The Black Aether

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Matolcsy Kálmán: Knowledge in the Void

Az Aether podcast tizenkettedik, H. P. Lovecraft és a tudomány kapcsolata című adásában Matolcsy Kálmán és Molnár András volt a vendégem. A beszélgetés során szóba került Kálmán doktorija, amely kapcsolódik az adás témájához, illetve egy írása, amely a Lovecraft Annual második lapszámában 2008-ban. A Lovecraft Annual egy 2007 óta évente megjelenő, a nemzetközi lovecraftiánus színtér egyik legfontosabb kiadványa, amelyet S. T. Joshi szerkeszt. Mindenkinek, akit kicsit is mélyebben érdekel H. P. Lovecraft művészete, szívből tudom ajánlani a kiadványt, az összes eddig megjelent lapszám megrendelhető a kiadó, a Hippocampus Press oldalán.

Az alábbiakban Kálmán eredeti esszéjét olvashatjátok Kálmántól angol nyelven (bár felesleges, de azért hozzáteszem, hogy nyilvánvalóan az ő hozzájárulásával).

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Knowledge in the Void: Anomaly, Observation, and the Incomplete Paradigm Shift in H. P. Lovecraft’s Fiction


Pseudo-science and the Supramundane

The Lovecraftian weird tale is an inter-generic form, capable of retaining the major elements now regarded the distinctive features of such literary genres or modes as the Gothic, horror, and the fantastic. Thus it is far from surprising that a great number of H. P. Lovecraft’s stories, primarily “The Whisperer in Darkness,” At the Mountains of Madness, and “The Colour Out of Space,” seem somewhat science-fictional. As J. Vernon Shea maintains, “surely the basic themes of science-fiction, the reachings out into time and space, had very much to do with the body of [Lovecraft’s] work” (138). S. T. Joshi’s Weird Tale, however, disconnects Lovecraft’s “quasi science fiction stories” from science fiction proper and defines them simply as a subgenre of the weird tale, based on the Lovecraftian realist method of handling the central element of alternative reality: “Quasi science fiction is a development of supernatural horror in that the real world is again presupposed as the norm, but the impossible intrusions are rationalized in some way . . . . [M]ost of the later Lovecraft fall into this category” (The Weird Tale 7).[1]

One of the reasons for the abundance of “quasi science fiction” in his work may be that Lovecraft himself was an amateur scientist from an early age. As he writes, “In 1899 . . . [m]y predilection for natural science, fostered by my Aunt Lillian, took form in a love of chemistry . . . . [B]efore many months had elapsed, I was deep in experimental research, having a well-equipped laboratory in the cellar” (Lord of a Visible World 13). Nonetheless, in spite of his functional acquaintance with chemistry, physics, and astronomy, the tales contain mostly elements that may be termed merely pseudo-scientific. It is easy to list such normative features of Lovecraft’s quasi science-fiction stories, as Fritz Leiber, indeed, has done so in his celebrated “Through Hyperspace with Brown Jenkin.” Similarly, Robert Weinberg in “H. P. Lovecraft and Pseudomathematics” identifies in “The Dreams in the Witch House” references to non-existent science such as non-Euclidean calculus and a space-warp, points of “made-up science which had very little or no relation to the real work of the period” (113). Weinberg contends,

[u]nfortunately, while [Lovecraft’s] grasp of science and mathematics might have been greater than the average layman [sic.], it was not strong enough to present a convincing picture to the careful reader. Further, Lovecraft made the cardinal mistake of speculation of the impossible. While to the non-scientist, this may not sound like much of a sin, it is the cardinal mistake of the uninformed. (Weinberg 117)

Lovecraft certainly was knowledgeable enough to use the pseudo-scientific concepts as mere tongue-in-cheek references to science fiction proper rather than seriously-intended references to natural science, and therefore reproaching Lovecraft for not having used the right terminology with their proper denotations misses the mark. Not primarily because in fiction the status of the extra-textual referent is itself rather problematic, but because the axis of scientific thought in Lovecraft’s fiction is not the casual slightly erroneous integration of Einsteinian physics or other theories but an inclination to rationalize the supernatural.[2] Although Lovecraft—far from making a “mistake”—deals with “a speculation of the impossible” (Weinberg 117), his “impossible intrusions are rationalized in some way,” as Joshi puts it (Weird Tale 7). As he argues, Lovecraft’s quasi science fiction “is a more advanced form because it implies that the ‘supernatural’ is not ontological but epistemological: it is only our ignorance of certain ‘natural laws’ that creates the illusion of supernaturalism” (7). This refinement of the supernatural element comprises a crucial method in Lovecraft’s stories, especially with regard to its rendition of the problems of human knowledge.

In his 1998 dissertation, Bradley Alan Will identifies as the distinctive feature of Lovecraft’s work “the supramundane”: it is that phenomenon “which exceeds human understanding but is not supernatural” (19). “The presence of the supramundane,” Will maintains, “indicates the inadequacy of the human faculty of understanding rather than, as with the supernatural, the intrusion of elements from outside the natural world” (19). Even though Will does not pay a tribute to Matthew H. Onderdonk’s “The Lord of R’lyeh,” the notion of the supramundane in Lovecraft is clearly as old as Onderdonk’s essay, published in 1945. Onderdonk calls the effect the “supernormal,” and his view is not far from that of Lovecraft‘s, who interpreted such phenomena in his fiction as “supplements rather than contradictions of the visible and mensurable universe” (Selected Letters, III. 295-96). Supramundane phenomena in Lovecraft are rationalized variations of the supernatural, which provides the gist of the dichotomized Lovecraftian fantastic, the major problematic of confrontation between the searching intellect and the cosmos.

