Ghost Hunters

Ghost Hunters

William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death

Book - 2006
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Traces how the respected psychologist brother of Henry James set out to gather scientific data proving the existence of ghosts at the end of the nineteenth century, forming the American Society for Psychical Research.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2006.
ISBN: 9781594200908
Characteristics: 370 p. ; 24 cm.


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LDuke2012 Feb 20, 2013

Read from October 16, 2012 to February 10, 2013

Ok, it took me forever to read this book because it was so chocked full of information. I recommend this to anyone who wants to think deeply. Alot of head nodding & head scratching went on whilst reading. Paranormal concepts I got, but famous people & what they did triggered faint memories of science class tests. I'm in awe of the dedication of these super smart people of the (I think) Gilded Age who managed to endorse, fund, & study several causes &/or ideas simultaneously.

If you look at my read list you will find mostly romances & mysteries. Many of the authors I read include paranormal elements, or the "woo-woo" factor if you will, since that is the current fashion. William James & his colleagues would be appalled at how all their painstaking, reputation breaking work has become fodder for the mass market entertainment around the world.

This book explains so much about the very real war between religious thought, scientific process, and those of us; who in the famous words of Rodney King ask plainitively, "Can't we all just get along?".

Some fav quotes: (pg213) William James in an 1896 address to the Philosophical Club of Yale & Brown Unis, "we are doing the universe the deepest service we can" when we keep our minds open to what we do not know for sure, to what we have no idea how to prove.

Same page: from the collection "The will to believe"; "Science says things are; morality says some things are better than other things", & religion says that the best things are eternal, "an affirmation which obviously cannot yet be verified scientifically at all." James suspected that many scientists dealt with the challenge by denying religious precepts entirely without asking themselves which intellectual pitfall was the greater evil: Better risk loss of truth than chance of error. James argued that the pursuit of truth, even when it might seem illogical by the rules of science, was always worth the risk.

Another great quote (pg 264) by W James: "Nature is everywhere gothic, not classic. She forms a real jungle, where all things are provisional, half-fitted to each other & untidy." Speaking about Mr. Myers acceptance of the complexity of the cosmic environment, "although we may be mistaken in much of the detail, in a general way, at least we become plausible."

One more, (pg 258) from the author,
William James had no such hopes, nor any fondness for this rational future that so many of his academic peers eagerly anticipated.The survival theory, he wrote, ignored the fact that civilizations come & gone had also been arrogantly sure that they possessed the one TRUTH above truths. He thought it a mistake to dismiss ideas of history simply because they didn't fit current scientific methodolgy.


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