(NEW) Maya Levanon (Israel)


Maya Levanon (Israel) - PhD, Beit Berl College (Informal Education Department), Visiting Lecturer at Ludwigsburg Teacher University (Germany), National Louis University (USA), Montclair State University (USA) (Philosophy for children, department of educational foundation).

Philosophical Guidance for the Reflective Psychonaut (Lecture) 

Presentation Language: English

As psychedelics doing their way back to academic research, supervised therapeutic practices and public discussion, new questions and needs arise, one of them is what I identify as the need for a philosophical guidance, during a psychedelic intentional journey, reflective dialogue after the journey, and in the realm of micro-dosing. Within the context of a psychedelic journey, while we find guided, supervised therapy to work with PSTD patients, others, who do not necessarily suffer from a diagnosed mental illness, do enter the journey with an intentional purpose of growth, even transformation, can also benefit from working with a person who will enable them to find their authentic self through questions and deep, caring yet critical reflection. The typical psychonaut who enters the journey not with the local intention of "having fun" but rather with the courageous intention of remembering (and sometimes finding for the first time) her meaningful purpose in life, the one that echoes her true self while following her true values, will indeed get a glimpse into all that, the question many face though, is what happens to that glimpse once the journey seems to end? Can we refer to this end as the actual beginning of the real work? This is where the philosophical guide enters. Through this very door, of no fear but courage, courage to peel off the mask, the social persona we worked so hard to glue to our inner self, the courage to enter our hidden consciousness and face what is in there. The philosopher will approach the psychonaut's insights and questions not as neurosis or momentarily insanity, but rather as true philosophical concerns: time and space, self and consciousness, authentic feelings and socialization and so on. While during the journey ("trip") psychonauts can experience extreme angst, they usually also experience an extreme sense of joy derived from a series of deeper insights related to one's deeper sense of life, as an individual and as an entity that is part of something much larger and benevolent. In fact, many report that their psychedelic experience/s were the most meaningful experience they had. But as a philosopher of education I can also argue that not only that not all experiences are equally beneficial for our development, even the experiences we do find extremely meaningful, if we do not do anything with them, they tend to fade. The metaphor I like to use for it is the one of a syrup: the first dose you mix with water is delicious, the more you dilute it, its original taste becomes dull. For the experience to remain meaningful in the sense that it has a lasting effect on our life, we must anchor it, and we do that through understanding it and later implement it on different life aspects. A philosopher is trained exactly for that: connecting with the experience, and make a sense out of it, so it can be useful in a trustworthy way.

Philosophical Education as a vaccine for Fake News (Lecture)

In my first year of undergraduate studies in the Department of Philosophy, I met Descartes and his deceptive demon, as well as Plato's cave. Years passed by and I encounter Pragmatism and the notion that critical thinking is perhaps nothing less than a survival mechanism in today's world, nevertheless, when we criticize, even dismiss information, we are obliged to offer something instead. What the philosophical ideas listed above have in common is that they all approach reality with a grain of salt, but they do not leave us in a nihilistic rabbit hole. Today, living in era of excess information, we often encounter manipulations, lies, and conspiracy theories, which seemingly share with the philosophical ideas mentioned above the critical doubt, the invitation not to believe automatically to everything we hear. However, the word "seemingly" is here for a reason: it is clear to us - beyond intuition - that there is a big difference. While Plato examines the relationship between ontology and epistemology, namely, what can be considered "knowledge" and how do we know that we do know what we think we know, and Descartes offers a rich account for methodological doubt, which Gilbert Ryall recognized as an opening for potential nihilism, hence argued that in order to work with Descartes's methodology one must have a clear criterion for some truth, on the same token, in order to know that certain information is false, I must rely on a criterion of what is true, and thus discern the truth from the lies, moreover, some truth must be found otherwise the concept of "lie" has no meaning. And so while both philosophy and conspiracy seems to have a same starting line, once the doubt is on the table, they take two steeply different directions. While the philosophical approach seeks to destroy to build a safer sense of truth, and in order to do that philosophy employed well-tried tools, such as logic, though experiment, conceptual analyses, critical thinking, etc. furthermore, philosophy also isn't shy of using rational knowledge from other disciplines: science, linguistics, and more. In contrast, conspiracy theories do not seek to offer a more stable construct of knowledge, they also do have a clear set of tools while embarking on such a journey. Conspiracists just want to dismantle everything and bring about confusion. In that sense, maybe they are Descartes' demon, in fact their arguments are based on logical and epistemological errors, what often appears to be circular argument that cannot be refuted whatsoever. In fact, when conspiracists cry: "don't believe anything, it's all a lie" while at the same time "believe me it's all a lie" and" they embody how it must be like living in the liar paradox, as opposed to philosopher's search for the truth. The philosopher continues to seek after the truth, even if nowadays we have softened slightly in our relation to that unchanging and absolute nature of one truth. And yet, if we embrace Ryall's gaze, there must be some truth otherwise we cannot seriously call one theory or another a "lie." In contrast, the conspiracist does not seek to embark on such a journey at all, he either creates chaos or emotional fundamentalism, none of which can be dialogued or critically examined. Much has been said about the role of education in shaping the learner's consciousness and preparing him for a meaningful life on a personal and social level. Within the discourse of 21st century skills, there is much - and rightly so - about digital/technological literacy. But is that enough? Can we honestly say that feeling oriented in technology as a medium enough for our children? I argue here that beyond techno-digital literacy, we must also return to the good old critical thinking, as a key to navigate excess information that can be easily access through the techno-digital literacy. But there is more, and this is where philosophy comes in as it raises questions concerning our reasons, while providing us with well-tested constructive tools. In other words. Philosophical education, including logic, reading in the Great Texts that present the reader with a rich history of methodological epistemological doubt, education that takes place of a form of dialogical community of inquiry, where a community of searchers sharpen each of its members' tools , this in addition to relatively new tools such as fact-checking, background/source testing, etc. can function as a vaccine against the most dangerous pandemic: lies that present themselves a truth and the death of truth as a possibility.