In “Whisperer,” Wilmarth’s paean about the Outer Ones highlights the scientific streak in the story, identifying the extraterrestrial beings as supramundane, their existence and affiliated phenomena as “supplements rather than contradictions” to our knowledge:

Do you know that Einstein is wrong, and that certain objects and forces can move with a velocity greater than that of light? With proper aid I expect to go backward and forward in time . . . You can’t imagine the degree to which those beings have carried science. There is nothing they can’t do with the mind and body of living organisms. (248)

Through the supramundane, the schema of fantastic confrontation is rationalized[3] and not in any way realistically modeled. This is not to say that Lovecraft regarded his work as completely unrealistic. As he emphasizes in “Notes on Writing Weird Fiction,” “Inconceivable events and conditions have a special handicap to overcome, and this can be accomplished only through the maintenance of a careful realism in every phase of the story except that touching on the given marvel” (115). It is fairly commonplace that writers of the weird need a basic external reality for their forays into the fantastic. Nonetheless, instead of merely presupposing reality as a basis for its subversion by the fantastic, Lovecraft treats his setting and characters to establish a scientific basis for the supramundane. Even Edmund Wilson, one of Lovecraft’s earliest and most vitriolic critics, commends Lovecraft’s scientific thought while condemning the majority of his work as “tales of the marvellous and the ridiculous” (47): “He had a scientific imagination rather similar, though much inferior, to that of the early Wells” (49). The flaws in Wilson’s overall approach, however, permeate his view of Lovecraft’s scientific side, since he is convinced that, for example, “The story called ‘The Colour out of Space’ [sic.] more or less predicts the effects of the atomic bomb” (49). Wilson,
followed by Weinberg and many others, simply gets it wrong, since it is not the representation of certain achievements of science that makes Lovecraft’s fiction scientific—that would only vindicate claims for Lovecraft’s pseudo-science. Although the Lovecraftian text does not always promise or deliver the precise representation of extra-textual science, which critics like Weinberg demand of it, on the metaphorical level it more often contributes to the knowledge about twentieth-century science. The Lovecraftian text does not indulge in the actual science of Einsteinian physics, molecular chemistry, or early-twentieth-century astronomy—however cleverly and accurately these may be woven into the fabric of many tales[4]—but in general philosophical notions about the growth, scope, and aim of natural science. On a most general level, Lovecraft’s fiction contributes to our knowledge of human scientific inquiry and the major problems of epistemology.


The Insurmountable Anomaly and the Incompatibility of Paradigms

When attempting to delineate such a scientific dimension in the Lovecraftian text, we encounter an apparent problem at the outset; that is, the Lovecraftian text seems not to concentrate exclusively on natural science as such. Many of the narrator-protagonists, for instance, are artists, dreamers, and the like; and, although the plot frequently discloses scientific research, rarely do we encounter a detailed description of such research or experiment comprising the greater part of the tales (with the possible exception of “The Colour” and Mountains of Madness). Peter Medawar in The Limits of Science provides the following definition:

[T]he word “science” itself is used as a general name for, on the one hand, the procedures of science—adventures of thought and stratagems of inquiry that go into the advancement of learning—and on the other hand, the substantive body of knowledge that is the outcome of this complex endeavor . . . (3)

Based on Medawar’s rendition, almost all of the Lovecraftian text can be designated as belonging to the realm of the scientific. The Lovecraftian text, most significantly, deals with the modes and results of acquiring knowledge and the problems encountered during the process. Lovecraftian tales, thus, are all topical of science. There appear four distinctive groups: 1.) tales about science and scientists—fountains of Madness, “Witch House,” or “Herbert West—Reanimator”;[5] 2.) tales about a general inquiry, for example, genealogical or antiquarian—“The Shadow over Innsmouth,” Charles Dexter Ward; 3.) stories of detection and investigation—“The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Horror at Red Hook”;[6] and 4.) stories of scholars outside the field of natural science—“The Dunwich Horror”. Nevertheless, to be able to outline clearly what dimension of science the Lovecraftian text enters, we should rely on certain Lovecraftian ground rules.

The Lovecraftian text views natural science as, first and foremost, materialistic. Even the anomalous entities in Lovecraft are basically of a material nature.[7] This premise, which the Lovecraftian story never fails to generate, ultimately serves the purpose of establishing the supramundane facet of the cosmic effect. To be supramundane, however, these entities or phenomena have to be “composed of’—as the narrator of Mountains of Madness speculates—
matter more widely different from that which we know” (305). Similarly, Akeley in Whisperer” writes in one of his early letters:

I tried to photograph [the monster] . . . , but when I developed the film there wasn’t anything visible except the woodshed. What can the thing have been made of? I saw it and felt it, and they all leave footprints. It was surely made of matter—but what kind of matter? (229)

Similarly, Joshi asserts, “the quasi-materiality of [Lovecraft’s] entities was for him a philosophical necessity, and he in fact had some admirable success in depicting monsters which, while harmonising with a modified materialism, nevertheless expand it to its very limits” (Decline of the West 85). It is precisely this contradiction between classical materialism and the nature of alien matter in the Lovecraftian text that supports an interpretation of the monsters as scientific anomalies.

Thomas S. Kuhn, one of the first and major theorists of scientific anomalies, in his groundbreaking work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, integrates the thought of anomalies into his theory of paradigm shifts: “Discovery commences with the awareness of anomaly, i.e., with the recognition that nature has somehow violated the paradigm-induced expectations that govern normal science” (52-53). In the Lovecraftian text, the anomaly, as a rule, conforms to the characters’ confrontation with the supramundane. Will interprets the supramundane as “a depiction of an anomaly of the highest order—an anomaly which cannot be resolved” (42). In “Cthulhu” the alien entity is hit and is halved by the steamboat Alert but its body does not become dysfunctional, rather its remnants are gathered together again:

There was a bursting as of an exploding bladder, a slushy nastiness as of a cloven sunfish, a stench as of a thousand opened graves . . . For an instant the ship was befouled by an acrid and blinding green cloud, and there was only a venomous seething astern; where—God in Heaven—the scattered plasticity of that nameless sky-spawn was nebulously recombining in its hateful original form . . . (168)

In “Cthulhu” there are other instances of anomaly, and the unnatural behavior of Cthulhu’s “body” appears rather belated in the sequence of events. In other tales, such as “Dunwich” or, especially, “Colour,” there appears a gradual build-up of anomalous events that ultimately provides a heightened sense of the total contradiction of natural law. The meteor that ruins the life of a backwoods farmer and his family in “Colour” is the origin of the anomaly series. First, the meteor’s texture is wholly unknown, the rock emits a certain glow, it refuses to cool, it is peculiarly soft—can only be “gouged rather than chipped” (174), and the specimen little by little shrinks and finally disappears from the laboratory desk, the glass beaker with it. [8] Then, the scientists at Miskatonic University discover a small globe of nebulous substance in the meteor, which, after bursting like a bubble, disappears, as well. Meanwhile the strange color permeates all around it, animate or inanimate: the farmhouse faintly glows by night, the animals mutate in a certain unnerving fashion, the vegetation acquires a disturbing radiance, and the trees sway even when there is no wind. Finally the Gardner family slowly diminishes; they go mad one by one and, those who do not disappear, bodily disintegrate—they crumble and turn into gray powder. Soon the farm itself falls apart, but the bleak, gray “blasted heath” area in its place continues to grow in diameter each day, adhering to the story’s cosmic quality. These comprise only the major anomalous points in the story, and there are countless others. For instance, inexplicable thunderbolts crashing into the farm, long descriptions of mutated animals and vegetables, and a constant subliminal noise that the family falls into the habit of listening to.

