Doomed to Enchantment: The Psychical Research of William James

Episode 44 · April 9th, 2019 · 1 hr 33 mins

About this Episode

The great American thinker William James knew well that no intellectual pursuit is purely intellectual. His interest in the "supernormal," whether it take the form of spiritual apparition or extrasensory perception, was rooted in a personal desire to uncover the miraculous in the mundane. Indeed, the early members of the British Society for Psychical Research and its American counterpart (which James co-founded in 1884) were united in this conviction that certain phenomena which most scientists of their day considered unworthy of their attention were in fact the frontier of a new world, an avenue for humanity's deepest aspirations. In this episode, JF and Phil discuss two papers that James wrote about the first phase in the history of these research societies. James lays bare his conclusions about the reality of psychical phenomena and its scientific significance. The bizarre fact that psychical research has made little progress since its inception lays the ground for an engaging discussion on the limits of the knowable.


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Weird Studies, Episode 37: Entities
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