views updated May 21 2018


Etymologically, precognition is simply the Latin equivalent of foreknowledge. But it has come to have a more specialized meaning as a semitechnical term for one of the phenomena or putative phenomena of parapsychology (psychical research). This entry touches on the wider issues of foreknowledge only insofar as they appear in a rather special form in the narrower context of parapsychology. Again, since the philosophical problems centering on some of the other concepts of parapsychology are examined at length elsewhere, telepathy, clairvoyance, and psychokinesis are mentioned here only when necessary to the main goal of becoming clearer about the logical geography of parapsychological precognition. Nor will there be any discussion of what the facts actually are. We shall be concerned only with theoretical questions of implication and explanation.

Precognition is one of a group of terms that also includes telepathy, clairvoyance, andmore peripherallypsychokinesis (PK). Telepathy is thought of, initially at any rate, as consisting in the acquisition of information by one person from another without the use of any of the senses normally indispensable to communication. Clairvoyance, at the same initial stage, is conceived of as being generically identical with telepathy; the specific difference is that in the case of clairvoyance the information is supposed to be obtained not from another person but from an object. Telepathy would be termed "precognitive" if the information so acquired was not going to become available to the other person until later. Clairvoyance would be termed precognitive if the information so acquired was not, until later, even going to become available in things, as opposed to minds.

It is thus possible to consider precognitive telepathy and precognitive clairvoyance as being two species of the genus precognition. Straight telepathy, straight clairvoyance, and both sorts of precognition are all supposed to be both nonsensory and noninferential. It is partly for this reason that all these alleged phenomena are frequently classed together as varieties of extrasensory perception (ESP). It is important to recognize that both these negative characteristics are in all four cases defining. To show that the information was acquired by the use, whether conscious or unconscious, of sensory cues, clues, or signs is a sufficient reason for disqualifying as genuine telepathy, or what have you, any ostensible case of telepathy or other such phenomenon. Similarly, to show that this acquisition was the result of a feat of inference, however heroic and remarkable in itself, again constitutes a completely sufficient reason for insisting that we are not confronted with a genuine case of precognition. At most we must describe it as a pseudo precognition, "precognition" only in quotation marks.

Suppose someone has an intuition or a dream or a waking vision that is found to correspond to some actual later happening. Suppose that it seems out of the question either (1) to account for the correspondence as the result of successful inference, conscious or unconscious, from materials available to the subject at the time, or (2) to trace it back to some causal ancestor common to both the "anticipation" and the "fulfillment," or (3) to say that the "fulfillment" was somehow a result of the "anticipation," or (4) even to refuse to account for the correspondence in any way on the grounds that it was just a coincidence. (The counterargument in this last case would be that some intuitions, dreams, visions, and so forth, are bound to prove veridical and that presumably this was just one of those striking cases that isas the catch phrase has it"by the law of averages" bound to occur occasionally.) If such an intuition, or what have you, were to occur we wouldprovided that all four conditions seemed to be methave at least a prima facie case of precognition. Three theoretical questions must then be considered.

Operational Distinctions

The first question is whether there are real operational distinctions to be made between all the supposed varieties of ESP or whether any of them can be regarded as alternative descriptions of the same logically possible phenomena. For instance, some ingenuity is required to work out an experimental design that would enable us to distinguish decisively between straight clairvoyance and precognitive telepathy.

To make this clear, consider a stylized ESP experiment. The experimenter equips himself with a pack of cards, perhaps the special Zener type, which consists of five suits of five identical cards. He devises a procedure for randomizing the order in which the cards are to be offered as targets. He recruits a subject whose function is to guess the values of the cards chosen as targets. The experimenter takes drastic and thorough precautions to ensure that it is quite impossible for the subject to tell by any combinations of inference and sensory perception what is or is going to be the value of any target card. (This is, of course, very much more easily said than done. But here our concern is with theory only.) The subject in due course makes his guesses, and these guesses are recorded. If enough guesses are madeprovided always that the experiment has been properly designed and properly executedwe should expect "by the law of averages" that when the guesses are scored against their targets about one-fifth of the total will turn out to have been right and the remaining four-fifths wrong. But if significantly more hits have been scored than this mean-chance expectation, then it seems that some ESP factor must have been involved.