In the Lovecraftian text the central anomaly is not concentrated. It is scattered around the text, and, most importantly, the various elements are built up gradually towards a climax, establishing what Will calls a feeling of “unfathomable anomaly” (7). The anomalous phenomena—facets of the central anomaly—ultimately reach the stage where some fundamental natural law or scientific theory is contradicted to the point of intolerance (usually earlier for the reader than for the narrator-protagonist). Such fundamental natural laws and theories contribute to what Kuhn calls “normal science” (10). Normal science is mainly distinguished by a ruling paradigm and the regular appearance of minor puzzles that scientists can solve. The notion of “paradigm” is crucial to Kuhn’s theory and I will greatly expand on it later. At the moment, however, suffice it to say that a paradigm is partly understood as a set of scientific theories, methods, modes—or even a Weltanschaung—that dominates the scientific field and governs scientific inquiry at any given time (Kuhn 175). Examples are easy to find: Ptolemaic cosmology, Newtonian mechanics, or Einstein’s physics each was a quasi-exclusive paradigm of its age.[9] As Kuhn asserts, “Normal science consists in . . . extending the knowledge of those facts that the paradigm displays as particularly revealing, by increasing the extent of the match between those facts and the paradigm’s predictions, and by further articulation of the paradigm itself’ (24).

Yet there remain puzzles, a definitive feature of normal science, as John Watkins contends: “There will always be apparent discrepancies or anomalies. Normal research largely consists of resolving these anomalies by making suitable adjustments which leave the
paradigm intact” (27). In Kuhn’s view there is, once in a while, a radical leap from normal science to “extraordinary science,”[10] and it occurs in the field of puzzles. At one point the overwhelming number of anomalies presented to any paradigm tilts the balance towards another bundle of scientific explanations and an alternative vision: “the emergence of new theories is generally preceded by a period of pronounced professional insecurity. As one might expect, that insecurity is generated by the persistent failure of the puzzles of normal science to come out as they should” (67-68). When a number of anomalies or a major anomaly necessitates a leap from normal science, there commences a state of crisis:

. . . if an anomaly is to evoke crisis, it must usually be more than just an anomaly . . . Sometimes an anomaly will clearly call into question explicit and fundamental generalizations of the paradigm . . . Or . . . the development of normal science may transform an anomaly that has previously been only a vexation into a source of crisis . . . When, for these reasons or others like them, an anomaly comes to seem more than just another puzzle of normal science, the transition to crisis and to extraordinary science has begun. (Kuhn 82)

In Lovecraft there are countless examples for both normal and extraordinary science, and the tension between the two brings about the supramundane effect. In “Dunwich” the strange rumbling and other noises appearing in the hills “still form a puzzle to geologists and physiographers” (208), a puzzle which, to Professor Armitage, looms as an anomaly. In “Colour” the scientists from Miskatonic University “fumble away” in the field of normal science, devoting their time to smaller puzzles. They regard the meteor and its behavior, therefore, as a pressing anomaly, one that would radically change their normal science. Curiously, but not without an explanation, when the shrinking rock specimen finally disappears, they abandon further investigation of the abnormally altered farm and its inhabitants, denying even having observed anything anomalous in the first place.

Kuhn provides an example for this kind of evasive behavior: “Though they may begin to lose faith and then to consider alternatives, [scientists] do not renounce the paradigm that has led them into crisis. They do not, that is, treat anomalies as counter-instances, though in the vocabulary of philosophy of science that is what they are” (77).[11] He also provides an explanation: “These hint what our later examination of paradigm rejection will disclose more fully: once it has achieved the status of a paradigm, a scientific theory is declared invalid only if an alternate candidate is available to take its place” (77). Important as normal science may be,[12] the high-energy state of extraordinary science, however, is what accounts for the emergence of new theories: “crisis loosens the rules of normal puzzle-solving in ways that ultimately permit a new paradigm to emerge” (Kuhn 80). The novel paradigm will normally be able to explain the anomalies on their own grounds, while also explaining most of the earlier, non-anomalous, phenomena.

A major crisis, where rigid paradigms open up to multiple questionings, leads the way to a “scientific revolution” as Kuhn understands it: “the successive transition from one paradigm to another via revolution is the usual developmental pattern of mature science” (12). In the revolution—the analogy taken from the social sciences—the whole of the preceding paradigm is “burned up.” Even though an exceptionally thoroughgoing student of scientific revolutions, Kuhn seems uniformly unspecific about the sense of “paradigm”: “In its established usage, a paradigm is an accepted model or pattern, and that aspect of its meaning has enabled me, lacking a better word, to appropriate ‘paradigm’ here” (23). Kuhn himself observes his failure at a definition in the 1962 book and provides a double definition in his 1969 postscript (a paradigm, in the latter, is a world-view or a more-or-less material element of that [175]). In reality, while having in mind a “model or pattern,” Kuhn uses paradigm, as Margaret Masterman demonstrates, in as many as twenty-one different senses in Scientific Revolutions (“The Nature of a Paradigm” 61-65). These twenty-one Masterman subsumes under three classes: 1.) metaphysical paradigm or metaparadigm—“a metaphysical notion or entity, rather than a scientific one”; 2.) sociological paradigm—“a universally recognized scientific achievement”; and 3.) artefact paradigm or construct paradigm—“an actual textbook or classic work,” “supplying tools,” “an analogy,” or “a grammatical paradigm” (65). Masterman argues that metaparadigms are the only kind of paradigm to which “Kuhn’s philosophical critics have referred,” taking the sense of the expression for granted and overlooking the other two components (65). In the present study of the Lovecraftian text, I am going to utilize not only the metaparadigm but also the sociological paradigm.

