International Society for Philosophers

International Society for Philosophers

Wisdom begins with wonder

PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS                   ISSN 2043-0728


Issue No. 200 22nd February 2016


Edited by Terence Edward

I. 'Coherentism in Rorty's Anti-Foundationalist Epistemology' by Husein Inusah

II. 'The interaction between phenomenology and religion' by James Page

III. 'Astrology, Fate and Causation' by Terence Edward


From the List Manager

IV. 'Philosophy Pathways -- Celebrating the 200th Issue' by Geoffrey Klempner



This month's issue of Philosophical Pathways features three articles which are each concerned with improving our understanding, of doctrines or of practices. The first article, by Husein Inusah, discusses the relationship between the philosophy of Richard Rorty and coherentism: the doctrine that what justifies a belief is coherent relationships between it and other beliefs. For the coherentist, there is no such thing as a belief which is justified in itself. If there were such beliefs, it seems that they could serve as a foundation from which other beliefs can be inferred. Rorty joins the coherentist in denying that there are such self-justifying beliefs. And at points in his well-known book Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, he sounds as if he might well be a coherentist himself. But Inusah argues that Rorty is not a coherentist, as the doctrine is traditionally understood. There are commitments which the traditional coherentist shares with their rival, the foundationalist, but which Rorty rejects.

The second article, by James Page, discusses the value of a phenomenological approach to religion. The term 'phenomenology' is used in various senses. In philosophy, one of the main senses is to refer to a movement which focuses on how we experience and how things appear to us in experience. A phenomenological approach is an approach which tries to understand these matters. For example, a phenomenological approach to religion may inquire into how religious symbols appear to believers of that religion. James Page identifies implications of a phenomenological approach to religion. He tells us that a phenomenological approach can help us to recognize common ground between believers and non-believers, help us to understand the experiences of those who wrote religious scriptures and help us to understand new forms of religions.

The third article is my own contribution. It may seem that the question of whether astrological theories are true or false is a question that has little or nothing to do with philosophy, if philosophy is conceived as a discipline that primarily involves reflection. The question seems to be for empirical research. However, opponents of astrology typically think that there is some proposition that is both essential to all forms of astrology and is false. Justifying this view requires correctly identifying what is essential and here philosophy can contribute, for instance by showing that certain propositions that may at first seem essential to astrology are in fact not essential at all, because astrology can consistently be pursued without these propositions. This is what I try to show in my article.

(c) Terence Edward 2016


About the editor: https:---




The primary objective of this paper is to investigate whether Richard Rorty endorses coherentism, the view that justification is a matter of a belief's coherent relationship with other beliefs. Rorty in his anti-foundationalist epistemology shows a frequent inclination to express his view as coherentist. But does he actually subscribe to coherentism? I argue that he does not.


In Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Rorty mounts a strong critique against foundationalism. He rejects foundationalism on the grounds that the theory subscribes to an ocular metaphor that construes knowledge as mirroring an objective reality. The point of Rorty's hostility against foundationalism is that this ocular metaphor confuses justification, arguments offered in support of our knowledge claims, with causation, the manner in which external objects impinge on our senses during perception (Rorty 1979:139). Rorty argues that, on the foundationalist criteria, knowledge is seen as a relation between ideas and objects (correspondence) not as a relation between ideas (coherence). On this showing, one might think that once Rorty rejects foundationalism, he endorses coherentism because he frequently makes reference to it as a preferable alternative to foundationalism. But as I will try to show in the following pages, Rorty's endorsement of coherentism is quite misleading.

