Psychical research in the history and philosophy of science. An introduction and review
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
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Sommer, A. (2014). Psychical research in the history and philosophy of science. An introduction and review. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 48 38-45. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsc.2014.08.004
As a prelude to articles published in this special issue, I sketch changing historiographical conventions regarding the ‘occult’ in recent history of science and medicine scholarship. Next, a review of standard claims regarding psychical research and parapsychology in philosophical discussions of the demarcation problem reveals that these have tended to disregard basic primary sources and instead rely heavily on problematic popular accounts, simplistic notions of scientific practice, and outdated teleological historiographies of progress. I conclude by suggesting that rigorous and sensitively contextualized case studies of past elite heterodox scientists may be potentially useful to enrich historical and philosophical scholarship by highlighting epistemologies that have fallen through the crude meshes of triumphalist and postmodernist historiographical generalizations alike.
Historiography, Psychical research, Parapsychology, Demarcation problem, Popular science
Research for this essay was funded by a Wellcome Trust (grant no. 089723/Z/09/Z) medical humanities doctoral studentship. Cedar Creek Institute, Charlottesville, VA, and the Perrott-Warrick Fund at Trinity College, Cambridge, have kindly supported the writing up of this article.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsc.2014.08.004
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/252701
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 UK: England & Wales
Licence URL: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/uk/
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