Lovecraft was an ardent mechanistic materialist. He also inclined to call himself, somewhat erroneously, a pessimistic materialist, as Joshi in his Decline of the West powerfully demonstrates. The stance of Lovecraft’s fictional characters is, in the greater part of the stories, analogous to that of their creator. As Maurice Lévy asserts, “it is manifest that many of [the protagonists] are projections of the author [Lovecraft] himself, who through the illusion of literature thus enters his own imaginary world” (42). Not solely because Lovecraft must have found it fascinating to let his characters enter his life or vice versa (Joshi, Donald R. Burleson, Timo Airaksinen, and many others are skeptic about this view),[13] but also because Lovecraft, as R. Boerem contends, was consciously working in the tradition of the “gentleman narrator,” invented by Poe, Sheridan LeFanu, Arthur Machen, and several others—writers whose work Lovecraft both admired and theorized upon in his Supernatural Horror. As Boerem stresses, some of a gentleman’s major characteristics around the fin de siecle were education, occupation, and income (258). Out of these “virtues,” as they were then observed, Lovecraft crafted his protagonists (many of whom are the narrators of the stories, as well), partly in conformity with his own image. “By far, the great number of Lovecraftian narrators are scholars,” Boerem observes. “Most of these are scholars by temperament and inclination. . . . In later stories, the students become teachers or professors” (266-67). As gentlemanly students, professors, and scholars, the mindsets of Lovecraftian protagonists involve the materialistic, the logical, the rational, and the empirical. For example, Thurston, the narrator of “Cthulhu,” keeps referring to his “callous rationalism” (146), “the ingrained skepticism then forming my philosophy” (144-45), or his attitude of “absolute materialism” (159). Professor Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee also introduces himself in “The Shadow Out of Time” thus:

After my graduation I studied economics at Harvard, and came back to Miskatonic as instructor of Political Economy in 1895. For thirteen years more my life ran smoothly and happily. I married Alice Keezar of Haverhill in 1896, and my three children, Robert K., Wingate, and Hannah, were born in 1898,1900, and 1903, respectively. In 1898 I became an associate professor, and in 1902 a full professor. At no time had I the least interest in either occultism or abnormal psychology. (336-37)

The supposed sanity of the character is hence fully established with the help of a scholarly bent—and a rather prosaic kind at that—and a happy family life. The narrator of “The Shunned House,” despite being a sort of shady lover of the macabre, describes his method as inherently scientific: “I was disposed to take the whole subject with profound seriousness, and began at once not only to review the evidence, but to accumulate as much more as I could” (101). Even “dreamers”—Randolph Carter from The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, Kuranes from “Celephai’s,” the narrator of “Polaris,” and many others—usually discourse on such a worldview, even if they do not completely adhere to it (although when the horror arrives, they react similarly to other rational characters). Against this materialistic-rationalistic metaparadigm, the Lovecraftian failure of cognition, the disintegration of the intelligent human being, is set.

The Lovecraftian paradigm is not only a metaparadigm—a set of theories or a worldview that provides working methods for any one scientist, it is also a sociological paradigm. Although I mostly concur with Will’s contention that “Lovecraft, Clarke, Gibson and other authors of the supramundane do not share Kuhn’s confidence in the human capacity for understanding” (42), I see the Lovecraftian protagonist’s failure as a result not only of a lack of cognitive prowess, but also as a lack of a sympathetic community of scientific minds. Although many paradigms bear the name of one scientist-thinker-philosopher, in Kuhn’s view the route to and the establishment of the new scientific paradigm is a social process, not the work of an extreme genius:

The anomaly itself now comes to be more generally recognized as such by the profession. More and more attention is devoted to it and more and more of the field’s eminent men. If it still continues to resist, as it usually does not, many of them come to view its resolution as the subject matter of their discipline. (83)

The Kuhnian paradigm, provided it ultimately arises out of an acute scientific debate, is, therefore, a sociological paradigm.

The Lovecraftian protagonist, the gentleman narrator, is as a rule secluded from the greater part of humanity. In “Dunwich,” Professor Armitage and his two fellow-academics are able to defeat the Whateley monster due only to their concerted efforts. Similarly, in Charles Dexter Ward it takes a lynch mob to wipe out the danger lurking in the Pawtuxet woods. Carroll defines what he calls the “complex discovery plot” as the distinctive pattern for horror plots. He asserts, “After the hesitations of confirmation, the complex discovery plot culminates in confrontation. Humanity marches out to meet the monster” (102.). There appear tellingly few stories in the Lovecraftian text that correspond to Carroll’s “complex discovery plot” pattern. In Lovecraft the “marching out,” apart from a few exceptions, does not take place. His narrator-protagonists surrender their human form (“Innsmouth,” “The Thing on the Doorstep,” “The Shadow Out of Time”), go raving mad (“The Rats in the Wall”—although madness is usually a “privilege” merely of the lesser, atavistic characters), or simply die before they could ultimately confront the monster and defeat it (“Witch House,” “Doorstep,” Charles Dexter Ward). Their anti-hero status necessarily stems from their hopeless solitude. Moreover, the horrors—although confirming the “unfathomable,” hereafter “insurmountable,” anomaly—usually remain hidden from the rest of humanity. Lovecraftian horror emphasizes a constant menace, not just an all-shattering revelation: it paradoxically insists on the severity of the peril through delineating its marginality. In Mountains of Madness, for instance, both the seclusion of the research site—the near-farthest, unexplored regions of the Antarctic—and that of two members of the scientific society—only Danforth and Dyer fly beyond the “mountains of madness” to explore the cyclopean city—are emphasized. As Stefan Dziemianowicz contends, Lovecraft “acknowledged one of the unwritten rules of supernatural fiction: horror is most effective when it comes to a solitary character in a solitary place” (159). The hidden menace and the decentralized role of the Lovecraftian anti-hero are both causes and entailments of the fact that the sociological paradigm remains incomplete in the Lovecraftian text. If there exists a scientific community, it soon disintegrates, as seen in “The Colour,” and the solitary protagonist is not capable of establishing a new paradigm on his own. The perilous anomaly will not be fully discovered, fully comprehended or fathomed, let alone incorporated into a new paradigm. As Joshi reminds us, these anomalies are “events which, although ‘supplements’ to natural law and science, can nevertheless not be integrated into science as currently understood” (Decline 83).

This insurmountable anomaly, as such, appears as a radical disturbance in the order of things as they are observed and interpreted by the solitary scholar in the given science. Still, as Masterman epitomizes, the anomaly, has also to be seen as a product of the paradigm itself:

[Kuhn’s] essential point is that an anomaly is an untruth, or a should-be-soluble- but-is-insoluble problem, or a germane but unwelcome result, or a contradiction, or an absurdity, which is thrown up by the paradigm itself being pushed too far . . . The anomaly, to be a true anomaly, has got to be produced from within the paradigm. (82-83)

In Kuhn’s words, “Anomaly appears only against the background provided by the paradigm. The more precise and far-reaching that paradigm is, the more sensitive an indicator it provides of anomaly and hence of an occasion for paradigm change” (65).