Rorty's Critique of Foundationalism

In his analysis of epistemology, Rorty mounts a strong critique against foundationalism and the correspondence theory of truth. Rorty argues that foundationalism and the correspondence theory of truth invoke what he calls nature mirroring, the idea that our minds copy objective reality (Rorty 1979). This way of thinking, Rorty argues, is the product of the intellectual history beginning with Descartes' invention of the mind and his quest for clear and distinct ideas, proceeding through Kant's empirical realism and transcendental idealism, down to the modern analytic quest for commensuration and for a privileged vocabulary (Rorty 1979: 155-164). Within this Cartesian, Kantian and analytic purview, knowledge is considered as a relation between a subject (idea) and an object (correspondence) and not as a relation between subjects (ideas or propositions).

Rorty argues that the core ingredient of epistemology is justification. He explains justification as the process of advancing argument or evidence in support of our knowledge claims. But as Rorty claims, justification is not a matter of a relation between a subject and a non-human reality. Rather, justification should be conceived as a matter of a relation between propositions so that what justifies a given proposition is another proposition. Rorty argues that if we think about knowledge as a relation between a subject and a non-human reality, we will be embracing knowledge as arising from causation rather than knowledge as arising from justification. In such situations, justification becomes impossible in epistemology since subscribing to this view will mean that we are giving up arguments with our fellow humans in place of confrontation with objective reality (Rorty 1979: 159). To embrace confrontation with physical objects rather than arguments with our fellow humans, according to Rorty, is to reach the foundation of knowledge.

The issue of the foundation of knowledge and mirroring, according to Rorty, further culminates in the necessary-contingent distinction of truth (Rorty 1979:157). Rorty explains necessary truth as truth which is certain because of its causes rather than arguments offered for it. The essential feature of this analogy is that knowing a proposition to be true is to be identified with being caused to do something by an object (Rorty 1979: 157). In this case, as Rorty argues, it is the object which the proposition is about that imposes the truth of the proposition. The idea of necessary truth is an indication that the object of perception or mathematical truth or truth of geometry will not allow itself to be misjudged or misreported. The upshot is that such necessary propositions are supposed to have no need for argument, justification or discussion. They are simply untouchable because their test of truth cannot be overridden in the light of a new alternative.

Thus, Rorty argues that the foundationalist thesis is misguided because knowledge and justification is not about an idea and its relation to an object. It is rather a relation between ideas or propositions as he urges us to accept that '...nothing counts as justification unless by reference to what we already accept, and that there is no way to get outside our beliefs and our language so as to find some test other than coherence' (Rorty 1979:178; my italics).

Following the likes of W.V.O. Quine and W. Sellars, Rorty argues that we should accept the view that knowledge is entirely a social phenomenon and that all standards for what count as justification should be a conventional matter. Rorty claims that truth and justification are socially relative and there is no foundational benchmark for knowledge and truth. What is justified or true depends upon the sets of beliefs held by one's community (Rorty 1979). Similarly, there is no necessary homogeneity across social communities. Each community has its contingent point of focus.

Concerning truth, Rorty argues that there is nothing like truth. The nature of truth is an unprofitable topic. Truth is an empty word because there is nothing to say about truth. With this Rorty argues that there is nothing for epistemologists to do -- no deep analysis of justification or truth or knowledge. Truth, justification and knowledge have the particular significance that different social communities give them (Rorty 1998:2).

From the foregoing, we realize how Rorty rejects foundationalism for coherentism. But does Rorty really subscribe to coherentism? Coherentism is a principal alternative to foundationalism. It holds that the justification of belief derives from the coherence of the agents beliefs (Crumley 1999: 121). But before coherentism is discussed in detail, I shall offer a brief expose of foundationalism. The upshot is to locate the problem inherent in foundationalism and why Rorty advocates its rejection.

