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The causality problem in astrology
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Joined: 09 Aug 2016
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Posted: Sat Jan 20, 2018 11:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

waybread wrote:
dubbhism, thanks for an interesting discussion.
1. Most of what astrologers look at does not exist in any "real" sense. What we look at are long-standing cultural conventions: signs, houses, degrees, essential dignities, constellations, lots, aspects, planetary rulerships.

I'd prefer to label most of these as metaphysical, not "unreal". If you say that aspects are not "real", that would suggest to me that a lot of mathematics isn't too "real" either (which is ok). By the way, i have to admit that i'm a panpsychist of sorts. You sound to me like a kind of idealist.

waybread wrote:
2. Nevertheless, jyotish, traditional western, and modern astrologers, if they are experts, can all produce really good horoscope readings that uncannily describe a person they've never met, or forecast future events. Trouble is, their methods may be wildly different.

Personally i really don't see what the trouble is if multiple methods produce results or 'work', unless you explicitly want to assume/defend restricted kinds of causality and meaning that don't allow for this kind of multiplicity. Such concepts of causality and meaning may in fact be based on nothing but cultural convention or conditioning. Why is it a problem??? And what does so-called "a-causal" synchronicity in a general Jungian sense (not restricted to purely astrological synchronicities) have to say about this? Answer: we don't know.

waybread wrote:
3. Although astrologers look at and discuss planetary conditions and locations, really what they do is explain some part of people's lives for them. A chart reading would it be meaningless if it gave only the data on planetary positions. What we do is talk about people's love lives, their family dynamics, their money, and careers. If I walk outside on a clear night, I won't see these in the sky.

I wouldn't restrict the scope of the astrological project to the reading of people's charts. Obviously, astrological patterns (or signs, symbols, language etc.) have to be studied before meaning can be derived from them. But let's not forget about the 'visual astrology' methods of the Sumerians and Babylonians.

waybread wrote:
This is why I think the overlooked variables that will explain, or at least validate astrology, aren't "out there," either, but exist in the mind of the astrologer.

It seems to me that a major problem (or source of confusion) in the discussion about scientific validation of astrology is the scope.

Some scientific astrologers have hypothesized and suggested fancy theories about complete causal chains in the physical world. To me that wouldn't seem like a very promising route (but still interesting tho) since that scope seems far too wide and too ambitious. Probably the least efficient route would be to search for a formal astrological "Theory of Everything". I'd say that's a complete waste of time.

What we can do in my opinion is look for those few areas where the scientific method and the astrological method happen to overlap, in the sense that some, but not all astrological phenomena and their - in some sense conventional - meanings may be scrutinized following all the rules of the scientific method. This primarily suggests quantitative research to me (astrological research will by definition also have qualitative aspects, it can not be purely quantitative).

I pointed to Big Data as an example that to me at least seems to have a lot of potential. I also like Phi-angles a lot. But whatever method we use, we can never use it to "prove" the whole of astrology. We can only focus on specific topics, problems or examples and produce data that might challenge a fundamentalist materialist position or lazy skepticism. To me that would be the only, or at least the most important use that scientific "proofs" of astrology have: making the scientific and philosophical point that we live in a meaningful, not a meaningless universe. As in: not allowing lazy skeptics to 'get away with' simplistic mantras like "it's only a coincidence". I see this thing primarily as an intellectual battlefield and i fully understand those astrologers who want nothing to do with it, and choose to avoid this discussion altogether. I think that is also a totally valid point of view for astrologers and i fully respect it.

Here's how Tarnas makes the point of living a meaningful, conscious universe
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Posted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 8:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your interesting reply, Dubbhism.

I guess we could debate the nature of reality as it is probably relevant to the OP, but this may just lead down the Rabbit Hole Of No Return.

Basically astrology is a form of cultural astronomy.

An astronomer would argue for objectively real heavenly bodies and relationships between them. But what does this mean? What are the narratives we communicate about heavenly bodies?? Questions of meaning and communication get us into the culture zone. Metaphysics is a product of culture.

When we compare cultural astronomy systems, we recognize that they can be extremely different. And that unless one espouses scientism or some form of cultural orthodoxy, there is no independent, objective "view from nowhere" from which we could assert that one system is correct and the others mythological or simply wrong. So one point for cultural relativism.

I think we have to understand astrology in this light. Objectively real: to whom? This is why I made the point about the different branches of horoscopic astrology, as we encounter practitioners of one school or another who insist on the correctness of their interpretations and techniques, and the wrong-headedness of the others.

