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2020 Vol. 84(1) 114-129

Etzel Cardeña, Ph.D.
Parapsychology Press


Evrard, R., and Beauvais, B. (2020). Tolerance of the Unknown: Negative  Capability, the Problem of Demarcation, and the Truzzi-Gardner Dialogue.  Journal of Parapsychology, 84, 114-129.


Tolerance of the Unknown: Negative Capability, the Problem of Demarcation, and the Truzzi-Gardner Dialogue

Renaud Evrard                                     Bevis Beauvais

University of Lorraine                  Independent Researcher

The poet John Keats coined the term negative capability to describe the  kind of open mindedness that is capable of tolerating the unknown or  only half-known. He also described a similar idea regarding our ability  to disregard our own knowledge and allow the mind to become a  thoroughfare for all thoughts. This capability may be considered from  the perspective of the psychology of science as an epistemic virtue,  which plays an important role within the scientific study of anomalous  phenomena or what might be more succinctly termed anomalistics. Have  scientists developed sufficient negative capability to deal adequately  with the claims of the paranormal? As an illustration, we analyze the  role of negative capability within the recently published correspondence  between sociologist Marcello Truzzi and mathematician and science  journalist Martin Gardner. Gardner defended a kind of hardline  skepticism favoring prejudice and pejorative labels whereas Truzzi  promoted a softer skepticism with more symmetry and a courteous effort  toward those who strive diligently to follow the rules of science. Both  forms of skepticism have different epistemological grounds and this  inner-demarcation is analyzed through the perspective of the psychology  of science and its assessment of individual’s epistemic vices and  virtues. This inner-demarcation has an impact on the wider issue of  demarcation between science and pseudoscience. We conclude that negative  capability should be a salient factor in future research and may be  encouraged and developed by the educational opportunities provided by  anomalistics and its characteristic skeptic-proponent dialogues.


Negative capability, skepticism, psychology of science, Marcello Truzzi, Martin Gardner

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