As indicated earlier, foundationalism is the view that there are certain privileged representations that are self-justifying and provides justification for the other beliefs in the chain of justification. These privileged representations mirror exactly the external reality. The foundationalist account of justification claims that justification involves two types of propositions. First, there are some propositions that are independent, self-justified not deriving their source of justification from other propositions. The second type of propositions are dependent and deriving their source of justification ultimately from the self-justified propositions. The former propositions are often called 'basic' propositions and they serve as the foundation and again confer justification on other non-basic propositions (Pollock and Cruz 1999:4). The justification of propositions within the foundationalist perspective is ultimately one directional with non-basic propositions tracing their way back to the foundational basic belief. Justification thus has a stopping point in the structure of justifying reasons. The foundational or basic belief provides the stopping point and starting point of justification. We can say that the basic structure of foundationalism is hierarchical and terminal.

Metaphorically, foundationalism is conceived as a pyramid or a skyscraper where the superstructures are erected on a firm foundation which constitutes the foundation of the structure. The essential principle of foundationalism is that it rests on the principle of correspondence. It requires that basic beliefs are given privileged epistemic status and this epistemic privileged beliefs mirror external reality. In short, these privileged beliefs reveal to us how reality really is. Foundationalism could also imply representationalism or realism. Representationalism is the view that there is a mind independent world which is represented in our minds through copies, while realism asserts that there is a mind independent world. The difference is that realism is a metaphysical doctrine and representationalism an epistemological theory. Being representationalist, foundationalism is considered as a picture theory of knowledge and justification. It is actually this point in foundationalism that attracts criticisms from Rorty. We shall consider in brief some Rorty's objections to foundationalism.

The principal objection to foundationalism from Rorty's perspective is that the doctrine confuses justification with causation. Rorty questions why the ways we come to develop a belief about the external world be construed as the justification of the belief (Rorty 1979). Sellars in a similar fashion, waging an assault on the 'given' in the foundationalist epistemology, argues that epistemology should be done within a logical space of reason. This is because there is nothing like unconceptualized propositions or awareness and, even if they (unconceptualized propositions) exist, they cannot be considered within our concept of providing evidence for our knowledge claims. This is because justification is purely a logical concept, not a causal concept (Sellars 1963; Rorty 1979). Having shown why Rorty rejects foundationalism, I will discuss the coherence theory. Such a discussion will provide the reasons for why Rorty seems to subscribe to the coherence theory.

A coherence theory is anti-foundationalist thesis in the sense that it rejects the view that justification has a terminating hierarchical structure. Justification to the coherentist is typically held to be either solely a matter of the networking of propositions of coherent and harmonious integration or, on a pragmatist account, harmonious and coherent integration cum the utility principle. Metaphorically, coherentism is conceived in terms of webs or rebuilding raft at sea which is different from the pyramid or skyscraper the foundationalist subscribes to (Pollock and Cruz 1999:3).

On the coherentist account, what justifies any given belief is its harmonious relationship with a comprehensive set of other beliefs. The belief in question does not have to be itself infallible (immune from error), indubitable (immune from doubt) or incorrigible (immune from a mistake). Neither does this belief require that we infer it from other infallible, indubitable or incorrigible beliefs. In coherentism, the system of beliefs as a whole is the unit of justification. Any system of belief is justified only when it is in a harmonious relationship with a comprehensive set of beliefs. The justification of all beliefs is dependent upon all the others for their justification. There is no linear or hierarchical order of justification as shown on the foundationalist criteria of knowledge.

According to the coherentists, we come to have a lot of beliefs due to perceptual experiences. Perception, as it were, is a major source of knowledge. But perception does not provide any justification for our knowledge claims. This is precisely the argument of Rorty and Sellars against the foundationalist position that the mechanical cause of a percept is the justification of one's knowledge. So, coherentists believe that perception is the cause of our beliefs but not their justification.

At this point we need to highlight the difference between justification and causal conditions since it is quintessentially the argument of Rorty against foundationalism and the correspondence theory of truth. Justification arises out of mutual consistency of beliefs. The beliefs perception causes may be regarded as true candidates for knowledge and have some initial plausibility. Through inferences and explanations one is able to come out with a maximally coherent system of beliefs. Those items that cannot be integrated are written off. The remaining beliefs that fit in the web of other beliefs are said to cohere with the system of belief in the sense of 1. entailment of and 2. having explanatory relation to other beliefs.

