William James and the American Society for Psychical Research, 1884-9

Thanks to a travel grant from the British Society for the History of Science (BSHS) I was able to present a paper at this year’s British-North American Joint Meeting of the BSHS, CSHPS, and HSS in Canada. The presentation distilled a small part of a chapter in my forthcoming study on the formation of modern … Read more

Are you Afraid of the Dark?

Last year I was approached by psychotherapist Nick Totton to contribute an article to a special issue on the ‘occult’, which Totton was about to edit for the European Journal of Psychotherapy & Counselling. As far as I can tell, my essay will be the only one written by a historian, while all other contributions … Read more

Temple Medicine, Oracles and the Making of Modernity: The Ancient Greek Occult in Anthropology and Psychology

Among the key figures in the hidden history of the human sciences are the Munich philosopher Carl du Prel (1839-1899) and the Cambridge classicist and psychologist Frederic W. H. Myers (1843-1901). Eclipsed by psychoanalysis, Jungian analytical psychology and other depth psychologies throughout the twentieth century, the contemporary significance and reception of these writers was considerable. … Read more

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 … Read more

Enchanted Cambridge

While modern popular science still often relies on traditional claims of the inherent incompatibility of science and the ‘miraculous’, current history of science scholarship has shown remarkably fluid boundaries between elite science and the ‘occult’. No location in Britain, and perhaps the whole Western hemisphere, is more apt to challenge popular standard notions of the … Read more

Emil du Bois-Reymond: Science, Progress and Superstition. An Interview with Gabriel Finkelstein

Gabriel Finkelstein is Associate Professor of History at the University of Colorado Denver, where he teaches courses on Modern Germany, Modern Europe, History of Science, and History of Exploration. He has a degree in physics from Amherst College and a doctorate in history from Princeton University. He recently published a biography of the German physiologist … Read more

Guest Post by Kees-Jan Schilt (University of Sussex): “Not fit to be Printed”. On the Reception of Newton’s Unorthodox Works

Kees-Jan Schilt has a background in physics, astrophysics and history and philosophy of science (University of Utrecht), and is currently a doctoral researcher in early modern history of science at the University of Sussex. A member of the Newton Project, he specializes in early modern history, history of science and religion, and in the life … Read more

The Tacit Magical Thinking in Popular Science

Since the emergence of the modern popular science industry in the nineteenth century, one central message has been promulgated consistently: Magical thinking is the exact opposite of the scientific spirit and a foolproof litmus test to identify intrinsically unscientific and dangerously regressive attitudes. The problem with this pillar of popular science, however, is that on … Read more

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