on this page

Or send us an email

Application form

Pathways programs

Letters to my students

How-to-do-it guide

Essay archive

Ask a philosopher

Pathways e-journal

Features page

Downloads page

Pathways portal

Pathways to Philosophy

Geoffrey Klempner CV
G Klempner

International Society for Philosophers
ISFP site

PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS electronic journal


P H I L O S O P H Y   P A T H W A Y S                   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



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

Email: T.R.Edward@manchester.ac.uk

About the editor:




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

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


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

Email: hinusah@ucc.edu.gh

Web site: http://blog.ucc.edu.gh/hinusah/



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

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

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

Email: jpage8@une.edu.au



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

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

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

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:

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

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

Email: T.R.Edward@manchester.ac.uk



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

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 klempner@fastmail.net. 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

Email: klempner@fastmail.net

 Philosophy Pathways is the electronic newsletter for the
 Pathways to Philosophy distance learning program

 To subscribe or cancel your subscription please email your
 request to philosophypathways@fastmail.net

 The views expressed in this newsletter do not necessarily
 reflect those of the Editors.

Pathways to Philosophy

Original Newsletter
Home Page
Pathways Home Page