The intuitive characterization of beliefs cohering with other system of beliefs can be seen from two different perspectives discernable in Keith Lehrer (1974) and Laurence Bonjour (1985). (See also Bender 1989.) According to Lehrer, coherence is a relational property. For Lehrer, coherence depicts a special kind of relation among beliefs. According to this view, a belief is justified only if it coheres or fits with at least some of the agents other beliefs. For instance, my belief that Mr. Wiredu took a loan at the bank coheres with my other beliefs that I saw the application letter for the loan on his table and also heard him discussing with the bank manager the issue of the loan. Thus, my belief that Mr. Wiredu took the loan coheres with my other beliefs. The task of the relational view of coherence is to try to articulate the kind of coherent relationship that holds among an agent's beliefs. Lehrer calls this coherence relationship comparative reasonableness (Lehrer 1974). To explain comparative reasonability, Lehrer identifies three concepts: acceptance, an acceptance system and comparative reasonability. Acceptance is explicitly an epistemic notion which is distinguishable from a belief. For Lehrer, belief states are first psychological state. But the content of that belief is what the epistemic agent accepts. Thus, acceptance is restricted to an epistemic agent's practice of pursuing the cognitive goal of truth. So when a person accepts a proposition, the person is trying to ascertain which beliefs will best serve the cognitive goal of gaining truth and avoiding falsehood (Lehrer 1989). Closely associated with the concept of acceptance is the idea that justification is related to the agent's acceptance system. The acceptance system is a set of statements describing what a person accepts at a particular time (Lehrer 1996:1-4). The above construal leads us to two additional concepts: the concept of epistemic competitors and the concept of comparative reasonableness.

For an epistemic agent to specify which of her beliefs adequately fits into the system of beliefs, she must have available to her competing beliefs or propositions. These beliefs or propositions are termed epistemic competitors. For instance, suppose Vic has the belief that her father will travel the next day. 'Father will not travel tomorrow' is a proposition that denies the proposition that Vic is considering. Another proposition, 'father has an urgent meeting to attend tomorrow,' casts doubt on Vic's belief. Suppose that these are the only epistemic competitors. Obviously Vic will be justified in believing her father will travel tomorrow only if it will be epistemically better for her to believe this than any other competitors. In essence, the principal element of Lehrer's theory of justification has it that, relative to what else an epistemic agent accepts, we are justified in accepting a belief if the belief in question is comparatively more reasonable than any of its competitors.

For Bonjour, unlike Lehrer, coherence is fundamentally a global or holistic property. Global or holistic coherentism is simply the idea that within an agent's total set of beliefs, the individual beliefs should be interrelated in various ways (Crumley 1999:124). On this account, individual beliefs should be connected or hang together in a coherent system to form an organized structured system of beliefs (Bonjour 1985:93). For example, think of a building comprising several individual blocks, iron sheets and so on. A single block or single piece of iron sheet cannot provide the warmth a complete house can provide. It is the entire system that can provide the warmth we require. Meanwhile, every particular element in the building is very important in producing that warmth we require from the complete building. Analogously, Bonjour's holistic coherence could be compared to a complete building. Sub-groups of beliefs may be connected together, but if these are not connected tightly in a holistic system, the whole system may not be connected. It is only within an entire system that coherence occurs.

The main reason for delving into Lehrer and Bonjour's versions of coherentism is to drive home the point that traditional epistemic coherent theories have objective and universal rules and precategorised criteria for accepting which belief fits well or otherwise with other beliefs. So with epistemic coherentism, beliefs don't just hang together in a haphazard manner. The epistemic agent has standard benchmarks for asserting the epistemic credibility of beliefs in a coherent system. With this in mind let's turn to the central thesis of this paper. Does Rorty endorse coherentism?

Does Rorty Endorse Coherentism?

