SOME NOTES ON THE PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE
To elaborate our critique on essentalism and on the limitations of purely analytical frameworks, we would like to reflect on the role of metaphorical thinking in parapsychology. In the case of cognitivistically inspired models, the conceptual tools are characterised by a mechanistic nature. Psi is considered to be the result of information-processing behaviour of the 'cognitive apparatus'. The computational metaphor can be identified as the root of such models.
The history of proposed conceptualisations can be characterised by a degeneration process (e.g. Lakoff, 1980). Starting out on a level of analogous description as purely abstract and metaphorical (with terms often borrowed from other successful parts of science), theories in parapsychology gradually tend to be transformed to a less differentiated level of absolute essence by the positive substantivation and isolation of their components. Significant indication of this transformation is the deletion of the word 'like' from descriptions such as "telepathy is like the transference of information by an unknown channel". Such literalisation of metaphorical content appears to be the fate of the favourite metaphors of every generation of parapsychologists. When the amount of literature grows, a concept may crystallise and become part of the select class of temporarily 'compressed' categories - clairvoyance and GESP are 'out', while DAT, DMILS (formerly bio-PK), and remote viewing are 'in'. The operationalisations associated to such categories gradually achieve a routineous, almost ritual character. Literalisation is a process that may obstruct understanding in the sense that it represses and neglects expressions of psi that do not fit the ruling metaphors.
Predominant parapsychological metaphors are still based on the apparently fundamental distance between subject and object. This myth of the individual identity as a priori ontological entity surfaces in the syntax and semantics of propositions containing metaphors like 'psi-information transference', in which applicability of the term 'transference' presupposes the a priori of separateness of the subjects between which it takes place. Such a metaphor affirms the ego as 'centre of gravity', it transforms psi from a radical anomaly of ego-logocentric thinking and being into a cognitive aberration. The individual might not be the centre of psi phenomena - the outward appropriation 'this is my psi experience' might be a reversal of what psi really stands for. Rather the total experiment might be considered a trans-subjective 'organism' through which psi may be expressed as the non-mediated and shared realisation of an anomalous event.
In conclusion, a suggested recommendation for dealing with the problem of literalisation in parapsychology would include confrontation with one's own implicit epistemological assumptions, the integration of diverse perspectives by the deconstruction of, and flexible and eclectical use of metaphors, and, finally, the realisation that in the end psi might remain a transcendence of any 'objective' structure and any system of knowledge we can think up, and can therefore only be defined in a negative sense. From this it follows that 'closure' of a system of knowledge and the setting in of a decline effect may be averted by temporarily leaving a paradigm and coming back to it later, inspired by fresh ideas and new enthusiasm . Also, for such a 'new start' it might suffice to radically change one's metaphorical conceptualisation of the paradigm while working in it. Furthermore, being a successful experimenter in parapsychology might correspond not so much to, to use a Batesonian distinction, a mastery of technical elements within the experimental context, but rather to a certain 'Fingerspitzengefühl' for contexts-as-a-whole, a mostly implicit knowledge of how to (re-)create the optimal situation, an important aspect of which is interpersonal rapport.