 19:45, University of Zurich, KOL-F-118

Daniel Meling, MSc, cand. PhD
Psychedelic Research and Therapy Development, University of Zurich


This lecture has been recorded, you may watch it here: Video-Recording

In recent years and due to their potential beneficial effects on mental health, psychedelics have received growing interest from science and society. Especially the altering effects of psychedelics on perception and cognition have brought forth a variety of narratives that integrate psychedelic experiences into our day-to-day world views and self-images. This talk will, first, present a variety of common views on psychedelics: How are psychedelic experiences integrated into some currently dominant cultural and scientific narratives? Is a psychedelic experience created by the brain, by the molecule, by something else, by none of those? Does a psychedelic experience show the world in a distorted illusionary way? Second, I will argue that one most promising view on psychedelic experiences is provided by the enactive approach in cognitive science and by a certain style of Buddhist philosophy called the Madhyamika view. Accordingly, this perspective is illustrated and applied to psychedelic experiences: What does the psychedelic experience valuably illustrate from an enactive and Buddhist Madhyamika perspective? What do psychedelics demonstrate about the constitution of reality and perception? Third and finally, this talk will conclude with closing remarks on the potential and limitations of psychedelics for correcting habitual but maladaptive worldviews. In this vein, psychedelics are compared with meditative practices: What are commonalities, differences, and synergies between meditation and psychedelics? With this, I hope to provoke an inspiring conversation on a variety of topics around potential benefits and risks not only of psychedelic substances but of the respective worldviews for integrating psychedelic experiences into daily life.

Daniel Meling is a cognitive scientist and experience researcher. He obtained a joint master’s degree in cognitive science (University of Vienna and University of Ljubljana) and specialized in enactive theory and empirical phenomenological methods, including micro-phenomenology and neurophenomenology. His current work focuses on the phenomenology of transformative experiences induced through meditation and psychedelics.


Please note: In line with the current regulations of the BAG, a certificate (Covid-19) is required for public events at the University of Zurich.