From our earlier submission on Rorty's critique of foundationalist epistemology, we realize that Rorty rejects foundationalist theories and correspondence outright because these doctrines confuse evidential explanations with the causal conditions of knowledge. Such a critique of foundationalism offers a tacit suggestion that a principal rival theory, coherentism, will carry the day. But does Rorty really endorse coherentism at the expense of foundationalism? My argument is that Rorty does not endorse coherentism. I offer two arguments in support of our claim.

Recall Rorty's claim that there is no final vocabulary, no single way or rational way of capturing the meaning of human life. All we need to do is to continue talking without rules and constraints. In short our conversation with our fellow humans should be devoid of any standard disciplinary matrix or benchmark that could constraint discourses. But coherence theories allow for the use of universal and objective pre-established criteria in order for beliefs to cohere with other beliefs in a system of beliefs. Our earlier submission on Bonjour and Lehrer's versions of coherentism suggests that coherence theories require that individual beliefs pass a certain universal and objective pre-established test before they can be said to fit harmoniously or comprehensively with other already established beliefs. Lehrer's comparative reasonableness and Bonjour's holistic or global system are obvious points of reference. So for the traditional coherentist, such as Lehrer and Bonjour, for beliefs to pass as legitimate candidates of knowledge, they should pass the test of a methodological procedure set down for determining which belief is justified and which belief is not. Thus, on this account, I conclude that Rorty is not a coherentist in the traditional epistemic sense of the word. So whenever Rorty makes use of coherence, he only employs it in a loose sense strictly not applicable to what we normally mean in traditional epistemology.

Besides, the central point of departure of Rorty from traditional epistemic coherentism is on the subject of truth. In fact, it is on the subject of truth that Rorty makes a radical shift from coherentism. It is important to note that coherentism as a traditional epistemic theory endorses universal, eternal and objective truth. The traditional conception of knowledge makes truth an essential component of justification. It is against this background that knowledge is traditionally defined as justified true belief. Thus, truth and justification become inseparable components in traditional epistemology. In seeking a universal truth, coherentism reveals itself as another foundationalist system still looking for all-embracing principles of human knowledge. The radical point of departure for Rorty in traditional epistemology is that not only are there no system-external justificatory connections (here foundationalism is guilty and coherentism is right), there also are no system-external truth justificatory connections (here both foundationalism and coherentism are guilty). The explanation is that the traditional epistemic coherentist abandons the correspondence account of justification yet maintains a correspondence account of truth, that truth is eternal, ahistorical and not culturally and socially bound. Rorty thus argues that we should abandon all talk about truth. This is because any attempt made by a coherentist in discussing truth will result in a foundationalist view that truth is eternal and overarching. On this account too, Rorty rejects coherentism.


The two main traditional theories of epistemology are foundationalism and coherentism. Until recently, most epistemologists who reject one of these theories endorse a rival theory or approve a fusion of both theories. But in Rorty's case, as we have shown in the foregoing, he rejects both theories yet his incessant reference to the coherence theory (on the surface) gives the appearance that he endorses that theory. However, from our submission above it becomes clear that Rorty's rejection of foundationalism and the subsequent reference to coherentism does not make him a coherentist of the traditional epistemic stripe. This is because his account of coherentism is inconsistent with the traditional epistemic theory of coherentism.


