Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 193–211 | Cite as

On pink elephants, floating daggers, and other philosophical myths

  • Juan C. GonzálezEmail author


Many philosophers and scientists rightly take hallucinations to be phenomena that challenge in a most pressing way our theories of perception and cognition, and epistemology in general. However, very few challenge the received views on the hallucinatory experience and even fewer critically delve into the subject with both breadth and depth. There are all kinds of problems concerning hallucinations—including conceptual, methodological, and empirical issues—that call for a multilevel analysis and an interdisciplinary approach which in turn provide the detail and scope that the subject demands. In this paper, I present and briefly discuss four interrelated problems: (1) definitions, (2) dependence on perception, (3) two views on hallucinations, and (4) methodology. Neglect or underestimation of these problems, among other things, continue to prevent a proper understanding of the concept and the corresponding experience, giving rise to misconceptions and even plain myths on the subject. Hallucinations do occur; but in order to productively investigate them (for whatever end), we first need to get clear on the concept and develop a suitable epistemological framework for their analysis.


Hallucinations Perception Cognition Epistemology Phenomenology Hallucinogens 



I wish to thank Jesús Vega, Jérôme Dokic, Alexandre Lehmann, Manuel Villaescusa, Benny Shanon, José Luis Díaz, Sébastien Baud, Nancy Midol, Jean Petitot, Kevin O’Regan, Nelly Arenas, Centro Nagual, Conacyt (proyecto 090710/2009), the Graduate students of the Cognitive Science program at UAEM (Cuernavaca), and the reviewers, for their useful comments and support in the writing of this work.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Facultad de HumanidadesUniversidad Autónoma del Estado de MorelosCuernavacaMexico

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