The Lovecraftian central anomaly, similarly, has to arise from within the Lovecraftian materialistic paradigm itself in order to comply with the requirements of the supramundane phenomenon. As I have demonstrated, there prevails a necessary contrast between the materialist paradigm and the “supra-materialistic” anomaly; yet, and the Lovecraftian text is precise on this point, the anomaly had existed before its having moved into scientific view. Cthulhu, for instance, is an entity that had set foot on the Earth before the time of man; and has been lurking ever since in his “nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh, that was built in measureless aeons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars” (“Cthulhu” 165). Also, in Mountains of Madness the strange, extraterrestrial, barrel-shaped creatures landed on Earth “not long after the matter forming the moon was wrenched from the neighbouring South Pacific” (303). Thus, Cthulhu and the Old Ones do not appear unknown because they are novel to the human world at the time of confrontation, but rather since they are phenomena that had existed but were ignored by, and became marginal to, human science. It is the human race’s ignorance that rendered them invisible. These phenomena have only been recognized by such counter-cultural and non-scientific trends as represented by Abdul Alhazred’s Necronomicon and the ghastly couplet:

That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die. (“Cthulhu” 156)

The concern here with the barrier between death and life may also be interpreted in terms of the marginalized anomalous: the text speaks about the different reality of the extraterrestrials (things “which can eternal lie”) as having been effaced (“dead”) but finally unveiled (“not dead”). The final paradox “death may die” attempts to describe the relationship of this revelational knowledge to the unknowable, since it is impossible for humans to imagine death dying. The degree of “unknowability” inscribed in the couplet corroborates the supramundane effect, since, strangely out of range of its genre—the grimoire should be not only descriptive but prescriptive concerning magical techniques—it is not the least certain about what Cthulhu
is and how we may know and represent his properties. Left to future inquiry to investigate into the matter, Cthulhu and the Old Ones seem purely supernatural for readers of the Necronomicon.

Moreover, the anomalous phenomena, such as Cthulhu, R’lyeh, or the color out of space are concealed from human inquiry not only because they are cryptic in their own way— unseen, incomprehensible, or mostly imperceptible—but because in Lovecraft human science basically operates imperfectly. Although constructed as a major guideline for scientific inquiry, the existence of any dominant paradigm inexorably entails the imperfection of science through the imperfection of that same paradigm. As Masterman emphasizes, “since the effect of these paradigms is drastically to restrict their fields, [they] collapse, when extended too far, by their own make-up; without any necessary accentuating irritation from nature at all” (84). Similarly, Watkins hypothesizes that “a scientific crisis may have theoretical rather than empirical causes” and provides a different explanation from Masterman’s: “a dominant theory may come to be replaced, not because of growing empirical pressure . . ., but because a new and incompatible theory has been freely elaborated” (31). Although Lovecraftian tales establish the empirical nature of Cthulhu and other monsters as representatives of matter, in the wake of Watkins the constant fluctuation of various incompatible paradigms, as one of the major flaws of natural science, hugely influences the Lovecraftian shift between paradigms.


Observation and the Lovecraftian Paradigm Shift

The incompatibility of any two paradigms, in Kuhn’s rendition, is a necessary condition for a scientific revolution.[14] The idea of a scientific revolution is today deeply engraved in the public mind: we talk about the Copernican revolution or the revolutionary breakthrough in genetics. As Alexander Bird summarizes, “Kuhn draws a political parallel with institutions which generate political problems for which those institutions are unable to find an agreed resolution” (277). According to Kuhn, in revolutions, or “paradigm shifts,” “[p]aradigms gain their status because they are more successful than their competitors in solving a few problems that the group of practitioners has come to recognize as acute” (23). Being more successful, however, is not equivalent to having greater prowess in finding “truths.” As Bird observes, “[t]hat theories from different paradigms are incommensurable is the reason why Kuhn’s picture of science is often called relativist, as standards of rationality are relative to a paradigm, not absolute” (277).

“For positivists the natural sciences have a prerogative as vehicles of positive knowledge, by virtue of their special relationship to the experiential foundations of knowledge,” as Nicholas Jardine points out (11). He goes on to assert, “[f]or scientific realists the natural sciences have a prerogative as potential bearers of objective truth by virtue of their having as their manifest subject-matter ‘the world,’ the ultimate arbiter of truth” (11). What is cast as the cross-section of the positivist and realist worldviews is where the Lovecraftian protagonist roughly stands at the outset of the story. If we call the Lovecraftian protagonist’s initial paradigm the “outset paradigm” then the new one becomes the “superparadigm” (named after its conjunction with the supramundane). Truth for the Lovecraftian protagonist, then, according to the outset paradigm, consists in the belief that the world comprises matter (materialism), and that knowledge is gained through a mixture of experiential contact with the world and the use of human reason (empiricism), as in the already quoted “absolute materialism” and “callous rationalism” of the narrator of “Cthulhu” (159, 146). Still, it is almost a commonplace by now that the protagonist at the end of the story turns towards another kind of worldview—not a paradigm yet, for obvious reasons—than the one he embraced in the outset paradigm. David Ashby Oakes notes,

[t]he evolution of the character’s beliefs allows Lovecraft to present the devastating emotional and psychological consequences of the discoveries the narrators make in their search for knowledge, and helps to make the revelations uncovered serve as sources of destabilization. (63)

Thurston, when recounting the vastly anomalous story of Cthulhu, admits towards the end that, “[m]y attitude was still one of absolute materialism, as I wish it still were”” (159). The narrator’s attitude towards the new superparadigm is highly informative. His wish that “it still were” as before is ultimately misplaced. Given that the superparadigm takes account of the cosmic interstice between the outset paradigm and the insurmountable anomaly, it foreshadows its own paradoxical incompleteness. It never will be as before, since the previous stage of knowledge has crumbled in sight of the anomaly and the cosmic spaces eventually prove infinite, immeasurable, and unknowable. It further exacerbates the problem that a scientific situation is plausible in which more than two paradigms struggle for their own recognition. Masterman, in fact, distinguishes three “states of affairs”: “dual-paradigm science,” “multiple-paradigm science,” and even “non-paradigm science”—the latter especially observable at the commencement of a scientific development (71). Nevertheless, if we take a state of dual-paradigm science in the Lovecraftian text for granted, how do we account for the apparent incommensurability? The shift proves to be a result of the tension revealed in the apparent incommensurability of paradigms. Kuhn characterizes the turn occurring in a paradigm shift using the analogy of a Gestalt switch (111-14), a kind of double vision that has bearings on the problem of observation. The narrator of “Cthulhu” attests to the sudden change in perspective. When he has read Johansen’s manuscript about the
discovery of Cthulhu, he “places it in the tin box beside the bas-relief and the papers of Professor Angell”:

