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A Scientist's Voice in American CultureSimon Newcomb and the Rhetoric of Scientific Method$
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Albert Moyer

Print publication date: 1992

Print ISBN-13: 9780520076891

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520076891.001.0001

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Mental and Psychical Sciences

Mental and Psychical Sciences

Challenging Current Beliefs

Chapter:
(p.166) Chapter X Mental and Psychical Sciences
Source:
A Scientist's Voice in American Culture
Author(s):

Albert E. Moyer

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520076891.003.0010

Although Newcomb was confident of the conceptual foundations of modern science, he did question the reliability of some of the superstructures built on them, and thus attempted to discredit the common belief in “scientific materialism”—the belief that mental phenomena could be reduced to physical processes. Similarly, he sought to debunk the growing belief in what might be called “scientific spiritualism”—the belief that psychic phenomena could be attributed to new and unseen processes operating in, for example, the ether. These probings of the superstructure of science, of scientific materialism and scientific spiritualism, are merely modest examples of Newcomb operating on our first level of methodological rhetoric. They are only modest examples because, although Newcomb was employing methodological pronouncements to discredit emerging and still-controversial theories of perceived scientific merit, he was neither grappling with theories of central concern to practicing natural scientists nor always directing his remarks to his professional colleagues.

Keywords:   Simon Newcomb, scientific materialism, mental phenomena, scientific spiritualism

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