Thinking Thursday: Magic and Ethics.

Ethics is a pretty strange thing. We all assume that a) we are ethical b) have answers to the majority of the ethical questions we face, and c) even if we don’t have a solid solution or answer, we are at least aware of the major ethical dilemmas. You know, the ones that start the really nasty, knock-down, drag-out fights.

What I find truly interesting is there are huge ethical dilemmas that are very specific to certain subcultures, occupations, ethnic groups, etc that the general public has no idea about. To the average person, these “problems” are absurd, even laughable, but within the group they are the source of endless discussion, argument, even schism.

So for fun I’m going to introduce you to an ethical dilemma that’s obscure and on the surface, meaningless. However, to a certain subset of a subset of people, it’s a huge problem that we wrestle with constantly, almost every single time we interact with the public.

The subset? Those of us who are entertainers, magicians, mentalists, skeptics, and concerned with promoting critical thinking. In the grand scheme of things, a ridiculously small population.

The dilemma? As a performer who concentrates in the art of “mindreading” and other “psychic” demonstrations, where is the line between encouraging the suspension of disbelief and promoting critical thinking and skepticism?

It’s the very definition of a tempest in a teapot.

If yr interested in continuing the discussion, let me know and I’ll flesh out the arguments, right now, I gotta go.



Filed under Ethics, Exposure, Magic, Paranormal, Performing Arts

2 responses to “Thinking Thursday: Magic and Ethics.

  1. David B

    I’d be interested in hearing your further thoughts on the issue. I’d question one of your premises, though: is it even necessary for an effective mentalist to encourage the suspension of disbelief? I’ve never been a mentalist, so I’d be interested in your thoughts on that. Personally, I know that mentalism and psychics and such are nothing supernatural, but I still enjoy watching it. I actually prefer it when the performer doesn’t try to encourage a suspension of disbelief; for me, the fun is partially in trying to figure out how the bastard tricked me ;^) Something I’m curious about, and may be worth discussing in a future post on the topic, is how Randi, Banacheck, and Penn & Teller approach these issues in their performances?

  2. Pingback: Tangent Thursday…Magic and the suspension of disbelief « Things That Never Happened

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