With [the document] shall go this record of mine—this test of my own sanity, wherein is pieced together that which I hope may never be pieced together again. I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me. (169)

The Gestalt switch makes the narrator of “Cthulhu” see the world in dull colors, every flower is a frightening reminder of the cosmic interstice that poisons potential human interaction with the cosmos. Those Lovecraft stories that do not involve such a dramatic description of the Gestalt switch are all the more problematic for it, delivering the Lovecraftian cosmic sensation rather imperfectly. “The Shunned House,” for instance, contains references to science and materialism, such as the equipment installed by the intrepid “night guards” in the moldy cellar where the anomaly is supposedly observable (107). It is, however, not the scientific mood that evaporates successful Lovecraftian horror here, but a kind of knowing anticipation of the narrator and his uncle with which they wait on the thing, at a time where their meager evidence only consists of strange descriptions and unexplained deaths. This in itself ruins the characteristic mood of the weird (idealized by Lovecraft in Supernatural Horror in Literature), which the constant reference to the anomalous, interestingly, further exacerbates:

What baffled us was our utter ignorance of the aspect in which we might encounter the thing. No sane person had ever seen it and few had ever felt it definitely. It might be pure energy—a form ethereal and outside the realm of substance—or it might be partly material; some unknown and equivocal mass of plasticity, capable of changing at will to nebulous approximations of the solid, liquid, gaseous, or tenuously unparticled states. (107-08).

Here the outset paradigm has long dissolved, and the narrator’s stance has taken a fantastic bend towards the superparadigm, with a full acceptance of the supramundane: “Such a thing was surely not a physical or biochemical impossibility in light of a newer science which includes the theories of relativity and intra-atomic action” (106). This is also the reason why the “ending is in a sense a little weak; there is nothing left to dread, but only a horrible memory,” as Burleson argues, “[i]n comparison with some of Lovecraft’s later work in which the horror lingers at the story’s closing” (H. P. Lovecraft: A Critical Study 100). What a huge difference the description in “The Shunned House” makes from, say, the carefully constructed, gradually disclosed, and shocking anomaly series in Mountains of Madness[15]

However startling the evolving new vision of the Gestalt switch, it also projects the necessary unknowability of what it observes. Bird, in the propositional tradition of logical positivism, argues that for a scientific statement to be truth-evaluable “it must be such that its truth can be determined by observation” (126). He implies that the truth condition of scientific propositions, the warp and woof of theories, depends upon a proper method of observation (126). Bird draws a distinction between such statements (“O-statements”) and statements that cannot be corroborated by factual data deriving from observation (“T-statements” 126). Both the observable and the unobservable play a considerable role in the Lovecraftian text. As K. Setiya contends, “Lovecraft’s philosophy and fiction were deeply enmeshed . . . in his speculations on the human perceptual apparatus” (“Empiricism and the Limits of Knowledge in Lovecraft” 21). In “Dunwich,” for instance, the power of the two major anomalies, the Whateley twins, resides in the principles of perceiving and not perceiving, of hiding and showing: the monstrous parts of Wilbur are, essentially, hidden under his clothes, revealed only by the watchdog that manages to tear him apart. The other twin is itself the ultimate unobservable: it is an invisible monstrosity, first in its total isolation on the boarded upper storey of the Whateley building, later in the revelation that human eyes cannot indeed see it. The unobservable can appear, however, in less extreme examples than “Dunwich”: for instance, as a phenomenon that is unknowable or cannot be accounted for, not even with the help of various instruments. Such are the mysterious color from the meteor in “Colour” or the anomalous means of transport of the Outer Ones, or Mi-Go, (using their membranous wings, propelled by solar winds) in “Whisperer.”

As Bird summarizes Kuhn’s and Feyerabend’s concession of the incommensurability thesis, “[i]n their view there is no theory-independent observation language that can be used to express the observational consequences of competing theories in a way that is neutral between the theories” (278). He also calls our attention to the fact that observation itself is relative and non-absolute: “there is nothing objective about observation” (132). Even the positivist A. J. Ayer concedes in his 1940 The Foundations of Empirical Knowledge that “material things may present different appearances to different observers, or to the same observer in different conditions” (3). Observation with the help of instruments precipitates further problems, chiefly the fact that being a part of the observable world, instruments distort the supposed objectivity of observation. “All observations are made by means which are themselves an integral part of what is to be observed” (Munz 9). What is more, interpreting human reason as a special instrument, the argument from “theory-ladenness” argues for something along the same lines. Thus, if the Lovecraftian superparadigm (the would-be, all- inclusive paradigm) seems to incorporate different standards of observation from the outset paradigm, the two cannot be leveled. Still, the inherent materiality of the anomaly should provide a link between the two paradigms. Bird distinguishes between “observation” and “detection” (134). In this manner, it may be possible for the outset paradigm to detect the anomaly, while it cannot actually observe it. For example, the unseen Whateley “brother” thrashes through farms and woods in “Dunwich,” and while the tracks and devastation are clearly observable, the cause of it is only detectable. Even so, Bird concludes: “Whatever the difference between the concepts detection and observation, they are clearly linked, and one of the features that links them is the fact that they are both success words” (134). Whereas the Lovecraftian text claims the radical novelty of the anomaly, that anomaly’s structure or nature is somehow already accounted for in the outset paradigm, (and not only in the form of a lack, a premonition): the outset paradigm seems capable of observing and, thus, defining the anomaly. This remains markedly in consonance with the fundamental paradoxical nature of Lovecraftian epistemology. The observable slides into the unobservable; in “Dunwich” the pursuing professors manage to make the invisible monster visible, only for a moment. Even here, however, in spite of the telescope, the local Curtis Whateley’s attempts to relate what he has seen seem a far cry from observational precision: “Bigger’n a barn . . . all made o’ squirmin’ ropes . . . hull thing sort o’ shaped like a hen’s egg bigger’n anything, with dozens o’ legs . . . all like jelly, an’ made o’ sep’rit wrigglin’ ropes pushed clost together . . . great bulgin’ eyes all over it . . .” (241).

