DISPUTE CONCERNING GHOSTS

Never has a topic been so controversial as that of ghosts. Maybe just aliens are breathing down its neck, but that’s only in recent years because when aliens were just beginning to exist in people’s imagination, ghosts had already spent many centuries existing… Or not existing? We thus arrive at the main controversy regarding the issue of ghosts: Do they exist or what? Let’s look at some authoritative opinions.

Emmanuel Kant believed that ghosts were an hypothetical imperative which can be summarized in this sentence: “I must believe in ghosts so that I am allowed to enter the house” (Kant had a serious problem with his landlady, who would force him to make a sincere profession of believe in ghosts and vampirs to be admitted in the house. If his sincerity was questioned, he would be expelled.) René Descartes, for his part, arrived at this single principle: “I think in ghosts. Thinking in ghosts cannot be separated from me, therefore ghosts exist”. Leibniz would be even more convincing: “A ghost is a necessary being bearing the reason for its existence within itself”.

To these three geniuses of logical reasoning we must oppose three other giants of abstract thinking. “If Ghosts exist,” (note the capital letter) says Hobbes, “there is no place for industry because the fruit thereof is uncertain”. (Hobbes owned a pinwheel factory that was continually sabotaged by a wayward employee named Karl Ghosts.”) Baruch Spinoza: “In the state of nature, ghost-doing is impossible; or, if anyone does ghost, it is to himself, not to another.” (Spinoza used to disguise himself as a ghost but he never managed to scare anyone other than himself by looking in a mirror.) David Hume didn’t believe in the external existence of ghosts either. However, in his own words: “For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some ghost or other. I never can catch myself at any time without a ghost, and never can observe any thing but the ghost.” That’s why he lived in constant fear of scaring himself to death.

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