John Beloff


Explaining the Paranormal, with Epilogue - 1977

The field of psychical research must be unique in one respect at least: no other discipline, so far as I know, has its subject-matter demarcated by exclusively negative criteria. A phenomenon is, by definition, paranormal if and only if it contravenes some fundamental and well-founded assumption of science. This alone is what makes it of interest to this Society.

Now, one would need to be almost perversely fond of mystification to sustain an interest in anything for any length of time for no other reason than that it was odd and inexplicable. Most psychical researchers, I feel sure, are drawn to their pursuit because they intuitively feel that these phenomena represent an important riddle about the nature of things which they want to decipher. Of course, there can be no logical guarantee that paranormal phenomena will turn out to possess anything in common beyond their negative qualifications, but there is plenty of precedent for trying to find some overall guiding principle which might embrace at least the major phenomena. In this talk I want, therefore, to discuss what such a guiding principle might be. Now, there are, on my reckoning, no more than five possibilities that are still seriously worth considering. I propose, therefore, to describe briefly each of them in turn and then weigh their respective claims on our allegiance.

The first of these basic positions which immediately confronts every

Reprinted from the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, volume 42 ( 1963), pp. 101- 114, by permission of the author and editor.

-353-

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Philosophy and Parapsychology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Preface 13
  • Philosophy & Parapsychology 17
  • Notes 36
  • Section I - Parapsychology and Philosophy 41
  • The Relevance of Psychical Research to Philosophy 43
  • Symposium: is Psychical Research Relevant to Philosophy? 64
  • Notes 108
  • Review of Kneale, Robinson, and Mundle Symposium 110
  • Notes 116
  • The Science of Nonphysical Nature 117
  • The Philosophical Importance of "Psychic Phenomena" 128
  • Notes 141
  • Section II - The Argument from the Posselbility of Fraud 143
  • Science and the Supernatural 145
  • On "Science and the Supernatural" 172
  • Notes 177
  • Comments on "Science and the Supernatural" 178
  • Notes 186
  • Compatibility of Science and Esp 187
  • Probability, Logic, and Esp 191
  • Where is the Definitive Experiment? 196
  • Notes 200
  • The Experiment Should Fit the Hypothesis 202
  • Notes 204
  • Section III - Conceptual Issues in Parapsychology 205
  • Describing and Explaining 207
  • Notes 225
  • References 226
  • On the Meaning of 'Paranormal' 227
  • Notes 244
  • Notes on Guessing 245
  • Notes 254
  • Conceptualizations of Experimental Clairvoyance 255
  • Notes 262
  • Parapsychology Revisited: Laws, Miracles, and Repeatability 263
  • The Problem of Repeatability in Psychical Research 270
  • Notes 283
  • Section IV - Precognition and Its Problems 285
  • The Philosophical Implications of Foreknowledge 287
  • The Causal Objection to Precognition 313
  • Does the Concept of Precognition Make Sense? 327
  • Notes 340
  • Mundle, Broad, Ducasse and the Precognition Problem 341
  • Notes 348
  • Section V - Parapsychology and the Philosophy of Mind 351
  • Explaining the Paranormal, with Epilogue - 1977 353
  • Parapsychology and Human Nature 371
  • Notes 386
  • New Frontiers of the Brain 387
  • Notes 399
  • Central-State Materialism and Parapsychology 401
  • Notes 404
  • Section VI - Historical Postscript 405
  • Final Impressions of a Psychical Researcher 407
  • Bibliography 423
  • Contributors 451
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