Thus, it appears, the Lovecraftian text appropriates a radical paradox concerning empiricism itself, and the paradox lies at the heart of the supramundane. The protagonist— endowed with the methods of, and usually working as a practicing scholar in, the outset paradigm—is able to observe the anomaly. Nevertheless, when hypotheses and conjectures start to form about that anomaly, the outset paradigm fails, and it is time to replace it with another one, the superparadigm. Bird asserts that one of the major methods of empiricism is induction; that is, inference from the observed to the unobserved (169). The problems of induction are numerous: from Hume to Popper, many thinkers strove to demonstrate that induction can never be the basis of a reliable scientific method, in spite of the fact that natural science seems quite successful in employing it.[16] It is indeed impossible to gain a priori knowledge (to draw inferences from past experiences to future ones), since 1.) it is unfeasible to believe that the observer accounted for every natural phenomena concerning the scientific problem and, what is more, 2.) there is absolutely no guarantee that the phenomena of the past will continue to appear and behave in the same way in the future as well. In Lovecraft, besides the obvious lack of social support to complete the superparadigm, other problems prevail, touching upon or resembling the fallacy of induction: In the cases where the anomaly is in reality unobservable, there is no initial knowledge on which to build later knowledge; the couplets of the Necronomicon are too vague and cultist’s beliefs too obscure to account for the epistemic weirdness. The disappearance of evidence is another well-known Lovecraftian effect, as, for example, the sublimation of rock and beaker in “Colour.” Similarly, in the finale to “Whisperer,” there are the objects in the chair “which the investigators did not find when they came later on” (267). In “Cthulhu,” the fate of the sealed tin box with the Cthulhu statuette and vital documents is foreshadowed, together with the probable assassination of the narrator: “Let me pray that, if I do not survive this manuscript, my executors may put caution before audacity and see that it meets no other eye” (169). In “The Music of Erich Zann” the pages where the mad violist Zann “had begun to write out his horrible secret” are sucked out through the window (51), while in “Dunwich” and Mountains of Madness even Wilbur’s body and the ice specimens themselves vanish. Where the evidence disappears, the process of observation is incomplete and experiments are not repeatable; therefore, the possibility of scientific confirmation and testing of hypotheses vanishes. With similar flaws in mind, Kuhn notes “the immense difficulties often encountered in developing points of contact between a theory and nature” (30). Popper also articulates the problem:

The empirical basis of objective science has thus nothing “absolute” in it. Science does not rest upon solid bedrock. The bold structure of its theories rises, as it were, above a swamp. It is like a building erected on piles. The piles are driven down from above into the swamp, but not to any natural or “given” base; and if we stop driving the piles deeper, it is not because we have reached firm ground. We simply stop when we are satisfied that the piles are firm enough to carry the structure, at least for the time being. (The Logic of Scientific Discovery 111)[17]

Although most comfortable with materialism, Lovecraft writes about his strongest wish to provide in his stories “the illusion of some strange suspension or violation of the galling limitations of time, space, and natural law which forever imprison us and frustrate our curiosity about the infinite cosmic spaces beyond the radius of our sight and analysis” (“Notes on Writing Weird Fiction” 113). Since Lovecraft himself embraced the outset paradigm of his protagonists, he envisioned the greatest cause for fear in the unreliability of science in representing and explaining novel natural phenomena. Lovecraftian epistemology is one of brooding peril, since his protagonist disintegrates on the verge of the impending superparadigm. Nevertheless, it is not only the void between one science and the other that engenders the sublime, but also a potentially successful match between the superparadigm and the anomaly. As Joshi asserts, “Lovecraft expressed serious reservations on the ability of the human mind to endure certain kinds of knowledge” (Decline 107). The source of danger in science, then, seems to have turned here from the unreliability argument to the hypothetical success of a superparadigm. As Burleson argues, Lovecraft’s macro-theme is “the ruinous nature of self-understanding, . . . the crisis of coming to knowledge of one’s place on the cosmic canvas” (“Lovecraft and Interstitiality” 33). Similarly, Oakes asserts that “[Lovecraft’s] fiction focuses on the possibility that the search for knowledge will lead to revelations that will forever change humanity’s view of the universe and its place in it” (55). This is perhaps best explicated in the opening passage of “Cthulhu”:

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age. (139)

Setiya in “Lovecraft on Human Knowledge: An Exchange” interprets the above quote as an example of “Lovecraft’s ambivalence to knowledge” (23). In a discussion with Joshi on the connections and contradictions between “Cthulhu” and the biographical data about Lovecraft, he quotes Lovecraft’s letters to find the two major ingredients of the apparent ambivalence:

• “the joy of pursuing truth” and
• “the depressing revelations of truth” (as materialism may in some way be taken to be a pessimistic philosophy—despite Lovecraft’s Epicureanism). (Setiya and Joshi, “Lovecraft on Human Knowledge” 23)

In contrast to (or, rather, in addition to) Setiya, I believe that in Lovecraft we may highlight something more than the simple ambivalence of the author. The paradoxical nature of the Lovecraftian text has been pointed out by many critics. Setiya bases her argument on the framed structure of “Cthulhu.” The story closes with the narrator’s chiasmus that “What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise” (169). Burleson in “Lovecraft and Chiasmus/Chiasmus and Lovecraft” maintains that “as a habit of mind in Lovecraft the pattern seems to range from the phonemic level through the level of syntax all the way up to the most global level that a story may encompass” (80). Thus, perhaps not only the syntax of “Cthulhu” is plagued with the chiasmic structure, but its thematic level also presents us with “Lovecraft’s conscious or unconscious inclination toward the ABBA pattern” (75). The plunge into the investigation of Cthulhu—symbolized in the story-structure by the opening up of ever deeper layers of narration—earns Thurston the need to renounce his materialism, his outset paradigm. Therefore, the outset structure of AB (investigator entering the area of the investigated—“the piecing together of dissociated knowledge” [“Cthulhu” 139]) turns into BA (the area investigated assailing or infecting the investigator—“terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein,” “the deadly light” [139]). The ABBA pattern can be interpreted as the magical formula of science in Lovecraft. When science is limited, knowledge fails. When science—effected by a plunge into the unknown—develops, it entails horror through the crossing and the investigation of the cosmic interstice, a region not meant to be traversed, but still, a condition necessarily stirred (hence Lovecraft’s forbidden texts that lure the reader into studying them).

What the opening and closing passages from “Cthulhu” tell us is that the central Lovecraftian paradox appears to prevail in suspension between the limitations of science and the success of science. Should the superparadigm be accepted, humanity would perish from the knowledge. Otherwise, the blind, gaping maw of the unknown universe will most certainly swallow us—science in its limitation detecting but not explaining the peril. As Burleson argues, Lovecraft’s “supertheme” is stresses that “[h]umans, alone among earth’s acknowledged tenants, are just sufficiently well developed mentally and emotionally to ponder the tragedy of their own vanishingly small dash of color on the universal canvas” (Disturbing 158).

