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University of Texas – Austin

1. -2082-9823. Pragmatic enchantment : William James, psychical research, and the humanities in the American Research University, 1880-1910.

Degree: English, 2018, University of Texas – Austin

Pragmatic Enchantment juxtaposes the histories of two intellectual movements from the fin de siècle that could not appear more different on their surfaces: pragmatism, or the philosophical approach that predicates the truth value of a belief or theory based on the success of its practical application, and psychical research, the scientific investigation of telepathy and allied phenomena. This study makes the argument that beneath the surface, psychical research was a major formative influence on pragmatism. The intertwinement of the two has been obscured because of the unlikely comparison between what is largely deemed a pseudo-science and the pristine reputation of a cornerstone of American intellectual life. In confluence, this study argues, these two intellectual movements played a contributory role in defending the state of humanistic inquiry in late-nineteenth century research universities. For William James, among the most famous of psychical researchers, I argue that his philosophy of pragmatism as it exists throughout his corpus from The Principles of Psychology to Pragmatism was rooted in his grappling with the need for personally meaningful or “live hypotheses” through the field of psychical research. First-generation pragmatists Charles Peirce, F.C.S. Schiller, and Henri Bergson were all involved in psychical research, and an examination of their writings in this arena reveals its influence on their contributions to pragmatism. At the same time, rescaling psychical research’s place in history through a networked view unveils its connection to changes in higher education, particularly its programmatic relevance to American research universities which were swiftly turning towards an emphasis on the STEM fields. The professionalization of psychical research led to the establishment of programs at institutions like the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University. These programs created lines of scholarly communication through investigations undertaken collaboratively by both science and humanities professors. While the development of research universities would seem to support Max Weber’s popular thesis of secularization and Entzauberung (disenchantment) in the wake of late-nineteenth century scientific progress, this study argues to the contrary: psychical research propounded the very pragmatism of enchantment. It carried a humanistic raison d’etre for bringing “live hypotheses” into the investigative spirit of American research universities. Advisors/Committee Members: Bremen, Brian A. (advisor), Kevorkian, Martin W (committee member), Wojciehowski, Hannah (committee member), Abzug, Robert (committee member), Henderson, Linda (committee member).

Subjects/Keywords: Pragmatism; Psychical research; William James; University studies; Enchantment; Disenchantment; Telepathy; Demarcation problem; History of psychology; Charles Sanders Peirce; Henri Bergson; F.C.S. Schiller; Seybert Commission; Society for Psychical Research; F.W.H. Myers; Edmund Gurney; Psychology; Parapsychology; Ether; Spiritualism; Occult; Occultism; Research university; Humanities; Live questions; Live hypotheses; Elan vital; Mother wit; Randomization

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APA (6th Edition):

-2082-9823. (2018). Pragmatic enchantment : William James, psychical research, and the humanities in the American Research University, 1880-1910. (Thesis). University of Texas – Austin. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2152/63371

Note: this citation may be lacking information needed for this citation format:
Author name may be incomplete
Not specified: Masters Thesis or Doctoral Dissertation

Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):

-2082-9823. “Pragmatic enchantment : William James, psychical research, and the humanities in the American Research University, 1880-1910.” 2018. Thesis, University of Texas – Austin. Accessed August 17, 2018. http://hdl.handle.net/2152/63371.

Note: this citation may be lacking information needed for this citation format:
Author name may be incomplete
Not specified: Masters Thesis or Doctoral Dissertation

MLA Handbook (7th Edition):

-2082-9823. “Pragmatic enchantment : William James, psychical research, and the humanities in the American Research University, 1880-1910.” 2018. Web. 17 Aug 2018.

Note: this citation may be lacking information needed for this citation format:
Author name may be incomplete

Vancouver:

-2082-9823. Pragmatic enchantment : William James, psychical research, and the humanities in the American Research University, 1880-1910. [Internet] [Thesis]. University of Texas – Austin; 2018. [cited 2018 Aug 17]. Available from: http://hdl.handle.net/2152/63371.

Note: this citation may be lacking information needed for this citation format:
Author name may be incomplete
Not specified: Masters Thesis or Doctoral Dissertation

Council of Science Editors:

-2082-9823. Pragmatic enchantment : William James, psychical research, and the humanities in the American Research University, 1880-1910. [Thesis]. University of Texas – Austin; 2018. Available from: http://hdl.handle.net/2152/63371

Note: this citation may be lacking information needed for this citation format:
Author name may be incomplete
Not specified: Masters Thesis or Doctoral Dissertation

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