Mental suggestion (1902) PDF by Julian Ochorowicz

Julian Leopold Ochorowicz was a Polish philosopher, psychologist, inventor, poet, publicist, and leading exponent of Polish Positivism. 

Julian Ochorowicz
Julian Ochorowicz


This book, the title of which will, perhaps, scare those who fear novelty, is not a work of imagination, but of experience. A multitude of facts is set forth herein, that have been observed as well by the author himself as by sundry experimenters. It is a collection of facts, and nowhere else can you find brought together so much data. But it is not enough to accumulate facts — the facts must be rightly observed. In this respect, Mr Ochorowicz's criticism of the facts he has witnessed, or that he cites from the accounts given by other scientific men, is as rigorous as is called for by a subject so difficult. The most notable thing in his work is the resolute, unflagging determination to weigh all objections, to put away all causes of bad faith, whether conscious or unconscious, to take note of the difficulties of the problem, sometimes magnifying them, and not to be content till every possible cause of illusion has been removed. 

The task was difficult, and it is much to have attempted it under conditions so stringent. To demonstrate mental suggestion it suffices to eliminate two causes of error: First, the error due to fraud. And when I say fraud, I do not mean willful deception plotted, contrived, studied beforehand — that is very rare; but unconscious, automatic fraud (so to speak) produced by the natural tendency that is in all of us to wish to make an experiment successful when once we have taken it in hand. Hence, we must, first of all, make sure that no involuntary indication can have been given; in other words, that there has been no word or gesture or touch that could lead the person that answers to give preferably such or such response. The second cause of the error is chance. 

Chance often brings about amazing coincidences. Now, mathematical certitude is never attained- able in cases where chance may play a part; nevertheless, there is a moral certitude resulting from the continuous success of many experiments, the probability of any one of which is weak. Mr Ochorowicz has sought to eliminate these various difficulties; he finds a certain number nf rasps which he regards as conclusive — and I think I may say that he is pretty exacting in the matter of proofs. In consequence of certain decisive experiments, he has reached a conviction, and naturally, he strives to make his readers share it with him. And yet I do not think that his book, strong as it is in proofs, will convince all, or even many persons. 

I know too well (from my own experience) how difficult it is to believe what we have seen when it does not accord with the general tenor of our thoughts, with the common- places that underlie all our knowledge. A fortnight ago I witnessed such or such an astonishing fact, and I was convinced. Today I toss my head and begin to doubt. Six months hence I shall no longer believe it at all. This is a curious anomaly of our mind. To produce conviction, it is not enough that a fact is proven logically and experimentally; it is necessary, furthermore, that we, so to speak, become intellectually habituated to it. If it clashes with our routine, it is rejected, spurned.

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