Lovecraft himself could not envision the paradigm shift taking place. A conservative most of his life, he went on defending “strong” materialism against the theories of Einstein and Planck. Yet, he could see the inevitability of one such route out of a worn-out science, as his fiction displays. He himself was a paradigm shifter in his literary field after all, drawing attention to the importance and relevance of the cosmic—the absurdity of “a notion of purpose in the utter absence of evidence” (“In Defence of Dagon” 154). He was, after all, to use Fritz Leiber’s term, a “Literary Copernicus” (50).


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[1] Elsewhere Joshi maintains that Lovecraft, “virtually singlehandedly, created an amalgam of horror fiction and what we would now term science fiction” (Decline of the West 54).
[2] In spite of this, Joshi, for instance, appreciates “Lovecraft’s really admirable reconciliation of Einstein and materialism” and asserts that “the vigour of his writing argues for a reasoned synthesis that is surely his own” (Decline 18). Specific references to Einstein and the theories of relativity are easy to find in a lot of stories, such as “The Shunned House” (106), “The Whisperer in Darkness” (213), Mountains of Madness (31), or “Witch House” (307).
[3] Although Todorov in his seminal work provides ample explication of the fantastic turning into the fantastic- uncanny or the uncanny, I find that Lovecraft’s tales do not fit his schema entirely. In Lovecraft we usually find an anomaly that first seems fantastic and later is explained, but not simply explained away. Lovecraft’s special method resembles a mixture of the uncanny and the marvellous, to use Todorov’s terms. The unearthly phenomena, the texts suggest, should be representable and explicable by an altered, elevated, or more sophisticated version of human science, and is, theoretically, far from totally unattainable —hence uncanny. However, it remains alien to our world and explained only by that hypothetical future science—hence marvellous.
[4]  For instance, in “Whisperer,” the, then, recently discovered Pluto is the origin of malignant alien entities, and most of the stunningly realistic setting of Mountains of Madness (1931) rests on actual accounts of Antarctic exploration, including, for instance, Admiral Byrd’s (1928-30).
[5] In the Medawarian sense, it is of course unnecessary to discriminate between the natural sciences and life sciences as such (Mountains of Madness and “Herbert West” fluctuating between the two, as it were), or even Walter Gilman’s mathematics in “Witch House” (which could also be seen as a framework for scientific work proper).
[6] The connection between detection and science, as in the case of detection and the Gothic novel, is a prevalent one, commencing with Poe’s Dupin and culminating in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.
[7] These may be “forces” or “gods,” according to what stance we assume, the reader-critic’s or that of some of the lower-order characters. Robert M. Price asserts,
[T]here is a direct continuity between Lovecraft’s scientism and his mythology . . . Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones, on the narrative level, appear to be gods and/or extraterrestrials, neither of which Lovecraft accepted as real. But on a deeper level it is fairly clear that Lovecraft uses his titans Yog-Sothoth, Cthulhu, and others to symbolize the indifferent, inexorable forces of the cosmos which blindly produced Homo sapiens and will finally unknowingly destroy them again. (27)
[8] The idea of the anomalous meteor appears to originate in “Cthulhu,” written in 1926. There the material of the curious statuette is similarly wholly alien: “Totally separate and apart, its very material was a mystery; for the soapy, greenish-black stone with its golden or iridescent flecks and striations resembled nothing familiar to geology or mineralogy” (148-49).
[9] Quasi-exclusive, since there occurred transitive periods—occasionally literally hundreds of years—when the various paradigms and world-views co-existed and a constant struggle was taking place. For instance, parts of the latter two—Newton’s and Einstein’s physics—still dominate much of natural science, and do it simultaneously.
[10] On the relationship of the two levels, there remain differing views. Karl Popper, for instance inserts “many gradations” between Kuhn’s normal scientists and extraordinary scientists (“Normal Science” 54).
[11] This effect is oftentimes called “tenacity.” See Paul Feyerabend’s “Consolations for the Specialist,” especially 205.
[12] Critics of Kuhn either see him as praising or reproaching normal science. See Lakatos and Musgrave, eds, Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge. The representative of still another view, Popper, believes that science is and should be a state of constant struggle between opposing worldviews. He concludes, “Kuhn is mistaken when he suggests that what he calls ‘normal’ science is normal” (“Normal Science” 53).
[13] Joshi contends, “In terms of the fiction, I am very aware that the attribution of a given statement or sentiment to Lovecraft is at times highly problematical: no creative artist is so naive as to make any of his characters simple mouthpieces for his views” (Decline v). A similar sentiment leads Burleson to abstain from traditional criticism and attempt a deconstructive study of Lovecraft and Airaksinen to assert that all of Lovecraft’s writing can be subsumed under the category of fiction, even his letters. See Burleson’s Disturbing the Universe and Airaksinen, The Philosophy of H. P. Lovecraft.
[14] That is the reason why the Lovecraftian text cannot envision the evolution of paradigms, only a revolution of them. On evolutionary epistemology (interpreted mainly through Popper’s work) see Peter Munz’s Our Knowledge of the Growth of Knowledge.
[15] I would also add that in “The Shunned House” we have the least successful integration of “the new physics” of Einstein and Planck into the Lovecraftian universe, compared to, for instance, “Witch House,” where Gilman’s studies are initially seen as a curious academic interest.
[16] See David Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, especially sections four and five, and Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery.
[17] It is for similar reasons that Paul Feyerabend argues against the reality of a unified scientific method in his celebrated study Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge (London: Humanities, 1975).


Matolcsy Kálmán



Tomasics József

"Abban hiszek, hogy bennünk magyarokban, olyan kreatív alkotói potenciál van, amit jóvátehetetlen hiba lenne elpazarolni, nem engedni kibontakozni."

Független & nonprofit, de ehhez szükség van a támogatásodra!

Támogasd te is a The Black Aethert!

A The Black Aether az egyetlen, weird és klasszikus rémirodalommal, folk-horrorral foglalkozó online magazin Magyarországon 2015 óta. A projekt elindulásával talált magára a hazai lovecraftiánus közösség, és azóta is fontos szerepet tölt be a közösség életében. Csatlakozz te is  támogatóink  közé, hogy továbbra is zavartalanul folytatódhasson a munka, hogy a The Black Aether fennmaradhasson és tovább fejlődhessen.