Was Kant the first Fortean?

” Expressed in a sentence, [Charles] Fort’s principle goes something like this: People with a psychological need to believe in marvels are no more prejudiced and gullible than people with a psychological need not to believe in marvels. ”

Colin Wilson, cited here.

Charles Fort is usually credited with an approach to the paranormal which involves neither “scientific” scepticism nor the credulity of the true believer. This spirit of inquiry is reflected in the approach of the contemporary magazine, Fortean Times. A sample cover of Fortean Times:

ForteanTimes-SpecialCreaturesOfTheNightIssue-June2012-Cover

Although this kind of halfway point between scepticism and credulity as an ideal is often attributed to Charles Fort, I noticed recently that Immanuel Kant had a similar idea, apparently, in his Dreams of a Spirit Seer, Elucidated by Dreams of Metaphysics (1766). As Susan Meld Shell writes in her excellent book The Embodiment of Reason: Kant on Spirit, Generation, and Community, Kant takes a “position he will come to describe as an alternative to dogmatism and skepticism alike … in the face of a battle between dogmatism and skepticism which is itself dogmatic … Kant offers as a remedy agnostic histories in which the line between truth and fiction is left deliberately indeterminate.”

If one is religious, then it seems to me that fringe topics and the occult have to be given some consideration because it is hard to draw a firm line between religious belief and belief in the paranormal. Every religious person will draw the line in a different place. In other words, once your religion allows one miracle, other inexplicable phenomena become possible.

If, on the other hand, one is not religious, it can still be worthwhile to keep an open mind. There have been cases of supposedly impossible phenomena that turned out to be scientifically interesting. It is said that for a long time the existence of meteorites was considered impossible because “stones do not fall from the sky”.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Ananya Aishwarya on September 18, 2015 at 6:43 am

    Ananya Aishwarya
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  2. Posted by Julian O'Dea on September 18, 2015 at 7:29 am

  3. […] Was Kant the first Fortean? (davidcollard.wordpress.com) […]

    Reply

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