The Book of Questions #2: Ghosts and Evil Spirits

This is an ongoing series in which I answer every question from “The Book of Questions” by Gregory Stock.

Do you believe in ghosts or evil spirits? Would you be willing to spend a night alone in a remote house that is supposedly haunted?

Stock, Gregory: The Book of Questions 1987
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Now these are actually two questions so let’s start with ghosts and evil spirits. A few years ago I would have answered flat out no I do not believe in any such things. Today I would say they do exist but not in the sense people might think. The empiricist in me would say as there is no physical or otherwise measurable evidence of ghosts or evil spirits that they do not exist. But they do exist in people’s minds and their cultural products like writing or storytelling. They seem to have the same ontological status as things like fairness, freedom, god and the soul. 

The former two are easily visible. There is no physical object we call freedom but we all know what it is and we can recognize it in our surroundings. We see when freedom or fairness happen or are violated. The latter two are understood by most people (but not all cultures share these ideas) but we never see them. Sure people see the work of god everywhere but what about souls? We know what they are but we have not seen them outside of dreams and visions.

So ghosts and evil spirits exist in the same way. Most cultures understand these concepts but they only exist in our minds and manifest themselves in visions or other sensations that are seemingly not recordable. But still even if they do not exist in our physical reality they do impact us. People avoid spooky places or try to placate evil spirits with rituals and offerings. So ghosts and evil spirits exist and they do not exist too. I believe they exist in people’s minds but they have no impact on my physical reality or psychological state.

This leads to the second question. Yes I would stay in a “haunted house” but I would not like to stay alone in a remote place. I would either be irrationally scared or bored. And the latter is really terrible for me. So maybe a ghost could alleviate my boredom then? 

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