Bender, J. (1989). The Current State of Coherence Theory: Critical Essays on the Epistemic Theories of Keith Lehrer and Laurence Bonjour, with Replies, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers

Bonjour, L. (1985). The Structure of Empirical Knowledge, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Lehrer, K. (1996). Self-Trust: A Study of Reason, Knowledge, and Autonomy, Oxford: Oxford University Press

Lehrer, K. (1989). Reply to my critics. In Bender (ed.), The Current State of Coherence Theory: Critical Essays on the Epistemic Theories of Keith Lehrer and Laurence Bonjour, with Replies, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers

Lehrer, K. (1974). Knowledge, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rorty, R. (1979). Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Rorty, R. (1998). Truth and Progress: Philosophical Papers. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Sellars, W. (1963). Empiricism and the philosophy of mind. In Science, Perception and Reality, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Husein Inusah Assistant Lecturer Department of Classics and Philosophy University of Cape Coast

(c) Husein Inusah 2016


Web site: http:---



Phenomenology is an established school of philosophy, European in origins but now worldwide. It emphasizes experience as a basis for understanding the human condition. That proposition may seem self-evident, although there are competing bases for understanding human existence and how we ought to act. One of the interesting developments in recent philosophical debate has been the interaction between phenomenological and religious thought. Indeed, it is sometimes said that phenomenology is becoming more theological, and theological discourse more phenomenological. This essay attempts to tease out six specific implications of this interaction between phenomenology and religion.

The first implication for a phenomenological approach to religion is that this may encourage a wider appreciation of the importance of ecumenism, and of tolerance in matters of belief. If we say that religion is a matter of personal experience, then it is logical to say that there are different forms through which this religious experience may express itself. This tolerance may even serve to assist believers and non-believers to seek commonalities, in that, for instance, both may recognize that the experience of awe and wonder at the universe is something common to all humanity.

A second implication for a phenomenological approach to religion is that this offers a breakthrough in how we approach the vexed task of the interpretation of sacred scriptures. One of the underlying problems associated with the notion of sacred scripture is that we tend to view such documents, which is what scriptures are, as statements of dogma. Although we may derive dogma from documents, the documents themselves represent the experiences of specific peoples and individuals at specific times. Once we recognize this reality, then we have renewed potential for understanding the relevance of these documents, which we may deem to be sacred scriptures, to our experience and situations.

A third implication for a phenomenological approach to religion is a renewed emphasis on social ethics. If we say that human experience is all important, then one implication is that alleviating avoidable human suffering is also of importance, as is the advocacy for social justice which will help achieve this end. Interestingly, this is what seems to be happening in the public face of religion, albeit slowly. Religious communities are increasingly defining themselves by the difference they make in people's lives, and by advocating the rights of those in socially unjust situations.

A fourth implication for a phenomenological approach to religion is also a renewed emphasis on the ethics of care. The ethics of care puts emphasis on the circumstances on the individual, and of caring for the individual, rather than necessarily and inflexibly following the dictates of dogma. Having said that, the two are not necessarily incompatible, as dogma may well emphasize the importance of caring for individuals. In other words, pastoral care, rather than dogmatic correctness, ought to be a priority. This too is something which, I believe, we can discern slowly unfolding in contemporary religious discourse.

A fifth implication for a phenomenological approach to religion is that phenomenology helps us to understand what is happening with religion in society, such as with the global growth of new forms of spirituality, and the global growth of fundamentalist and charismatic religion. Ostensibly, new forms of spirituality and fundamentalist religion are diametrical opposites, in that one is exploring the new and the other tends to be conservative. Yet what both have in common is an emphasis on personal religious experience, as opposed to an emphasis on formal religious observance and the maintenance of correct dogma, which is how traditional religion is often perceived.

The final implication for a phenomenological approach to religion is that this opens the way to a creation spirituality, one that embraces and celebrates our experience of the world. One of the interesting ramifications of a creation spirituality is that we are more able to celebrate sexuality, in all its diversity and mystery. How we regard the world, and sexuality, has been long a vexed issue for religions, but a phenomenological approach to religion potentially allows us to celebrate a more aesthetic approach to life. Put simply, a phenomenological approach opens the door to understanding a more life-affirming role of religion.