Suppose now that the experimenter has taken care to ensure that no one at all, himself included, should know, at the time when the subject makes his guesses, what is the value of each target card. It might seem that his experimental results can be interpreted as evidence only for clairvoyance and not for telepathy. But once we have allowed the possibility of precognition, then these same results can be described equally well in terms of precognitive telepathy. The subject is perhaps precognitively "picking" the brains of whoever later does the scoring.

The problem is further complicated if one is also prepared to allow the possibility of PK. Literally, "psychokinesis" means movement by the mind. The idea is that perhaps some people sometimes may be able, whether consciously or unconsciously, to move or otherwise affect things without pushing or pulling them and, indeed, without in any way touching either the things in question or any other things involved in the process. Perhaps, it is suggested, these people or, indeed, all of us really can in some conditions bring about changes in things by simply "willing," as a gambler might wish that by simply "willing" and without any detectable cheating he could get dice to fall in the ways he desires.

Once this suggestion is allowed there seems to be room for an alternative description of many experiments that might otherwise have appeared to be unambiguous evidence of the reality of precognition. Such a description will be in terms of psychokinesis, guided perhaps by a measure of straight telepathy or straight clairvoyance. The subject may not, after all, really be precognizing the target. Perhaps he or somebody else is consciously or unconsciously influencing psychokinetically the target-determining mechanism in order to increase the degree of correspondence between the guess series and the target series. With appropriate alterations the same suggestion can be applied to spontaneous, as opposed to experimental, cases of ostensible precognition. The "fulfillment" or "fulfillments" become partly or wholly the results of the "anticipations," and, by specification, any such cases are disqualified from being classed as genuinely precognitive. Confronted by this kaleidoscopically changing confusion of alternative descriptions, we need not wonder that PK was once described as the parapsychological equivalent of a universal solvent.


The second sort of theoretical question concerns the implications of precognition. Suppose it were to be established that there really is such a phenomenon, which actually does satisfy all the conditions stipulated; what would follow?

the future as present

One consequence that has often been thought to follow from the existence of precognition is that, sensationally, the future must somehow be already hereor at any rate there. This is usually derived from a conception of precognition as a mode of perception, of ESP. Thus, J. W. Dunne, in An Experiment with Time (3rd ed., London, 1939, p. 7), claims that in precognition "we habitually observe events before they occur." By valid inference from this misdescription he concludes that the future must therefore really be present. Upon this absurdity he proceeds to erect his logical extravaganza "the serial theory of time." Or again, in a useful survey of the field, D. J. West remarks: "precognitionforeseeing arbitrary events in the future that could not by any stretch of the imagination be inferred from the presentthat is something which is almost impossible for our minds to grasp. How can anyone see things which do not yet exist?" (Psychical Research Today, London, 1954, p. 104).

Now it is necessarily true that if anything is to be seen or otherwise perceivedand not just "seen" or "perceived" (in discrediting quotation marks)that thing must be presently available. (We ignore for present purposes the peripheral problems presented by very distant stars.) West is therefore more right than perhaps he realizes in suggesting that it is inconceivable that anyone should be able to see things that do not yet exist. Nevertheless, the correct conclusion to draw is not, as some have been inclined to think, that precognition is logically impossible. The correct conclusion is, rather, that if the phenomenon specified was to occur, it could not be conceived of as any sort of perception. The argument reduces to absurdity not the notion of precognition as such but the assumption that such precognition can be assimilated to perception. (There are indeed further reasons, applying equally to all varieties of ESP, which tend to destroy this analogy and therefore make unfortunate the use of the expression "extrasensory perception." But the present reason, applying only to precognition, is in this case by itself entirely decisive.)

