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Old 11-23-2009   #1
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Philosophy and the supernatural

Some friends of mine will publish a series of books, based on philosophers who have written essays on the supernatural. The first will be an essay from Schopenhauer on ghosts. Does anyone know any related works by famous philosophers?

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Old 11-23-2009   #2
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Re: Philosophy and the supernatural

Nothing comes immediately to mind, but may I just say that I love the idea itself.

If I think of or come across any relevant material, I'll let you know.

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Old 11-23-2009   #3
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Re: Philosophy and the supernatural

Some of Giacomo Leopardi's 'Operette Morali' might possibly qualify, for instance the 'Dialogue Between Frederick Ruysch and his Mummies,' although though the supernatural component is generally confined to the scenario & doesn't have much to do with the actual philosophizing.
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Old 11-24-2009   #4
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Re: Philosophy and the supernatural

The first name that came to mind was Tzvetan Todorov, the Bulgarian philosopher and literary theorist. His early book, Introduction à la littérature fantastique (1970), translated as The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre, examines various categories of the classic horror tale, and the experience of the reader. But this, of course, relates to literature, not life.

One could argue that Plato, and every philosopher thereafter who believed in the dichotomy between body and soul, was engaged in a discussion of the supernatural. The idea of an immaterial and immortal soul which temporarily resides in a perishable body is the basis of many supernatural tales--and is the foundation stone of Western philosophy and religion.

But, with that said, I would love to read a serious treatment of "supernatural horror" within a philosophical framework--that would be worth the price of a book!

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 11-24-2009   #5
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Re: Philosophy and the supernatural

The English philosopher Jeremy Bentham takes up the subject of “ghosts and apparitions” in his Rationale of Judicial Evidence (Book V, Chapter XVI [“Of Improbability and Impossibility”], Section IX), published in 1827. He views supernatural elements as “indifferent and innoxious” in and of themselves, but deplores their “mischievous influence” when they’re introduced as fact into matters of justice.

Bentham, born in 1748, lived at a time when investigations into the authenticity of hauntings and other such phenomena made prominent news. See, for example, the history of the “Cock Lane Ghost,” eventually debunked as a hoax by both Oliver Goldsmith and Samuel Johnson:

Cock_Lane_ghost Cock_Lane_ghost


Best of luck to your friends, Aggeliki! I look forward to their edition of the Schopenhauer essay.
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Old 11-24-2009   #6
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Re: Philosophy and the supernatural




maybe youll find this essay by kant interesting (looking at the book recommendations thread ive seen that youve recommended swedenborg)

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Dreams...or%27s_Preface

(Dictated while taking a stroll) I have come to realizewhat a superbly contrived marionette man is. Though without strings attached, one can strut, jump, hop and, moreover, utter words, an elaborately made puppet! Who knows? At the Bon season next year, I may be a new dead invited to the Bon festival. What an evanescent world! This truth keeps slipping off our minds.

- Tsunetomo Yamamoto, The Hagakure
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Old 11-24-2009   #7
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Re: Philosophy and the supernatural

Ted Honderich's Oxford Companion to Philosophy is a labyrinthine work which can occupy one's imagination for hours with its endless cross-references and "maps" of thought. Under the entry "malin génie" I found this:

Descartes hypothesized a malin génie (evil spirit) in the course of his search for a truth that was absolutely immune from doubt. He found that even the truths of mathematics were not thus immune, for an evil spirit might be causing him to give his assent to mathematical propositions which are in fact false.

Beneath the entry we have a reference (R. Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, Meditation 1) and the following cross-reference:* see "Brain in the vat." Dutifully flipping to "Brain in the vat":

Contemporary counterpart of Descartes’s hypothesis that one’s beliefs are induced by an evil genius. Used within a premiss in arguments for scepticism, the hypothesis says that nothing exists except one’s brain—in a vat, in order that its electrochemical activity should be sustained—so that whatever may seem to one to be the case, its seeming so is accounted for by such activity alone. The sceptic invites one to say ‘For all I know, I am a brain in a vat, and there is no external world’.

Brains in vats are introduced also in philosophy of mind in connection with the idea that a person’s psychological faculties require nothing but a brain’s operations. The idea may be questioned, and will be by the supporters of anti-individualism and others.

Wanting to know more, I turned to the entry "scepticism, history of":

The possibility that I might be dreaming challenged all perceptual beliefs; and the possibility that I was wholly under the influence of an evil demon (*malin génie) threatened logical and metaphysical principles as well. Unless Descartes could legitimately appeal to a criterion enabling him to reject those possibilities, none of our knowledge would be secure. In his Meditations (1641), he attempted to provide such a criterion.

Turning to "metaphysics, problems of":

Metaphysical world-views have derived from epistemological constraints. Thus one might be impressed by the difference between one’s own consciousness, to which one enjoys introspective access, on one side, and,on the other, the supposed world of physical fact beyond. Philosophers have long puzzled over how such a fundamental chasm could ever be bridged by reason. How could one ever know about the reality beyond on the basis of what one knows immediately about one’s own consciousness? One cannot deduce how it is beyond one’s consciousness simply from how it is within it: illusions, hallucinations, dreams, sceptical scenarios like that of the brain in a vat and the Cartesian evil demon, establish that impossibility clearly enough. (Malin génie.) So it would seem that at best one must argue one’s way to the external world through some inductive form of reasoning. But to many this has seemed hopeless if the world beyond is constituted by phenomena of a wholly different order and inaccessible to our experience.

None of which brings us any closer to a discourse on ghosts and things that go bump in the night...

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 11-25-2009   #8
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Re: Philosophy and the supernatural

After extensive research I have uncovered a number of little-known works on the supernatural written by prominent philosophers:

G. W. F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirits

Thomas Paine, The Rights of Monsters

Plato, Republic of Ghouls

Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of our Ideas of the Spooky and the Beastly

Albert Camus, The Plague of Zombies

Michel Foucault, The Order of Unnatural Things



"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 11-25-2009   #9
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Re: Philosophy and the supernatural

I knew i could count on my Ligottian friends. Thank you guys.

All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream..
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Old 11-27-2009   #10
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Re: Philosophy and the supernatural

The first chapter of Language, Truth, and Logic (by Ayer) covers the supernatural (transcendent reality).

Language, Truth, and Logic - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"The failed magician waves his wand, and in an instant the laughter is gone." - Martin Gore
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