Philosophy of Charles Fort

As regular BB readers know, I frequently refer to the work of Charles Fort, a "collector" of anomalous phenomena in the early 1900s. Fort spent years in libraries, taking copious notes on bizarre news events, from frogs falling out of the sky to unidentified flying objects, to teleportation, a word he coined. Fort wrote several great books presenting the odd phenomena that he'd cataloged. He was the ultimate skeptic, opposing belief of any kind. "I offer the data," Fort wrote. "Suit yourself." Every fringe dweller should have a copy of The Complete Books of Charles Fort on her or his bookshelf. In Fortean Times magazine, Ian Kidd explores Fort's philosophy that goes much deeper than that of your average crank toiling away in the corner of a dusty library. From the article:

The motivation for Fort’s 30 year long researches is not as straightforward as one might think. Many sources will report, reasonably enough, that Fort was opposed to ‘scientific orthodoxy’ and its unprincipled rejection of anomalous phenomena through the exclusionist processes of denial, dismissal, suppression and explaining away. This is all true enough, but only a part of the whole story. Throughout his books, Fort describes and reiterates his purpose: his opposition to the conservatism which damns what is new and innovative in favour of preserving the established and conventional, even in the face of data which overtly contradicts that establishment. This is the antidogmatism that many readers find both commend able and refreshing. However, it is also only one aspect of Fort’s work and arguably subservient to the deeper motivations which commentators have hinted at but never really identified...

He stated that he had a theory and “because of the theory, I took hundreds of notes a day” to test its reasonableness. The theory was simple: “that all things are one; that all phenomena are governed by the same laws” and that a comprehensive survey of human scientific and artistic knowledge will reveal uniformities and generalities that might indicate the presence of these underlying laws or principles. A monistic intuition – some might call it mystical – motivated the enormous researches from which the criticisms of orthodoxy and celebration of the anomalous only later emerged. Fort’s critical attitude towards authoritarianism was a feature of his personality; his abandoned auto biography Many Parts 1 offers various episodes demonstrating the wilfulness and defiant independence of the young Fort, usually in the face of his autocratic father. Fort was motivated by a resistance to the unjust tyrannies and strictures of authoritarian orthodoxies and so sought the empirical and philosophical weapons to resist it.

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