precognition as foreknowing

Suppose one begins by thinking of precognition not as foreseeing but as foreknowing. Suppose then that one happens to be one of those who conceives of cognition on the model of perception. This is, of course, a misconception, but one with a most ancient and distinguished pedigree. One relevant reason for insisting that this model is inapplicable is that whereas it is logically possible for me to know now that certain things happened in the past and that other things will happen in the future, it is not logically possible for me now to perceive anything but what is now available to be perceived. Thus, anyone who thinks of precognition as a form of knowing and of knowing as a sort of perceiving will arrive by a rather longer route at exactly the same conclusionsthat the future is presentas the person who begins by thinking of precognition as a type of perception. In either case the treatment indicated is essentially the same.

C. D. Broad comments:

The fact is that most people who have tried to theorize about non-inferential precognition have made needless difficulties for themselves by making two mistakes. In the first place, they have tried to assimilate it to sense-perception, when they ought to have assimilated it to memory. And, secondly, they have tacitly assumed an extremely naive prehensive analysis [which] is simply nonsensical when applied to ostensible remembering or ostensible foreseeing. ("The Philosophical Implications of Foreknowledge")

By "prehensive analysis" Broad means believing, mistakenly, that for an occurrence to be remembered it must somehow be present.


The model of memory is, as Broad urged, much less inapt than that of perception. But it, too, has its dangers. It has beguiled some into thinking that precognition must necessarily involve fatalism. The suggestion is that precognition would be an exact analogue and complement of memory, but where memory operates backward, precognition would be remembering forward. (See, for instance, Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, Ch. 5.) Now, if someone remembers that he himself killed Cock Robin, and provided that he really does remember and that he is not merely claiming, mistakenly or even dishonestly, to remember that he committed this crime, then it follows necessarily that he did kill Cock Robin. But if he has done it, then he has done it, and it must now be too late for anyone to intervene to save the victim. It is, notoriously, a tautology that what is done is done and cannot be undone. The past is unalterable. The temptation is to argue that the same must, in exactly the same sense, apply to the future. If I can truly precognize that I will kill Cock Robinprovided that it really is a precognition and that I am not merely claiming mistakenly, or even dishonestly, to be precognizingthen it follows necessarily that I will kill Cock Robin.

The false step is to go on to urge that by parity of reasoning, since he will do it, then he will do it, and therefore it must now be too late for anyone to save Cock Robin. For the conclusion does not follow. From the proposition that he will kill Cock Robin we are entitled to infer that he will kill Cock Robin and hence that no one will in fact save the bird. But what we are not entitled to infer is that it must now be too late to take any steps to save Cock Robin, that no one could possibly do anything to help. It is one thing to know that some catastrophe will in fact occur; it is quite another to know that there is now nothing that anyone could do to prevent it, even if he so wished. To know that he will in fact do it, it is sufficient to know that he in fact will: tautology. It is not necessary also to know, what may very well not be the case, either that he would not have been able to do otherwise had he been going to want to or that no one else would have been able to stop him had they been going to be so inclined.

This point is, of course, involved in the much wider question of whether foreknowledge in the general sense must carry any such fatalist implications. The wider question is beyond the scope of this article, but the argument offered here is as applicable to the wider context as to this narrower one. The problem remains why it should be thought, as obviously it often is, that to establish the reality of noninferential precognition, even as an extremely weak and rare faculty, ought to raise fatalist anxieties in a much more acute form than does, for instance, the present possibility of inferring the outcome of some not too distantly future electionon the basis of a knowledge of the present preferences, psychological traits, beliefs, and expressed voting intentions of the electors concerned.

