ESPP Symposium “Limit experiences: testing the boundaries of the self”

September 2019, Thursday 5th, 4:30pm to 6:30pm

Venue: ESPP (European Society for Philosophy and Psychology) Congress, Athens.

ORGANISERS: Margherita Arcangeli, Jérôme Dokic (EHESS, Institut Jean-Nicod), Pascale Piolino & Marco Sperduti (Université Paris Descartes, Institute of Psychology)

Being pleasurably absorbed in a task, being under the effects of a psychedelic drug, being attentive to whatever is happening in the present moment, undergoing a “mystical” experience, ecstatically and blissfully feeling to have reached one’s full potential, feeling awe looking the panoply of the stars in a clear night sky, being deeply moved by an artistic work. Although they involve different phenomenological profiles, all these experiences induce temporary and/or enduring modifications of the image we have of ourselves by pushing us towards our limits. In undergoing such experiences we seem to be confronted with the limits, for instance, of our understanding or of our imagination, or with the subtle boundary between us and the world. Cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists are extensively investigating the cognitive and neural mechanisms underpinning these limit experiences. Notable outputs are that they involve, on the one hand, a sense of diminished self, but, on the other hand, an increased sense of being connected to one’s environment or to other people. Not surprisingly they have been found to foster pro-social behaviour and positive attitudes in one’s personal life (e.g., life well-being, satisfaction, positive mood). Philosophers too have become more and more interested in limit experiences. Much more needs to be done, however, in order to map such a heterogeneous field, throwing light on how and at which level all these different experiences transform us. The aim of this symposium is an interdisciplinary attempt in that direction focusing on a very heterogeneous sample of limit experiences, namely near-death experiences, flow experiences, awe, sublimity experiences, orgasm and its artistic representation in musical climax.



Helena Cassol (GIGA Research Institute, University of Liège), “Self-defining dimensions of near-death experiences memories”

Alice Chirico (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart), “Linking self-transcendent experiences on the same continuum: flow experience and the emotion of awe”

Esteban Buch (EHESS, CRAL), “On climaxes in music, and elsewhere”

Margherita Arcangeli & Jérôme Dokic (EHESS, Institut Jean-Nicod), “At the limits: what drives experiences of the sublime”


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