Tommi Kakko on Dr. Hibbert’s Theory of Apparitions and Hallucinations

Wednesday 15 October, 4.15pm
Room 311, University of Westminster, Wells Street, London W1T 3UW

Dr Tommi Kakko, University of Tampere / Visiting Research Fellow, IMCC
“Dr. Hibbert’s Theory of Apparitions and Hallucinations”

Samuel Hibbert’s (1782–1848) Sketches of the Philosophy of Apparitions (1824) is a famous early attempt to understand the phenomenon of hallucinations from a scientific perspective. He and his colleague John Ferriar (1761–1815) wrote studies to counter ghost stories, superstitions and esoteric beliefs. The doctors believed these had filled nature with absurd and terrifying imaginary creatures. Ferriar wanted to ease the fears of his contemporaries and erase the stigma of madness from hallucinations. Hibbert’s book was much more ambitious. He created a theoretical framework based on associationism and wrote a great deal about the history of hallucinations in alchemy and other occult arts. He also sketched out theories of the conscious and unconscious mind. Hibbert’s theories are particularly interesting when one focuses on the problem of second hand information in his analyses. The theories rely heavily on stories about apparitions, but actually do very little to examine their nature. Literary critics like John Dryden and Meric Casaubon did, but their works are notably absent from Hibbert’s book.

All welcome!

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