The threat to autonomy

One possible suggestion is that it may be thought that whereas predictions on the basis of knowledge of human beings do not constitute any threat to the autonomy and dignity of the persons concerned, a precognitive forecast about someone's future actions, made without reference to his peculiar characteristics, plans, and desires, would tend to show that his decisions to act in those ways will not be as causally necessary as he might like to believe. To show that human wishes, plans, and decisions do not affect what happens would indeed be to demonstrate a fatalist conclusion; for this is precisely what "fatalism" means. But to show that someone can know, without reference to that other person's wishes and plans, what another person is going to do is, surely, not sufficient to show that those wishes and plans will not determine his course of action.

It might be argued that knowledge presupposes grounds and that, insofar as the grounds contain no reference to the wishes and plans of the agent, this shows that he cannot properly be held responsible for what he is going to do. This argument would have more force if knowledge of what is going to occur always had to be grounded on knowledge of the presence of particular causes sufficient to bring about the occurrence. But quite apart from any question of whether it is true that all knowledge must be grounded on something else, the argument must be ineffective as long as we have to allow that some knowledge is quite sufficiently grounded simply on a recognition of reliable signs. Suppose precognition does actually occur, and suppose that it is properly to be classed as a form of knowledge; then it can be only either a variety that is not grounded at all or one which is based upon just such a recognition of signsthe recognition, namely, that some particular class of guesses, intuitions, visions, or whatnot are in fact reliable pointers to the future. For any inference, whether conscious or unconscious, from any knowledge, however acquired, of the causes of what is going to happen to the true conclusion that just that is indeed going to happen must by definition disqualify that conclusion as a genuine noninferential precognition.

Perceptual model and fatalism

A second suggestion is that the special anxiety felt in this case of precognition is just one more consequence of thinking in terms of a perceptual model. If in having a precognitive experience you were, as it were, seeing the future, then indeed it would be absurd to insist, once that experience has taken place, that there are any steps that anyone could take that could prevent the fulfillment of the precognition. It would be absurd so to insist because on this assumption of a literal foreseeing, the event precognized would by now have been seen happening. But once an event has happened there cannot be anything that anyone could possibly do to prevent it from happening.

Precognitive infallibility

A third suggestion is adapted to a rather different conception of the problem. It is common enough to find people who (at any rate, in their most self-consciously philosophical moments) would be reluctant to concede that there is any such thing as real knowledge of future events, or at least of future human actions. To such a person precognition might appear to present a special problem precisely because of the analogy to memory. This might, of course, be because he naively assimilated memory to perception. But he might in a rather more complicated way be arguing that since from the occurrence of a genuine memory one is entitled to deduce that the past was as that memory represents it to have been, therefore the occurrence of an authentic precognition would, insofar as precognition is to be conceived on the model of memory, provide a similarly inexpugnable guarantee that the future must necessarily be as it is precognized to be going to be. The idea would be, presumably, that whereas inferences can be invalid and their conclusions false, memory is necessarily infallible. Thus, if precognition is a reality, and if it is a faculty exactly analogous to memory, then it, too, must be similarly infallible. In that case there can be nothing which anyone could do to prevent the fulfillment of any such precognitive anticipations.

Insofar as this claim really represents a different contention from any so far considered, and it is not altogether clear that it does, the crucial error seems to lie in a confusion between remembering and mistakenly or dishonestly claiming to remember. True memory is, if you like, infallible, but only in the weak sense that "I remember doing it" entails "I did it," not in the strong sense that "I claim to remember doing it" entails "I did it." This is because it is always possible that in making such a memory claim I may either be mistaken or be acting dishonestly. Thus, to be exactly analogous to memory, precognition would have to be infallible in this and only this sense. But this sort of infallibility pertains equally to knowledge: for "He knows that the dogmas of his Roman Catholic faith are true" entails "The dogmas of his Roman Catholic faith are true"; whereas "He claims with absolute conviction that he knows that the dogmas of his faith are true" is by itself not even evidence for "The dogmas of his faith are true." And we have already devoted enough space to urging that from the possibility of knowledge as such of future human actions no fatalist conclusions follow necessarily.

