Magic and Philosophy

Magic in the seventies - not yet aware of magic philosophy.For as long as I can remember, performing magic has been a part of my life. To be more precise, I am an occasional conjurer and use sleight-of-hand and other forms of deception to feign being a real magician. I started adding magic to my life as a schoolboy in the Netherlands, devouring books from the local library and collecting magic sets from the toy shop, attempting to amaze friends and family.

When I started a degree in philosophy, I became disillusioned with magic as an art form. I was no longer able to see the meaning of conjuring beyond the trickery and clichés employed by magicians. Much of magic has a “look at me” aspect and can be an egocentric performance art, without not much intellectual depth.

It was only years later that I realised that my interest in philosophy was strongly related to my interest in magic and that magic is an inherently philosophical performance art. Some of the books on the history of magic I read years earlier describe the connection between magic tricks and divination and other esoteric practices. I began to realise that the ancient shaman, the tribal philosopher, was also a conjurer, a master of sleight-of-hand.

Magic Philosophy

Both the magician and the philosopher have arisen from the same archetypical and historical figure of the shaman. The anthropological record shows that shamans use technical and psychological principles, similar to those used by contemporary stage magicians, to aid their spiritual work.1

I became interested in philosophy as a teenager by reading books about the history of magic that refer to the shamanistic origins of the craft. Snowballing my way through literature, I eventually stranded at philosophy itself—although somewhere along the way the connection between magic and philosophy was lost. My journey has gone full circle, and I am back at studying magic tricks, and this part of my website is dedicated to the quaint performance art.

  1. Collier, D. (1944). Conjuring among the Kiowa. Primitive Man, 17(3/4), 45–49. Hurt, W. R., & Howard, J. H. (1952). A Dakota conjuring ceremony. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, 8(3), 286–296.