Hey guys. I'm taking philosophy of the occult and the paranormal, 3rd year philosophy class. Anyone take a class similar? How did you like it?

What's your reading list look like?

I don't have a reading list in any format I could give you, here's a list of the authors and what they're covering. Don't bother to read it if you'd rather do other things.

Rene Descartes:

The key to Descartes is his philosophical justification for current scientific reductionism. He argues that the one thing we can't doubt is that we think - because even to doubt implies thinking. His famous dictum is "I think therefore I am" and he maintains that "man is a thinking thing." Where does emotion fit into this? Where does belief? It's not hard to see how this philosophical approach can lead philosophers to see humanity in terms of mechanics, thus beginning the seventeenth century push to what's called "mechanical philosophy."

Schick and Vaughn:

As much as we've entertained some fanciful ideas in this course, it is hoped that you would also have developed some critical thinking skills as well. For this reason, Schick and Vaughn are very important. You want to be aware of the "principles" that they put in the shaded boxes, and some that are italicized. Awareness and understanding of these principles of logical thought are vital.


Easlea's article was long - and I know some of you found it pretty tedious - but he makes some essential historical points. He notes that there were three world-views in operation and you should be able to identify what those world-views were, their basic characteristics, and broadly be familiar with the various threads of magic that were popular at that time. His whole book is fascinating, and I also would hope this chapter would lead you to read the whole book. (Do I hear laughing?)


What is Hume's "everlasting check"? What is his position on miracles?


Broad's major contribution is what he calls the "basic limiting principles". You should be aware of what they are. Also, for Broad what are the implications of "violations" of those principles?


You should be familiar with Kuhn's notion of "scientific revolutions" and who they come through a paradigm shift necessitated by a sufficient number of "anomalies" that make the old paradigm insufficient.


Science often makes the claim that it is "value-free" - a claim that Grim disputes. But he also says that science is not a value system like any other value system. You should know why he argues that science has a unique claim to truth?



I would hope that you would understand what the Popper principle is - and isn't. What are the three elements of his principle, and how does it address the issue of demarcation? Also, what are the limits of the Popper Principle?

Sagan ("The Most Precious Thing")

Sagan makes an engaging defence of science. What is his complaint against "pseudoscience"? What's his explanation for the popularity of the paranormal? His argument that pseudoscience is embraced in exact proportion as real science is misunderstood reveals a notion that society in general misunderstands science - yet we have an essentially scientific world-view in our day and age. What do you think of Sagan's estimation of our scientific knowledge?


In contradistinction to Sagan, Loyes castigates those "scientists" who refuse to simply bash pseudoscience. He argues that the criteria used by critics is impossible to meet. He suggests that it is the critics who are biassed. His telling statement is "My own conclusion is that for all their flaws and foibles, the parapsychologists are light years beyond their critics for sophistication, reliability, and objectivity. Which argument is more compelling for you: Sagan's or Loyes'?


There are two aspects of Meynell's article that are particularly important. The first is his methodology in analyzing any paranormal claim, and his definitions of skepticism.


Loye takes a look at the possibility of precognition and uses the new learnings of quantum physics to sketch out how it might work. Broadly, what is the basis of his argument?


Brier critiques three philosophers, Mundle, Broad, and Ducasse, and show how they all believe precognition is not logically possible. What are their arguments? How does Brier show that their arguments are insufficient?


This was one of my favourite articles. He makes an interesting observation that for the most part, the paranormal is the mind's ability to "influence matter at a distance." Not only that, but he suggests that there are three factors that determine what your opinion of paranormal phenomena will be. What are those three factors?

Peering Into the Future:

"Objections to Astrology":

What was the basis for these scientists denouncing astrology?


On what basis did Feyerabend critique the previous article?


What is the Tarot? You should be familiar with how it works and some its major symbols. Are any of its symbols reminiscent of other symbols systems?


With the shift to the occult, we return to the issue of definition. How does Eliade define the occult and what are the four functions of the occult that cause it to be so popular even today?


Drury is a lot of fun. He takes the notion of magic, and recasts it in "non-superstitious" terms. How does Drury redefine magic in modern terms? He also outlines the genesis and development of certain occult traditions - you should be familiar with these. Also, he outlines some of the symbols of the occult that find expression in other branches and traditions. What are some of these symbols?


Like Drury, Starhawk redefines witchcraft in a more contemporary way. What is the basis of her definition? What are the key symbols of witchcraft? For that matter, what is the power of the word? How is a spell like poetry?


What is Lloyd's central concern in her article? How would you summarize it?


How does Drury apply psychological theories to his survey of the occult today? You should be able to recognize and be familiar with the following names: Carl Jung, Jean Houstoun, Joseph Campbell, and Jean Shinoda Bolen.


What is "synchronicity? What is the I Ching? How is it linked to Jung?

What Can We Know About Death?


The details are not important. What is interesting is whether or not these accounts are credible. They give an experience of the medium's claim. Are they compelling to you or not? Why?


Harpur presents the dark side of mediums, and the tragic case of Bishop Pike is a good example. This article raises the ethical dimension of the paranormal. If it is untrue, how can it be damaging? If it is true, what damage are the scam artists doing?


Botting writes about the "current medico-scientific model" when it comes to death. What is the current model? Who is Haraldsson and Osis, Kubler-Ross, and Kastenbaum?

Sagan ("The Fine Art of Baloney Detection"):

Sagan begins this article with an interesting admission: he'd like to believe his parents were out there somewhere. When you think of the movie Contact, based on his book, you can see how that wish is manifested in a scientific context. Still, in this chapter Sagan goes on to repudiate fanciful notions, and argues for some criteria for detecting "baloney"? What are those criteria, and do you agree with them or not?


Writing in 1911, James suggests that all his research and ponderings have led him to the conclusion, that we still don't know if there's such a thing as paranormal phenomena - so we must keep trying. Are we at the same point almost a hundred years later?

sounds like a very interesting course.

it also seems like alot of it is about the philosophy of Science and the demarcation problem.

I'm amped for the course, looks like I got a good prof and I've only heard good things from others.

FudoMyoo - Looks interesting to me for sure. I'm huge into science and our first discussion is on demarcation.

I thought the "demarcation problem" was already solved by primitive men.


I read about 1/2 the material this weekend. I'll post an article I found interesting if I can find it on the web.

Some texts just get you thinking too much...