My aim in this blog is to discuss and document research – both my own and that of others that I come across – on the nature of superstition.
The approach taken is that superstitious beliefs, rather than being a reflection of the reality of any paranormal claims, are a natural phenomenon and should be understood in terms of human psychology. This is a working assumption and, like all other assumptions that people make, it is both necessary, if we are to progress with any activity, and fallible.
My own particular background is in philosophy and it is the tools that philosophy has given me that I primarily depend upon in my research, i.e. critical thinking, intellectual precision and, hopefully, a measure of openness to novel approaches to problems that have proved intransigent thus far. At the same time, I am happy to allow that philosophy alone will not teach anyone much about superstition: empirical research is absolutely vital and plays a role that is no less fundamental in coming to grips with what superstition is. For this reason, I like to read what people working in various disciplines, be it history or psychology, have had to say about superstition.
Also, I approach the issue from the direction of looking at the nature of rationality – superstition being perhaps the most infamous example of what is seen as humans failing to be rational. Given such an approach, superstition is of interest as it shows something of how human reasoning works by showing how it fails to work. In particular, it is of interest to me as I think that rationality, not just human rationality but any rationality at all, must be understood to be inherently limited or, to use Herbert Simon’s term, bounded. In that context, the study of superstition becomes the study of the bounds of reason.
In this blog I will want to develop some of my ideas by putting them down ‘on paper’ as well as recording information about books, conferences and whatever else is relevant to the serious study of superstition as well as of interest to myself and others working in this interdisciplinary area.