Are you afraid of the dark? Notes on the psychology of belief in histories of science and the occult
European Journal of Psychotherapy & Counselling
Taylor & Francis
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Sommer, A. (2016). Are you afraid of the dark? Notes on the psychology of belief in histories of science and the occult. European Journal of Psychotherapy & Counselling, 18 (2), 105-122. https://doi.org/10.1080/13642537.2016.1170062
The popular view of the inherent conflict between science and the occult has been rendered obsolete by recent advances in the history of science. Yet, these historiographical revisions have gone unnoticed in the public understanding of science and public education at large. Particularly reconstructions of the formation of modern psychology and its links to psychical research can show that the standard view of the latter as motivated by metaphysical bias fails to stand up to scrutiny. After highlighting certain basic methodological maxims shared by psychotherapists and historians, I will try to counterbalance simplistic claims of a ‘need to believe’ as a precondition of scientific open-mindedness regarding the occurrence of parapsychological phenomena by discussing instances revealing a presumably widespread ‘will to disbelieve’ in the occult. I shall argue that generalized psychological explanations are only helpful in our understanding of history if we apply them in a symmetrical manner.
historiography, history of science, parapsychology, psychical research, pragmatism, psychology of belief
Research for this article has been generously funded by a Wellcome Trust medical humanities doctoral studentship. I am also grateful for the support of a junior research fellowship at Churchill College, Cambridge.
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External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13642537.2016.1170062
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/254846
Attribution 4.0 International
Licence URL: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/