Hume’s Syndrome: Irrational Resistance to the Paranormal

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Hume’s Syndrome: Irrational Resistance to the Paranormal

Michael Grosso


Quote:One of the obstacles to progress in psychical research is irrational resistance to the phenomena. Among eighteenth-century Enlightenment writers, one type of resistance was evident that has persisted until present times. To illustrate, the present paper looks at David Hume’s discussion of miracles in his An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748/1955). Hume’s essay actually lays out a good case for some extraordinary events reported about the death of the Jansenist Francois de Paris—phenomena produced by the so-called ‘‘convulsionaries of St. Medard.’’ The contradiction is resolved by Hume himself, who naively reveals what motivates him to deny the overwhelming testimony he reviews: namely, his fear of validating religion.

This paper notes the same pressure to deny ‘‘miracles’’ in another eighteenth-century writer, Edward Gibbon; Gibbon, however, unlike Hume, yields to the pressure of evidence and admits one startling instance of a well-documented preternatural event.

A third figure from the same century is cited, a rationalistic Promotor Fidei of the Catholic Church, Prosper Lambertini, who, ironically, may be cited as having advanced the cause of the scientific investigation of psychic phenomena. The lesson from history is not to be seduced by stereotypes: an empiricist can deny and distort facts; a religious believer can be critical and objective.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


[-] The following 5 users Like Sciborg_S_Patel's post:
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I think this is indeed currently alive and well in the mindset of many, or not very deeply-hidden beneath the surface:
Quote:The contradiction is resolved by Hume himself, who naively reveals what motivates him to deny the overwhelming testimony he reviews: namely, his fear of validating religion.

Personally, I think that mindset is folly. The idea of "religion" as popularly conceived, is of something rooted in ancient history, and therefore can only be researched by poring over ancient manuscripts - and arguing over how they should be interpreted. But on the contrary, looking to present-day phenomena, real-world happenings, allows us to reconsider these things. It refreshes the debate, should it be necessary or considered important. 'Religion' - in a loosely-defined way, might end up being displaced rather than validated. In other words, looking at the evidence with an open mind might be a positive, beneficial thing. It seems absurd to even have to say such a thing, but it's clear many would rather remain aloof from evidence, I suspect for a different reason, that is that whatever cherished beliefs are held, might be shown to be flawed. Hence, not the fear of validating religion, but the fear of invalidating something else.
[-] The following 4 users Like Typoz's post:
  • tim, nbtruthman, Smaw, Sciborg_S_Patel

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