I don't have a problem with panpsychism, in that my background in academic philosophy is quite limited, and when I read the Jane Roberts Seth books in the 1990s, they made a lot of sense to me. Basically Roberts/Seth saw the cosmos as co-equal with divine consciousness called All-That-Is. All-That-Is entails the principle of expanding creativity and knowledge. Since humans, microbes, black holes, and my left shoe lace are all part of All-That-Is, distinctions between them are in some sense illusory, but in some sense, they are part of the creative process that includes making distinctions.

To Seth/Roberts consciousness precedes material expression.

As a philosophical belief system, I think idealism has merit, but it only goes so far. Like until one accidentally walks into a brick wall. Ditto for a brand of dialectical materialism (minus the Marxist part, and through studying human ecology.) Given the wiring of the human creature, we live in an interplay between physicality, culture, and ideas. The more we learn about neuroscience and cognitive psychology, the less the old mind-body dualism begins to make sense as an explanatory model.

I restricted the OP to horoscopic astrology to provide at least a minimum focus to this thread. I have a lot of interest in the origins of horoscopic astrology, however. Maybe Bernadette Brady will get us back to gazing at the heavens (or more likely, to gazing at electronically-transmitted graphic images of the heavens) but right now I think horoscopic astrology is an adequate focus.

I have no problem with the application of statistical methods to big astrological data sets. The problem with a lot of the studies that I've seen, however, is that they're not scientific enough. The authors seldom seemed to grasp the potential biases in their study, and to address their biases head-on. Hence the "garbage in, garbage out" problem.

As I explained in a previous post, also, the "God's eye view" of a research population can be oh-so rigorous, yet completely miss the underlying issues. As you know, stats give us correlations. They don't give us explanations. Even with a suite of independent and dependent variables, the researcher determines `a priori what those independent variables are or should be.

Then I don't know if it's worthwhile getting into questions of scale, but it makes a big difference. A big set of aggregated data can miss a lot that occurs within a dis-aggregated population sample. But yeh-- you have to start somewhere.

So far, the "God's eye view" of comparing some sort of people-variables to planetary positions really seems to ignore the function of the astrologer. Maybe s/he will become irrelevant in the future, but right now the astrologer is the site where chart synthesis takes place.

I have no problem with the idea of the meaningful universe. Or the meaningless universe. Again, these are cultural constructs. But just to turn skepticism on its head somewhat, if the universe has no meaning other than what we ascribe to it, then we get to make it up. We get to create it. I find this idea a lot more empowering than the idea of astral fatalism.
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Posted: Tue Jan 23, 2018 8:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

To be honest, the restrictions you choose to put around your topic feel quite unnatural to me. So it's probably best for me to shut up. I probably got confused by the title of this thread, which sounds more philosophically.

I'm left with one question which deserves its own thread: why would it be a problem if various astrological methods can all produce a good result, for example in the case of reading a certain horoscope. What would be the contradiction there?
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Posted: Tue Jan 23, 2018 8:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dubbhism, I hope you didn't take my OP the wrong way. I've enjoyed reading your thoughtful posts. The bottom line, though, is why astrology works (assuming it does.) The word causality is not really accurate, but I didn't think most folks would know what I meant by explanation in astrology.

I personally do not think there is any problem if different astrological branches or schools of thought all produce good results.

This does raise questions, however. Because if we ask "why astrology works" then it doesn't seem to depend upon sidereal vs. tropical, western vs. Vedic, traditional vs. modern, and so on. And if astrological success is not technique-dependent, then what else is going on that explains why astrology works?

My hypothesis is that a horoscope is a visual language that displays information in a two-dimensional (and rarely, 3-dimensional) format, just like a map or or photograph. As such, unlike the written language that I now write, a map has no beginning, direction, or end-point. You can start anywhere in reading a horoscope and let your eyes roam around it. This gives us a different conceptual relationship with space and time.

Learning to read a horoscope proficiently requires us to expand our ability to grasp space at a distance, as when you read a chart for a stranger living far away. We also have to consider the properties of time as having some simultaneity, as with a horoscope for someone born 40 years ago with predictive power based upon current and future. progressions and transits.Essentially, that past birth moment no longer exists: we don't have that newborn of 40 years ago any longer. Yet we integrate that past moment with present and future moments.

This is why I hope to focus more on what takes place in the mind of the astrologer, vs. some kind of planet>>>human event binary. For Big Data analysis to even do that, we're coming from an astrologer-based system that involves a huge amount of synthesis, not just a handful of variables.

Just as we're about to get to the driverless car, I think we might get to the astrologerless chart reading, but it's still a long way off.

As you know, some astrologers insist on a kind of orthodoxy about their preferred branch of astrology or methods.
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