Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Volume 48, Part A, December 2014, Pages 38–45
Psychical research in the history and philosophy of science. An introduction and review
- Provides a sketch of changing historiographical conventions regarding the ‘occult’.
- Reviews standard claims regarding psychical research in discussions of demarcation.
- Criticizes reliance on simplistic notions of science and outdated historiographies.
- Suggests study of unorthodox scientists to increase epistemological sensitivities.
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sources and instead rely heavily on problematic popular accounts, simplistic notions of scientific practice, and outdated teleological historiographies of progress.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.
- Psychical research;
- Demarcation problem;
- Popular science
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