"Forward memory" and fatalism

Another, and perhaps the most important, consideration encouraging the idea that parapsychological precognition must constitute a fatalist threat more serious than any arising from ordinary possibilities of foreknowledge is that what we remember is always and necessarily something in which somehow we ourselves were previously involved: We remember, that is, only what we have learned or what happened to us or what we did. Therefore, insofar as precognition is to be thought of as "remembering forward," its contents must be similarly restricted to what we shall later come to know by other means, to what will happen to us, or to what we will do. But now, as long as I remain the sort of creature that I am, it will clearly not be possible for me to precognize something very unpleasant as going to happen to me without my casting about for ways in which the unpleasantness may be avoided.

Hence, if there is to be precognition, at least one of three further conditions must be satisfied: Either (1) the contents of my precognitions must be restricted to terms that even in an unchanged universe would not provoke me to effective avoiding action, or (2) I as the precognizer must be so changed that I no longer attempt any avoiding action, or (3) the universe around me must be so changed that my attempts are all in fact now ineffective. Obviously both the second and the third of these options would constitute major steps towards a fatalistic universe. Yet neither of these represents a necessary corollary of precognition as such. On the other hand, to take the first option is to accept a limitation that drastically reduces the analogy between precognition and memory. The conclusion is that any fatalist consequences belong to precognition as a faculty fully analogous to memory, not simply to precognition as such.

cause and effect

It has sometimes been suggested that to establish the reality of precognition would be to show that in some cases effects can precede their causes. Surprising and disturbing though the effects reported certainly are, this at least is something that neither these nor any other phenomena could ever establish. The reason is, quite simply, that "a cause must either precede or be simultaneous with its effect" is a necessary truth. It is no more possible to discover an effect preceding its cause than to light upon a bachelor husbandand the impossibility is of the same sort in both cases.

Someone who had appreciated this point might well be inclined to dismiss it as merely verbal and trifling. He might claim that nevertheless we have here some radically new and theoretically highly recalcitrant facts and that to take account of them we must revise some of our old ideas.

Not every verbal point is trifling, however, and not all matters of definition are mere matters of definition. What looks like a piece of obstructive lexicography can be justified at a deeper level. The implicit definitions to which appeal was originally made are grounded on a more fundamental necessity. We cannot simply brush off the objection by prescribing a small revision in usage whereby causes may in future be spoken of as succeeding their effects, and then proceed exactly as before. The crux is that causes areand in principle can always be used by us aslevers for bringing about their effects. But a cause that succeeded its effect could not be, or be used as, a lever for producing it. Once the "effect" has happened it must be too late for any "cause" to bring it aboutand too late also for it to be prevented by preventing the occurrence of this "cause." To make this suggested change in the usage of the terms cause and effect would be not to modify but to disrupt the concept of cause. The refusal to accept the claim that in precognition we would be confronted with causes operating backward in time may therefore spring from something less discreditable than complacency. It might even be one manifestation of a conviction that to accommodate such a phenomenon we should need something much more radical and much more ratiocinative than a paradoxical but really not particularly significant set of adjustments in the usage of one or two common terms.

Possible Explanations

The third kind of theoretical question about precognition is "What sort of explanation or account could we hope to find, supposing it were to be definitely established that precognition does indeed occur?" Presumably this would have to cover whatever other parapsychological phenomena were also found to be genuine. To provide such a theory would be enormously difficult, if not impossible. In any case, in the present confusing and apparently contradictory state of the evidence in this field, a state that should no doubt be attributed (at least in part) to the lack of any theory adequate to serve as even the most tentative of working hypotheses, it is impossible to say with confidence and precision just what are the phenomena of which we need to take account. Nevertheless there are three suggestions that it may perhaps be useful to consider.

causal explanation

The first suggestion concerns the possibility of interpreting precognitive correlations in causal terms. To give a causal account of the subsistence of a statistically significant correlation between two series of events A and B involves showing either (1) that A results from B, or (2) that B results from A, or (3) that both A and B result from some third cause or set of causes, or (4) that both A and B are causally independent results of separate chains of causation. Suppose A is a series of precognitive guesses or anticipations and B a series of fulfillments or verifications. Series A cannot result from series B, for that would involve the logical impossibility of future occurrences bringing about events in the past. Series B cannot result from series A, for if it does, then the case is ipso facto disqualified by definition. And A and B cannot both result from some third cause or set of causes, for if they do, then again the case is by definition disqualified from rating as genuinely precognitive. The only remaining possibility is to say that A and B are both the causally independent results of separate chains of causation.

