Monthly Archives: September 2014

Pre-Print Introduction to SHPSC Special Issue Now Available: Psychical Research in the History and Philosophy of Science

The final pre-print article from the SHPSC special issue on psychical research, which I had the privilege of guest-editing, is now available online. Although it is not strictly meant as a normative contribution to the philosophy of science, I hope it will still be useful for philosophers interested in the demarcation problem. It basically boils down to an appeal nobody really should have to make, but which unfortunately is still rather necessary: be critical of secondary sources, particularly concerning histories of controversial subjects!

PSYCHICAL RESEARCH IN THE HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE. AN INTRODUCTION AND REVIEW

Andreas Sommer, University of Cambridge

Abstract
introscreenshotAs 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sources and instead rely heavily on problematic popular accounts, simplistic notions of scientific practice, and outdated teleological historiographies of progress.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.

Keywords
Historiography; Psychical research; Parapsychology; Demarcation problem; Popular science

Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


One Year of ‘Forbidden Histories’

Blog post moved to http://www.forbiddenhistories.com/?p=771.


Seventh Article from Upcoming SHPSC Special Issue on Psychical Research: Enrico Morselli and the Medium Eusapia Palladino

The penultimate pre-print article from the soon to be published Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences special issue on psychical research is now online. Maria Teresa Brancaccio explores and contextualises a hitherto underresearched episode in the history of modern Italian psychology, i.e. the preoccupation of one of its leading early representatives with purported psychic phenomena.

ENRICO MORSELLI’S PSYCHOLOGY AND “SPIRITISM”: PSYCHIATRY, PSYCHOLOGY AND PSYCHICAL RESEARCH IN ITALY IN THE DECADES AROUND 1900

Maria Teresa Brancaccio, Maastricht University

Abstract

Enrico Morselli (1852-1929)

Enrico Morselli (1852-1929)

This paper traces Enrico Morselli’s intellectual trajectory from the 1870s to the early 1900s. His interest in phenomena of physical mediumship is considered against the backdrop of the theoretical developments in Italian psychiatry and psychology. A leading positivist psychiatrist and a prolific academic, Morselli was actively involved in the making of Italian experimental psychology. Initially sceptical of psychical research and opposed to its association with the ‘new psychology’, Morselli subsequently conducted a study of the physical phenomena produced by the medium Eusapia Palladino. He concluded that her phenomena were genuine and represented them as the effects of an unknown bio-psychic force present in all human beings. By contextualizing Morselli’s study of physical mediumship within contemporary theoretical and disciplinary discourse, this study elaborates shifts in the interpretations of ‘supernormal’ phenomena put forward by leading Italian psychiatrists and physiologists. It demonstrates that Morselli’s interest in psychical research stems from his efforts to comprehend the determinants of complex psychological phenomena at a time when the dynamic theory of matter in physics, and the emergence of neo-vitalist theories influenced the theoretical debates in psychiatry, psychology and physiology.

Keywords

Italian psychiatry; Italian psychical research; Esopsychism; Enrico Morselli; Eusapia Palladino

Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


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