I've tried to phrase the above implications within a faith-neutral context, as is appropriate in a philosophical essay such as this. However, I would suggest, in passing, that if one looks closely at the Hebrew tradition, there is much support for a phenomenological approach. The whole point of the central theonym in Hebrew religion (YHWH, or Yahweh) is that the divine being is so sacred as not to be capable of being objectified -- only experienced and worshipped. This tradition is inherited in the world religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, although there's an additional twist in that Christianity claims that the divine becomes known through a specific person.

Does a phenomenological approach to religion necessarily lead to a moral and doctrinal relativism, namely, where all actions and all beliefs are equally valid, merely because these may be represented in the beliefs of a person, or because these actions or beliefs represent the personal experience of an individual? Not necessarily. We may still assert that there are truth statements within religion, which can be subject to scrutiny, and we may reach a conclusion that the truth statements are valid or invalid. However a phenomenological approach ought to encourage a greater humility in statements of dogma, as we realize that our own views are formed and mediated through personal experience.

Our era is often defined as a postmodern one -- it's an often misunderstood term, but basically this means that all understandings are now open to question. That's really part of what is happening when we say that we are in an era where the phenomenological approach to religion dominates, or it ought to dominate. However, having all understandings now open to question and debate does not necessarily need to be bewildering, including for people who would describe themselves as people of faith. This can be an era of new discovery, including a new discovery of the relevance of religion to contemporary life.

Dr James Page Adjunct Association Professor School of Humanities University of New England Armidale NSW 2351 AUSTRALIA

Originally published in Online Opinion: Australia's E-Journal of Social and Political Debate, on 30 December 2014.




Abstract. Some philosophers assert that astrology is a false theory. The simplest way to argue against all astrology is to identify a proposition that any kind of astrology must be committed to and then show that this proposition is false. In this paper I draw attention to some misconceptions about which propositions are essential to astrology.

For some time now there have been philosophers who reject astrology as a false theory (e.g. Voltaire 1764; Russell 1932; Daly 2010). These philosophers are not opposed to just one kind of astrology, for instance Western astrology or Chinese astrology. They are opposed to astrology of all kinds. The simplest way to argue against all kinds of astrology is to argue that there is a certain proposition which any kind of astrology must be committed to and then argue that this proposition is false. Of course, this line of argument will only work if one correctly identifies a proposition that is essential to any astrological system. In this paper I object to an effort to do this.

In his very useful book An Introduction to Philosophical Methods, Chris Daly writes as if there is more than one proposition that a system of astrology must be committed to. One of the supposedly essential propositions is implied in the following quotation:

     Astrology says that every event that is fated has to
     happen, and it re-describes every event of every type as a
     fated event. (2010: 167)
In this quotation, Daly implies that a system of astrology must be committed to the proposition that everything that happens was fated to happen. I do not think that a system of astrology must be committed to this proposition. An astrologer may say that at the time of the full moon people's emotions are more intense and that they have less ability to maintain self-control. But the astrologer may not think that the details for how these general tendencies will manifest themselves are predetermined. You might have a heated argument with someone, you might have a nightmare, you might watch a moving documentary, and so on.

Not only is it possible for there to be astrology which is not completely fatalistic, I have found books recommending such astrology (Hampar 2007: 165; Orion 2007: 251). Readers are asked to think in terms of energies that can manifest themselves in different ways, rather than specific fated events. A certain alignment of astronomical bodies means that a certain energy will manifest itself, but there are a variety of ways in which it might do so and, for any affected individual, none of these ways is fated. (This thought is often combined with a rejection of the view that some alignments are inevitably negative, inevitably meaning misfortune for those affected. No alignments are inevitably negative, because there are ways in which the same energy might manifest itself without misfortune.)

Another proposition that Daly treats as essential to astrology is implied in the following quotation:

     In addition, it has no explanation of how the supposed
     causes (the movements of the stars) can produce the effects
     they are said to explain. (2010: 167)
The other proposition is that the movements of the stars cause events within the human realm. There are multiple reasons for rejecting the view that a system of astrology must be committed to this proposition. I shall present three.