But to say this is precisely not to display a causal connection between A and B ; it is, rather, to imply that the statistically significant correlation between the two series is a coincidence. This conclusion may be disturbing, but at least it has the merit of not involving any actual self-contradiction. For to establish a statistically significant correlation between two series of events is not thereby and necessarily to establish that these series are in any way connected causally. In the face of any correlation, however perfect and however extended, it is always significant, although often foolishly misguided, to insist that there is nevertheless no causal connection. Statements of constant conjunction do not entail statements of causal connection. Anyone who insists on a stronger sense of statistical significance, which would entail the subsistence of a causal connection, and who then proceeds to stipulate that a precognitive correlation would have to be statistically significant in this stronger sense, will succeed only in making his concept of precognition self-contradictory from the start.


It seems that any explanation or, if that now becomes too strong a word, any account of precognition as such will have to center on the notion of coincidence or of something very like it. The laws, if there are any laws to be discovered, will describe the conditions under which we may expect to find precognitive correlations. One is reminded of C. G. Jung's talk about "synchronicity phenomena." For "synchronicity phenomenon" is in fact only a pretentious neologism for "coincidence," with perhaps a built-in suggestion that such phenomena are both more common and also somehow more significant than might be thought. It is a similarity that might easily be overlooked because of Jung's terminological peculiarities, because he associates the idea with many of his own more bizarre inventions, and because he exploits it for his own, it seems, often willfully antiscientific and antirational ends. A law of the kind suggested might paradoxically but pointedly be characterized as a law about the regularities in the conditions for the occurrence of a certain sort of coincidence.

statistical explanation

Theorists seem to have taken far too little notice of the surely remarkable fact that it seems to be impossible either for the subjects or for anyone else to achieve any significant success in identifying, without reference to the targets, the particular guesses that are going to prove to be hits. Another similar and similarly neglected fact is that even after the guesses have been scored against the targets we have no criterion for distinguishing any particular hit as precognitive. In each case the reason for talking of precognition is not that any particular guess can, at some stage, be identified as precognitive but that, after the guesses have been checked against the targets, the proportion of hits in a series of guesses is found to be significantly above mean-chance expectation.

With appropriate alterations the same thing seems to be true of all ostensible parapsychological phenomena. It is usually argued that whereas this perhaps has to be allowed in the case of quantitative experiments in card guessing, dice throwing, and so forth, it does not apply at all to what appear to be spontaneous cases of telepathy and clairvoyance, precognitive or straight. But this is surely wrong. For suppose we find that someone who had no means of inferring that the Titanic might meet disaster nevertheless had a dream that is later found to have corresponded in amazing detail with what actually happened on the night when that great ship went down. Still, our only warranty for describing his dream as precognitive lies precisely in that extraordinary degree of correspondence: Any single item of correspondence might be dismissed as something that was bound to happen "by the law of averages," and so no single item can be picked out as unequivocally precognitive.

Of course this situation may conceivably at any time be transformed by the progress of the research. But at the time of writing it remains true that all the putative varieties of ESP, precognition in particular, are and must be defined in essentially statistical terms. This is no reason to ignore or to dismiss the evidence. But it may very well prove to be a significant theoretical pointer.

See also Parapsychology.


