Hallucinations are difficult to explain, given that they have no objectively verifiable cause in the way many of our other experiences do. There are psychological states that contribute to them, and past experiences that make us more likely to have them, but their direct cause—to whatever extent they have one—is more difficult to track. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons hallucinations have had diverse explanations over time. Some thought them divine insights, others the result of bad diet, and still others the result of encountering parts of nature not normally perceivable. Even the Wikipedia page lists no less than 11 causes of hallucinations.
Philosophy has had to reconcile hallucinations with many of the claims it has made, such as the assertions that humans are primarily rational, that perception is an impingement upon the senses, and that God would never mislead. Their existence reveals aspects of our reality not easily categorizable using the scientific method or realist epistemologies. But what they can reveal about the nature of human consciousness could potentially revolutionize our understanding of ourselves. Here are some papers whose arguments can help in that process.
- Rami Ali, “Does hallucinating involve perceiving?” Philosophical Studies, March 2018.
- Susanna Schellenberg, “Phenomenal evidence and factive evidence,” Philosophical Studies, April 2016.
- Elizabeth Seto and Rebecca Schlegel, “Becoming your true self: Perceptions of authenticity across the lifespan,” Self & Identity, May 2018.
- Santiago Echeverri, “Illusions of Optimal Motion, Relationism, and Perceptual Content,” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, December 2017.
- Heather Logue, “What Should the Naïve Realist Say about Total Hallucinations?” Philosophical Perspectives, December 2012.
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