A. Astrology is committed to correspondences between celestial events and human behaviour (Lawrence 2005: 1a). But I cannot see that it is committed to any account of why there are these correspondences. True, it is incompatible with the proposal that people believing in astrology and acting on this belief is the answer, but it need not involve any account of what the answer is, given that it is not people's astrological beliefs. (If there is enough evidence of such correspondences, then astrologers would have inductive grounds for making their predictions, even if they declare the phenomenon to be a mystery.)

B. There is an alternative account of why there are these correspondences that religious astrologers may pursue: that the correspondences are there because God has provided signs of the future through the stars, and other astronomical bodies, rather than because the movements of the stars are causing things to happen within the human realm. Whether or not this view is correct, astrology itself does not exclude it.

C. I doubt that much current astrology is even committed to the stars moving. Present-day astrologers make claims about where astronomical bodies appear, if you are at a given location on Earth. They are mostly neutral on the issue of whether, when the stars appear to move if you observe them from this location, they actually are moving.


Daly, C. 2010. An Introduction to Philosophical Methods. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press.

Hampar, J. 2007. Astrology for Beginners: A Simple Way to Read Your Chart. Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications.

Lawrence, M. 2005. Hellenistic Astrology. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Accessed on 13th August 2014 from: http:---

Orion, R. 2007. Astrology for Dummies. Indianapolis: Wiley Publications.

Russell, B. 1932. On Astrologers. The Hearst Newspaper. Accessed on 3rd July 2014 from:


Voltaire. 1924 (translated by H.I. Woolf, originally 1764). The Philosophical Dictionary. New York: Knopf.

Terence Rajivan Edward University of Manchester

(c) Terence Edward 2016




In January 2001, the first issue of the electronic journal Philosophy Pathways appeared, with an article on the Pathways online conference, 'The Use and Value of Philosophy'.

Although the transcript of the original conference was not recorded, we do have the transcript of the conference after it was relaunched in July 2003. The transcript runs to over 300,000 words.[1]

The original title, 'Pathways News' hints that this is a house newsletter for the Pathways to Philosophy distance learning program, which in fact it was intended to be. However, by August 2001 articles on philosophy had begun to appear.

The new name 'Philosophy Pathways' was announced in issue 22, December 2001. By the following year, the pattern of three (occasionally four) articles per issue had been set.

In 2002, the International Society for Philosophers was launched, and became the official publisher of Philosophy Pathways.

It wasn't until issue 61, June 2003 that an 'Editor's introduction' was added. ('Better late than never,' some would say!)

A lot has happened in the fifteen years since Philosophy Pathways first appeared. My articles 'Pathways to Philosophy: Seven Years On'[2] and 'The Pathways School of Philosophy'[3] tell the story of the development of Pathways to Philosophy and the International Society for Philosophers for those who do not already know the story.

Perhaps the biggest change, however, was when I handed Editorial duties over to the 'Pathways Editors'. At the last count, the number of Editors was seventeen and rising. The latest arrival is Terence Edward, who teaches Political Philosophy at the University of Manchester.

Terence Edward is responsible for editing this issue. I hope that you enjoy reading it. -- Thank you, Terence, you've done a great job!

Internet publications come and go. However, it is safe to say that we are now one of the longest running online journals for Philosophy. The responsibility is in no small part due to the immense enthusiasm of members of the International Society for Philosophers, who have taken to heart our Mission Statement, to 'teach the world to philosophize'.

If you have a university qualification in philosophy and would be interested in editing one or more issues of Philosophy Pathways, please write to me at This is a big, broad ship and we always have room for more on the bridge.

Here's looking forward to the 300th issue!


1. Nicenet Conference on The Use and Value of Philosophy

2. Practical Philosophy 2003

3. APA Newsletter on Philosophy and Computers 2007

(c) Geoffrey Klempner 2016


© Geoffrey Klempner 2002–2020