For general discussion consult C. J. Ducasse, "Broad on the Relevance of Psychical Research to Philosophy," pp. 375410, A. G. N. Flew, "Broad on Supernormal Precognition," pp. 411436, and C. D. Broad, "A Reply to My Critics," pp. 709830, in The Philosophy of C. D. Broad, edited by P. A. Schilpp (New York: Tudor, 1959); and W. G. Roll, "The Problem of Precognition," in Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 41 (1961): 2ff. Roll's article is valuable especially for its bibliography.

There have been many ingenious discussions of ways of making operational distinctions between the various forms of ESP phenomena in the parapsychological journals since about 1930. For an excellent example, see C. W. K. Mundle, "The Experimental Evidence for PK and Precognition," in Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 49 (19491952): 6178.

For a criticism of Dunne's "Serial Theory of Time," see A. G. N. Flew, A New Approach to Psychical Research (London: Watts, 1953), Appendix II: "An Experiment with 'Time.'"

C. D. Broad's "The Philosophical Implications of Foreknowledge" was published in PAS, Supp. 16 (1937): 177209. Broad referred the empirically curious to H. F. Saltmarsh's "Report on Cases of Apparent Precognition," in Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 42 (1934): 49103. With Saltmarsh's paper one may compare D. J. West's considerably more skeptical "The Investigation of Spontaneous Cases," in Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 48 (1948): 264300. The weight of both evidence and research has now shifted away from ostensible spontaneous cases of ESP toward quantitative experiments in card guessing. The classic series is that reported by S. G. Soal and K. M. Goldney in "Experiments on Precognitive Telepathy," in Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 47 (19421945): 21150. This work was hailed by Broad in 1944 in "The Experimental Establishment of Telepathic Communication." Soal and Frederick Bateman have since produced a general survey, Modern Experiments in Telepathy (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1954).

On the infallibility of precognitive experiences and on cause and effect, see M. A. E. Dummett, "Can an Effect Precede Its Cause?" in PAS, Supp. 28 (1954): 2744, and the reply with the same title by A. G. N. Flew in that volume, on pp. 4562. See also Flew's Hume's Philosophy of Belief (London: Routledge and Paul, 1961), Ch. 6.

For a fuller criticism of Jung's theory of synchronicity phenomena, see A. G. N. Flew's "Coincidence and Synchronicity," in Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 37 (19531954): 198201.

other recommended titles

Braude, Stephen E., ed. The Limits of Influence: Psychokinesis and the Philosophy of Science. New York: Routledge, 1991.

Braude, Stephen E. "Psi and Our Picture of the World." Inquiry 30 (1987): 277294.

Brier, Robert. "Mundle, Broad, Ducasse, and the Precognition Problem." Philosophy Forum 14 (1974): 161169.

Brier, Robert. Precognition and the Philosophy of Science: An Essay on Backwards Causation. New York: Humanities Press, 1974.

Craig, William Lane. "Divine Foreknowledge and Newcomb's Paradox." Philosophia 17 (1987): 331350.

Dummett, Michael. "Causal Loops." In The Nature of Time, edited by Raymond Flood and Michael Lockwood. Oxford: Blackwell, 1986.

Lucas, J. R. "Foreknowledge and the Vulnerability of God." In The Philosophy of Christianity, edited by Godfrey Vesey. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Meehl, Paul. "Precognitive Telepathy II." Nous 12 (1978): 371395.

Werth, Lee F. "Normalizing the Paranormal." American Philosophical Quarterly 15 (1978): 4756.

Zagzebski, Linda. The Dilemma of Freedom and Foreknowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Zagzebski, Linda. "Recent Work on Divine Foreknowledge and Free Will." In The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, edited by Robert Kane. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Antony Flew (1967)

Bibliography updated by Benjamin Fiedor (2005)


views updated May 14 2018

pre·cog·ni·tion / ˌprēkägˈnishən/ • n. foreknowledge of an event, esp. foreknowledge of a paranormal kind.DERIVATIVES: pre·cog·ni·tive / prēˈkägnətiv/ adj. (sense 1).


views updated May 09 2018


Paranormal knowledge of impending events, also referred to as prediction, premonition, and prophecy.

See also retro-cognition .